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- ► 2011 (1596)
- ► 2010 (1372)
- ► 2009 (1557)
- ► 2008 (1456)
- ► 2007 (1691)
- ► 2006 (1471)
- ► 2005 (1784)
- Single market loses its gloss
- Further tales of referendums
- War in space?
- Nothing happened…
- More tales of referendums
- Pretty map - pity about the opinion poll statistic...
- Not yet, they don't
- Cretins of the world unite
- It looks like he will stand down
- In for the long haul
- Maybe Solana has better contacts than we know
- Fears of Russia remain strong
- Their Lordships, Kinnock and Patten
- Why are we waiting?
- The Grauniad speaks
- The constitution – an analysis
- They’ve done it
- Mission Impossible?
- Another one down
- Earth calling
- Nothing has changed
- Not a commissioner in sight
- Oh really, this is so silly
- Russian spies
- Kilroy no longer here
- Whose government is it, anyway?
- Crisis? What crisis?
- A tale of two referendums
- They don’t really want this discussed
- A tool of government
- There seems to be some disagreement
- On a knife-edge… zzzzzzzz
- An EU Space, but not just yet
- Galloping integration
- Are they listening to themselves - Part X
- On the gravy train
- Can EU hear me?
- How do you define success?
- Er… Blunkett is right?
- Standardisation as policy
- Murkier and murkier…
- If you are going to rewrite history, do it properl...
- It just never stops
- That satellite story
- Missing the point?
- Referendum date for Britain?
- Darfur yet again
- Under attack
- Euforia over Bosnia
- The ego has (crash) landed
- The Lisbon Agenda is good for another row
- The Hague Programme
- Ratification round-up
- They ain’t kidding
- Hidden Europe
- Drop the Italian or the Commission gets it
- Oh my, another summit!
- Leaving the CFP – the Commission’s response 2
- How the Chinese see us
- Time to behave like adults?
- A woman scorned…
- Leaving the CFP – the Commission’s response
- The Hugo Young memorial lecture
- Lord Pearson scores another goal
- Governance by management not politics - #2
- Where is the debate?
- There are more ways of skinning a cat ...
- Get rid of the source
- He is not that important but he is a tyrant
- Just to remind us all
- Cheap booze or sovereignty
- How Americans see it
- Decision time on the Special Relationship
- Saving the planet or protecting one's industry?
- Not what it seems
- We’ve been there before
- G5 meeting becomes G3 + 2
- China: the ratchet tightens
- Journalists protecting their sources? Not in the E...
- A wake-up call
- Slaughter of the innocents
- Solving the Turkey problem
- The gravy train gathers yet more speed
- More on those pesky trucks
- A common European danger
- Not a free-marketeer or Atlanticist, just a plain ...
- Help! Au secours!
- A lurch to the right?
- The rotten heart of UKIP
- "We are slaughtering fish…"
- More on that Commons debate
- Europol is watching you
- Report from Bournemouth No 2
- Not us, guv
- Bolkestein speaks out
- All very predictable
- Gone fishing
- Britain is winning?
- An incitement to mediocrity
- Who needs the constitution?
- Are they listening to themselves? - Part IX
- A lost cause
- Nothing changes
- No troops, but arms galore
- Italy fulminates
- Defence integration – by stealth?
- UKIP speaks up for free speech - London Assembly v...
- German trucks for British Army
- Are we there yet?
- The "bacon buttie" test
- ITAR? No ta!
- The road to self-government
- These principled Continentals
- Scare tactics
- Of pots and kettles
- A new colonial power?
- Well, well, well
- Croats cool towards the EU
- The accountants are revolting
- They kept that one quiet
- One down…
- The French syndrome
- Don’t hold your breath
- Turkey on their minds
- The little European
- An American speaks out
- Some you win, some you lose
- Bullying? Would we ever?
