Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Constitutional confusion Redux

Despite some people making useful suggestions, elsewhere in the EU it seems all but impossible to shake of the spectre of that damned [tag]EU constitution[/tag]. Current European Union president Angela Merkel keeps on bringing the bloody thing up, repeating the same thing that has been said ever since the thing was rejected by the French and Dutch referendums back in the summer of 2005:

“The reflection pause is over. By June, we must reach a decision on what to do with the constitution”

Ignoring, of course, the fact that “we” (by which I mean the people of Europe, via the French and Dutch referendums) already have. If just one country rejected the constitution, it was to be thrown out and re-thought. That was the understanding. For the last year and a half, though, all the talk has been on how to get around this inconvenience, not on how to tackle the underlying problem: that the constitution was simply not what was needed.

However, rather than use her EU presidency to launch a fresh debate, Merkel instead has made clear that

“Broad general debate [on the constitution] is behind us”

She will, instead, launch a series of confidential talks with her counterparts amongst the political elites of the various member states to determine what they (the people generally least in touch with the real world and with public opinion) think is the problem – precisely what got us into this mess in the first place, in other words.

She has also stated fairly bluntly that she doesn’t think that more referendums are the way forward. So once again, the people will be refused a vote, and resentment will be allowed to build. Step forward French presidential hopeful [tag]Segolene Royal[/tag], who may have a few things to say about this:

“I want the French people to be consulted once again in a referendum in 2009”

Ah, how lovely. Another impass. Royal’s rival, [tag]Nicholas Sarkozy[/tag], may be on record as wanting to revive the constitution – but really it’s “a”, rather than “the” constitution that he’s after. He reckons (fairly sensibly, considering the current chaos and stagnation) that

“We should resort to a mini-treaty to achieve the most urgent institutional reforms”

So, with both of the candidates for the French presidency seemingly at odds with the German Chancellor, what hope progress?

It looks like the EU is heading once again into a period of stagnation, as those in favour of the existing constitutional treaty try to press ahead despite its rejection and multiple flaws, while those who are opposed to the present text – yet see the need for introducing some of the (in many cases, much-needed) reforms it was designed to bring in – try to put a halt to plans to revive the thing which, no matter how ill-advised in terms of the constitution’s own inability to do what it was supposed to do, will also be taken as yet another indication that Europe’s politicians couldn’t give a monkey’s for the opinions of the “citizens of Europe”. That way lies further alienation and resentment which, if not placated, could prove disastrous.

For a decent overview of the issues – and how these proposed discussions may impact on Britain (which seems to be keeping well clear of any of any constitutional negotiations, despite the potential for them to have a massive impact on the country) – check out today’s Q&A in the Independent (or, via Erkan, a slightly shorter one from the Financial Times a couple of weeks back).

Saturday update: Jerome has a roundup of UK reactions over at European Tribune. He has an interesting theory…


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