Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

That damn constitution

I was going to do something on the EU constitution again the other day, as Angela Merkel’s recently reiterated her intention to use the German presidency of the EU to kick-start the stalled talks when she takes over the reigns on 1st January. (Not that this means anything much, mind – that’s what every incoming EU president’s said since the “no” votes in the French and Dutch referenda last year…)

In the end, I honestly couldn’t be bothered. Luckily, now Richard Corbett’s come out with the most succinct explanation of why the constitution was important that I’ve seen in quite a while:

“The EU’s machinery has not yet been adapted to having nearly 30 Member States. The constitutional treaty was intended to do that… It is in Britain’s interest to support changes such as streamlining the size of the European Commission, re-weighting the votes in the Council of Ministers better to reflect the size of each country, enhancing parliamentary scrutiny, and many other of the useful reforms contained in the constitutional treaty.”

It doesn’t have to be that constitution but – as unweildy and tedious as it may have been – the constitution rejected by France and the Netherlands did, at least, suggest (moderately) sensible solutions to a lot of the problems. Corbett may be a Labour MEP, and the site he links to giving a run-down of the possible ways forward may be from the Labour Movement for Europe, but this is all sensible stuff.


  1. Sorry, but as usual Corbett is talking rubbish;. that is exactly what the Treaty of Niece was intended to do, the likes of Corbett do like to keep using the same old justification don’t they. The EU is not trying to work with the rules laid out for six states it has been upgraded several times.

    The Treaty of Nice, dealt mostly with reforming the institutions so that the Union could function efficiently after its enlargement to 25 Member States. The Treaty of Nice, the former Treaty of the EU and the Treaty of the EC have been merged into one consolidated version.

    GUTEVAR HUEGEN: It's very simple because the treaty of Niece contains the institution of provisions, and we cannot complete enlargement negotiations without knowing what is the size and composition of the commission, what is the size and composition of the parliament, what is the majority threshold in a council, what is the power sharing in the council.

    These extremely important constitutional questions must be solved. Otherwise the European Union would simply not function after the enlargement. Therefore it's clear the Treaty of Niece is a condition, and if the treaty does not enter into force, we will need some time to check whether there is an alternative or not.

  2. And the Treaty of Amsterdam was supposed to have sorted out all the problems before the Treaty fo Nice.

    Most importantly for the moment, Nice doesn't specify what happens when the EU reaches 27 member states – as it's going to very soon, merely that on the accession of the 27th member, the number of European Commissioners needs to be reduced.

    But it also didn't provide for a sensible voting system, a way of increasing the European Parliament's ability to affect legislation, or umpteen other ongoing problems that it really should have solved – largely due to the age-old childish spats over dick-length between Britain, France and Germany.

    And, of course, it's not simply a case of amending the Treaty of Nice to make it do everything that it was supposed to – because one of the other things it failed to do was introduce systems that would enable swift reform, so that any amendment to the Treaty of Nice has to take the form of a fresh treaty and be signed off by every member state.

    One of the many improvements that the Constitutional Treaty was intended to introduce was a streamlining of this process to prevent previous bad treaties (of which the EU has many) no longer act like the proverbial weight around the ankle.

    The Treaty of Nice, in short, was utter rubbish and didn't achieve the vast majority of what it needed to achieve. Even if you genuinely think that Nice provided a workable framework for an EU of 25 member states (which it patently didn't, or else the EU10 wouldn't be complaining about the continued payments bias towards the older members), Nice itself explicitly states that when the EU reaches 27 members, it needs to be rethought – and explicitly provided for a follow-up re-think of the entire thing to sort out some of the fundamental issues of the balance of power between the EU, its institutions, and the member states – none of which Nice really managed to cover.

    There's a moderately handy overview of Nice here, if anyone's mad enough to be interested.

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