- A picture of decline
- The worm turns
- Booker column
- Another one we missed
- A basket-case on wheels
- The seeds of tyranny
- Decommissioning by death
- The things that surprise them
- A smoke-free Europe
- A disinterested statesman speaks
- They are still saying it
- The (senior) Eurocops cometh
- How very helpful
- Outsourcing the legislative process
- Herding cats
- What do they get their money for?
- Were the French going to support the war in Iraq?
- Of what possible use are MEPs?
- Spanish bluster
- The Thatcher rebate
- Nothing to hide… except my subsidies
- Bring on the grown-ups
- Of power and responsibility
- The doubts continue
- Report from Bournemouth No 1
- Turkey trots
- A question of priorities
- We don’t like your friends
- Prizes galore
- Kilroy may yet surprise us
- The Poles’ poll
- Opportunistic, or what?
- A timely reminder
- Why it cannot work
- They presume too much
- The game is still afoot
- A blow for UKIP
- The la-la birds
- China worries
- It isn’t enough
- Clear blue water
- Doom and gloom
- The legislative process as it is and as it should ...
- The legislative process as it is and as it should ...
- Russia and Kyoto (again)
- The legislative process as it is and as it should ...
- Live long and prosper
- Even the best of them have problems
- Booker column
- From the sublime… to the fly-tipping
- No deals!
- They still don’t get it - II
- Fifty thousand and rising
- What are we going to do about the Tories?
- Asylum camps in North Africa are to go ahead ... p...
- London House missed this one
- Oops, her again
- ▼ October (189)
Something for the Conservatives to chew on this time: The Business reports that international business leaders are turning against the single market.
A poll carried out by Opinion Leader Research for Chatham House – not exactly known for its Eurosceptic tendencies – finds that an overwhelming 63 percent of top executives surveyed thought that over-regulation was destroying European competitiveness.
The poll surveyed 451 senior business leaders in multinational companies. Of the executives interviewed, 341 were from EU member states, 60 from the US and 50 from Japan.
Some 49 percent thought that North America was "business-friendly" while only 25 percent named the EU. Less than half (49 percent) believed the EU was helping business to compete globally and that the single market had benefited their own businesses.
In the past, executives from global businesses have been the most enthusiastic and unconditional supporters of the EU, which makes the results of this poll especially striking, especially when 72 percent believe the EU should focus more on making existing regulations work better.
Interestingly, 55 percent of respondents say that "the single market should not means a uniform market". Their favourite cure to the EU's economic problems is to cut taxes, a policy endorsed by 66 percent of those who replied to the survey.
Chatham House also recorded some interviews, with one business leader saying that, relative to the US, it took 12 times longer and cost four times as much to set up in business in Europe; another said that it took twice as long and cost five times as much to get a patent in Europe as in the US."
Unsurprisingly, British executives were the most sceptical of the single market's merit, with 58 percent believing that North America was more business-friendly than Europe; 54 percent said that the EU was not helping European businesses to compete globally, while a mere 14 percent thought that the EU was helping.
Given that support for the single market is an article of faith with the Conservative parliamentary party, with many MPs terrified of speaking out against it in case their business friends take fright, Mr Howard might have cause to think about whether he should be quite so firm in his support for the status quo.
(Warning: This will be a UKIP-free blog.)
Sometimes I worry about the sanity of the BBC staff. Angus Roxburgh, having described the childish antics of the MEPs over the EU Commission, then came to the conclusion that it was all Barroso’s fault and thanked God that there were some heroes around like Romano Prodi, who readily jumped into the breach and agreed to stay on as President. As if it mattered.
Then there is Rob Cameron, reporting from Prague:
“Outlining the debate in the Czech Republic over the EU Constitution is straightforward: there is no debate.Is there anywhere? With the final text not available and the yes campaigns insisting that the Constitution is just a supremely good thing?
At least, there is little real debate over the nuts and bolts of the constitutional treaty itself. Not yet.”
Mr Cameron has managed to report something interesting. Apparently the Czech Republic is angling to be one of the last to hold a referendum, in the hopes that most countries would by then have signed up to the Constitution.
Jiri Pehe, an adviser to former President Vaclav Havel, has given the following slightly odd explanation:
“The government is relying on the fact that Czechs are not the most courageous of nations.The President, Vaclav Klaus, about the only genuine free marketeer among the East European politicians, no matter what the over-imaginative commentators have been saying, refused to sign the Constitution. The Prime Minister, Stanislav Gross, who had to take over rather rapidly a few months ago, when his predecessor, Vladimir Spidla was forced to resign. His coalition government is fragile and cantankerous.
They can be almost sure that if all European nations approve the constitution, the Czechs will not say 'No' because they won't want to be the spoilers.
It's an efficient and effective strategy, but it's not the most courageous one.”
The campaigning groups on both sides are gearing up for the fight but it will be interesting to see how the government will behave.
While the front page of The Sunday Telegraph flags up two stories of vital public interest, one on John Peel’s final interview and the other about Beckham being set to move to Chelsea, buried in the Booker column as his third story is the account of "a fascinating row" that has broken out over the increasingly bitter hostility between the USA and the EU over their rival satellite positioning systems: America's GPS and Galileo, based on the 30 satellites the EU plans to have in space by 2008.
Booker is referring back to a story published in The Business last week which reported that the US was prepared to blast EU satellites out of the sky if they were used by hostile powers – an issue we dealt with in the Booker column last July, when my pamphlet on the political and military implications of the system was published by the Bruges Group - a story which has been greeted by a storm of denials.
However, Allister Heath, who wrote last week's The Business story, has come back strongly this week in a comment and analysis piece headed "US threatens to take space war to a third dimension".
Thirty-five years after Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, he writes, the world is sleepwalking into a new multi-billion dollar space race – this time with the European Union (EU) and China working together in a bid to wrest control of space from America. Echoing my own belief, Heath continues:
The implications are hard to exaggerate: America's position as the world's only hyperpower is under attack, Nato will be consigned to history and the global economy put under huge strain. Bizarrely, however, few realise what is happening - and the British and European foreign policy establishments are always on hand to deny that anything untoward is going on.What follows is a masterful exposition of the issues, with Heath concluding that there is little that can be done to stop this new arms race. Galileo will proceed as planned, as will China's involvement, and the US will gradually develop a new space arsenal.
"The biggest scandal of all, however," he adds, "is the complete absence of any public debate on such an important issue - especially in the UK, which is a full member of Galileo. Does the British government know what it is doing?"
It is that absence of debate which is most worrying. The media have been given ample information on this issue but apart from Booker and now Allister Heath, there has been virtual silence, Beckham being far more interesting than such a minor issue.
Nevertheless, as Booker reports in his column, this week, during Thursday’s debate on defence procurement in the House of Commons, Gerald Howarth MP, the Tory spokesman, will attempt to get our own government at last to come clean as to what Galileo is really about. But what’s the betting that the media ignore this debate as well?
Be assured, though – we will not.
In today's Sunday Express, Kilroy-Silk devotes his whole column to UKIP, with a heading: "What a relief I've split from UKIP bosses". The piece is trailed on the front page with an even more robust statement: "The truth about my row with UKIP fools".
His piece opens with a not an unfamiliar scenario – not unfamiliar, that is, to me:
Immediately after UKIP's victories in the European elections in June, I suggested a meeting of party leaders so that we could build on our success and develop future strategy. UKIP leader, Roger Knapman, the European parliamentary leader Nigel Farage, the two main financial backers, Paul Sykes and Alan Bown, my wife Jan and I met in the Goring Hotel, London, on Monday June 13.All I can say to this is "welcome to the club". In four years in the EU parliament, working first with Holmes, then Titford and finally – albeit for a very short time – Knapman as leaders, the constant refrain from the few staff at the centre was "policy". Politics is about ideas, we said. We must have an intellectual base, a vision of the future – how the UK would look once we had left the EU.
We agreed that we needed to establish a London HQ, assemble a research team, develop policies, draw up the manifesto for the general election, appoint spokespersons and plan a series of initiatives throughout the summer, leading to the October party conference which, I anticipated, would unveil the manifesto.
Nothing happened. Weeks passed, nothing happened. Several times I told the party leadership that we were losing the political initiative that we had gained in June. We should, I stressed, be exploiting the panic we had occasioned in the Tory Party and the alarm felt by the Prime minister about his project to create a superstate called Europe being wrecked.
Nothing happened. The leadership of the party went AWOL for three long summer months. We wasted precious time. We threw away our advantage. It was unforgivable, criminal. The British people had placed their trust in us and we were letting them down.
More than anything, the singular failure of the Eurosceptic movement has been its failure to develop and promote that alternative vision, developed in sufficient detail as to be credible, proving that Eurosceptics were not the "little Englanders" that they were accused of being, and had a real grasp of public affairs and an understanding of the complexities of an independent nation state finding its way in the modern world.
And, as Kilroy latterly experienced, nothing happened. We wrote memos, we had earnest talks with party leaders, I even wrote a draft manifesto document and circulated to key party members. Nothing happened. We had more talks, earnest discussions over dinners in both Brussels and Strasbourg, and more talks. Nothing happened.
In fact, nothing was ever going to happen, and nothing will happen. The last thing the leadership of UKIP want is policy. The last thing they want to do is confront the reality of the difficulties of leaving the EU, or what that entails.
And for Farage – the acknowledged power behind the throne, who manoeuvred Holmes out of the party, bullied Titford unmercifully until he got his way, and then slid Knapman into place as a willing cipher – policy was never an issue. As long as he could climb up on a platform and talk about an "amicable divorce" and a free trade area with Europe, "which was what we thought we had signed up for in the first place", he was content. He did not want to know the detail.
In fact, Farage was and remains the problem. Having left school early to join the city as a trader, he had no further education, did not understand it, and was suspicious of "intellectual" endeavour. People who had ideas were "dangerous" and, if he could not isolate them, he got rid of them.
After several years working for the "team" with nothing happening, I decided – on my own initiative – that the best way forward, to obey our mandate – was to write a book about the EU, setting out the history and the ambitions in a way that had not been done before. With my co-author Christopher Booker, it proved to be the hardest task I had ever undertaken – my research notes alone exceeded 300,000 pages.
But this is what UKIP has said it would do when the three MEPs were elected in 1999. We would go to Brussels, find out what was going on, and tell the folks back home what it was really all about. The same words were repeated this year, after the June elections.
But when I set about doing just that, the response from Farage was to do everything he could to prevent me from writing. All of a sudden, I was required here and there to do all sorts of jobs that hitherto we had not thought worth doing – anything to prevent me concentrating on the book.
Actually, it was Titford who supported me and, somehow, The Great Deception got written. But the damage was done. Farage had decided I must go and, to do so, he sought the most underhand way possible – entirely in character. He flew to Brussels, telling Jens-Peter Bonde that the three MEPs could no longer work with me, and I must be fired. This was not true, as Titford later told me – Farage had gone on his own initiative and lied to Bonde.
Anyhow, Bonde was not going to argue – this was, to him, an internal UKIP affair, and he got the group secretary to ring me up and tell me I was fired. I negotiated a "resignation" out of the group, as it looks better on the cv, but the effect was the same. Four years with the group and I was out, without so much as a thank-you letter or a goodbye.
Thus, when Kilroy talked in June, just under a year later, about setting up a research team, Farage had already got rid of the only full-time researcher the Party had ever had – and my post had not been replaced. In fact, UKIP lost a post in the group as a result. Since then, UKIP has had no coherent research effort and, as long as Farage is in place, it never will.
Kilroy does not entirely agree. He concludes his piece with this narrative:
As I said in my conference speech, the British people are disenchanted with the old political parties. They are fed up of being lied to, talked down to and not listened to. they want a party that talks straight, tells the truth and will fearlessly stand up for Britain and the British way of life.It has taken some-one like Kilroy to expose the flaws at the heart of UKIP, but the problems were there long before he arrived. And, until they are sorted, UKIP cannot go anywhere. After all, politics is about ideas – the vision thing. Sadly, when push comes to shove, UKIP – or its leadership – doesn't want to know. But I cannot share Kilroy's optimism. The chance - for UKIP - has come and gone.
This could have been UKIP. It could have seized the opportunity. You could not do it by going missing for a third of a year. The chance will not come again. Take it now and we could change the face of British politics. Do nothing and we shall regret it for the rest of our political lives.
The preferred metaphors of various europhiles have always had to do with speed and transport: trains, bicycles, convoys, whatever. The strange idea there is that once you are on whichever form of transport you have chosen, the destination no longer matters, only the fact that there is movement. (This is, of course, true about London Underground but one cannot base political metaphors on that institution.)
The train part always amused me as it reminded me of the train of the revolution that was taking the unfortunate people of the Soviet Union and, later, other countries to the utopia of communism. The metaphor was rather ingeniously and picturesquely mixed with the trains that sped with Red Army troops across the fronts of the Civil War, the propaganda trains (shame about their progenitor, Trotsky, who was never mentioned) and the trains that brought the ideas of communism to the far-flung villages (as well as the death squads but that was passed over). There was even a song about it. But, at least, there was a firmly stated destination.
On the other hand, the bicycle metaphor, as well as being more suited to the careful, rather bourgeois methodology of the European integrationists, is also more accurate. If it is not moving, it falls. You can put your foot down and stop the movement for a time but sooner or later a decision has to be taken whether you go forward again or drop the machine.
With the Constitution and the various referendums we are coming to the point when the bicycle may have to be stopped long enough for decisions to be taken. Clearly, the EU is not going to collapse and its managerial, undemocratic, unaccountable legislative system will carry on, as well as all the other integrationist measures we have enumerated. Still, at the very least the bicycle will start wobbling and stumbling.
All sorts of problems are being faced over the referendums. Take the case of France. As the BBC Paris correspondent says on the World Service website:
“French politicians have long seen the European Union as an extension of French power, a deeply political project steered mainly from Paris, with Germany as the junior partner.”Recently, worries have emerged. It is not that the French, and especially the ruling elite, the so-called enarques, are against the project, more that they are afraid it is not going their way. The train seems to have changed directions while they were gossiping over coffee and cognac.
First of there is the problem of the language. As we have written before, French is no longer the language of choice for the European Union and this development has intensified with the entry of the East European countries.
With the language, they fear the entry of those Anglo-Saxon ideas of free market and a relaxation in the centralized structure, that the European project has managed to avoid since its inception. They need not worry about that, as there is precious little sign of any change, but worry, they do.
Then there is Turkey. Though the disputed entry of that country is a long way off and there is no real guarantee that it will ever happen or that the EU will survive till then, a frisson of fear has run down the collective French spine. Turkey is a very large Muslim country; it is unlikely to be pro-French; it will upset the balance of power even more; it has been more pro-American and, certainly, pro-western rather than pro-European alliance than the likes of Chirac or, even, Sarkozy would like to see.
So the Constitution, instead of being perceived as another and crucial step towards the accomplishment of a French-directed European Union, has become an object of some dispute. Presumably, the full text is not available there any more than it is in other member states and, unprecedentedly, complaints are being raised about that. The latest polls find that a shockingly high 58 per cent is unsure which way to vote in the forthcoming referendum.
The last referendum on the Maastricht Treaty was a close-run affair with some questions asked about such matters as the number of spoilt ballot papers. Can President Chirac overcome the problems? And, more to the point, would it not be fun if the whole edifice started shattering because France, of all countries, voted NON to the EU Constitution?
There are many people, not least those in the Commission, who are ever-ready to dismiss Booker’s stories as "myths" and, for a long time, his column featured prominently on the section of the European Commission’s UK website devoted to Euro-myths.
As an example of the commission’s attention to detail, however, it is worth looking at one of their attempts to debunk such a "myth", this one being a claim by Booker in his column of 20 December 1998 that, under EC directive 92/58, it would be a criminal offence to display any sign reading 'Fire Exit', unless the design also carries a 'Europictogram' of a running man.
The response by the commission, under the heading, "fact", was:
The differences between the safety and health signs currently used in the workplace can lead to uncertainty and confusion. This may become more widespread as more people choose to work in other European countries. The use of standardised signs in the workplace will in general help reduce the hazards which may arise through linguistic and cultural differences. Firms were given 18 months to introduce the changes.Even superficial reading shows that, in fact, the commission does not deny the story and, if you care to use the link provided to the directive cited, you will see that Booker’s claim was perfectly true. Nevertheless, still appears in the list of the commission’s Euro-myths.
In much the same category is a story we did on 28 September of 2003, just as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) took control of the airworthiness certification of all aircraft produced in the territories of EU member states.
EASA is one of the European Community’s 15 agencies and, for Europhiles, is one of the classic arguments for taking a "European perspective" to regulation. Instead of airworthiness standards for every member state, there was now to be a single set of regulations. Once an aircraft, built anywhere in the EU, was certified by EASA, it could be sold anywhere in the EU, without the need for additional certification.
As always with the EU, however, there was a distinction between theory and practice. Our story was about that distinction, which affected the world's largest manufacturer of tethered balloons, costing £500,000 a time. When EASA took over, the firm, owned by the celebrated Swedish balloonist Per Lindstrand, was no longer be able to sell his product, giving his only rival, a Franco-German firm, Aerophile, a monopoly of the market.
The problem was, to say the very least, bizarre. Under a quirk of British law, Mr Lindstrand's baloons, called "aerostats" - which can lift 30 people 500 feet into the air like a cut-price version of the London Eye – had, prior to the arrival of EU law, been certified by the HSE as 'fairground rides', even though the same balloons when free-flying were certified as 'aircraft' by the Civil Aviation Authority. The same devices made by his Franco-German competitor, however, were certified under German law as 'aircraft'.
What changed with the arrival of EU law was that these "aerostats" had to be certified as aircraft, with an additional provision that any craft already certified before the law took effect acquired "grandfather rights" and could be sold anywhere in the EU.
Thus, the situation arose whereby the Aerophiles could be sold in the UK but Per Lindstrand’s machines, called HiFlyers, having not been certified as aircraft, had to undergo the full certification process before they could be sold, even in the UK where they were manufactured.
And, as the new system took over, no EU standards had been produced for "aerostats" which means that Lindstrand could not even begin the certification process, leaving his firm facing ruin.
What marked this story out then, way back in September 2003 when we reported it, was the ludicrously patronising reply from Nick de Souza in the Commission's London press office which showed no grasp whatever of the problem.
This left Lindstrand's MP Owen Paterson to make a last-minute appeal to Tom McNulty, then the relevant British minister. He was equally dismissive, stating that the EU certification Lindtsrand needed might be ready "early in 2004" and that handing over to the EU presented "no obstacle to the continued conduct of Mr Lindstrand’s business".
Thus the story rested until, last week, Owen Paterson received a impassioned letter from Mr Lindstrand, reporting that his company had still been unable to gain certification for his "aerostat" balloons and, worse still, while he was unable to sell his products, his rival, Aerophile, had managed to steal a march on him and sell its product as a tourist attraction in Bristol.
Managing the certification process on behalf of EASA has been the British certification authority, the CAA, and – after endless delays in producing a certification standard, the problem has become the endless obstacles put in the way of Mr Lindstrand’s machines, the latest being the certification of the massive winch used to tether the balloons, made to the highest safety specifications by a Huddersfield firm.
Under EU rules, this can be certified as safe by an ‘expert body’, and Mr Lindstrand’s winch is accordingly licensed by the HSE under fairground safety rules. But the CAA is now refusing to recognise the HSE as an ‘expert body’. Instead, the CAA seems to be insisting on carrying out its own technical safety studies from scratch, a task for which it is unqualified, as it has no experience in this field.
Europhiles might now feel that they can take comfort in this situation as it seems no longer an EU problem but an old fashioned "red-tape" story, caused by over-zealous British officials. But that is only half the story. In by-gone days, confronted with such a problem, Mr Lindstrand could have gone to his MP – as indeed he has - and his MP would have tackled the relevant minister.
But now, the CAA is longer responsible to the minister – it is subordinate to EASA, which seems accountable to no one but itself. The system of democratic accountability has broken down.
And should Mr Lindstrand wish to contact EASA directly, he will be wasting his time. Currently on the EASA website is posted this message:
As all our ressources (sic) are presently working on on-going certification programmes, the Certification Team is currently unable to respond to all the information requests received on the general e-mail address linked to certification issues. It is hoped that this situation will soon be rectified and this general e-mail address for certification related information requests will be operational again on the web as soon as possible. Please check our web site regulary (sic) for further information.For the full story of Mr Lindstand’s troubles, and Booker's other stories (which will be the subject of separate posts) read the Booker column, linked here.
What was that about there being lies, dam' lies and statistics? And that was before opinion polls were invented and Eurobarometer was even thought of.
According to the BBC website every member country has a large majority that rather agrees with the Constitution, even Denmark, Ireland, Poland and the UK. Of course, when one starts reading the analysis one realizes that in several countries, notably France, the sailing will be far from plain. Nothing is to be taken for granted on either side.
Still it is a pretty map.
Should the European Union lift the arms embargo on China, introduced after the bloody crack-down on the demonstrators in Tiananment Square in 1989? President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder say yes. (Nothing to do with the two countries’ arms producers that are eyeing the growing Chinese market longingly.)
Schröder insisted during his visit to China last December and on various occasions since then, that China has changed greatly in the last ten or so years. Others, notably the Taiwanese, the Tibetans, the Falun group, various dissidents and religious groups in China, not to mention outspoken journalists and writers, beg to disagree. China still has the largest network of labour camps for “re-education” purposes in the world.
The United States says no, arguing that lifting the embargo would simply prevent any positive developments in China’s human rights record (so dear to the heart of the EU leaders in theory) and destabilize the region. Well, of course, if the Americans are against it, the EU must be for it. That is the only guiding principle of the common foreign and security policy.
Until recently Britain and Italy were against it for many of the same reasons, but have changed their minds in a somewhat inexplicable fashion, possibly competing for that place at the heart of Europe.
The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries remain firmly opposed for human rights reasons.
Now the ruling German coalition has voted against it in the German parliament on a motion brought in by the Greens and the Social Democrats, going against their leader, the Chancellor.
Ludger Volmer, who speaks on foreign affairs for the Greens, was cogent on the subject. China’s behaviour towards Taiwan and her human rights record made it impossible to contemplate lifting the embargo in the near future.
Others, notably the SPD, were a little more muddled. The embargo could not be lifted until certain conditions were fulfilled. And what were those conditions? Well, the EU must produce toughter guidelines on arms exports and China should sign the United Nations political and human rights pact. Well, if that’s all, I should think it could all be sorted out in a few days. After all, signing the pact does not mean you would adhere to it; and agreeing to the EU guidelines does not mean that these will be remembered five minutes after the ink is dry on all those signatures.
Still, for the moment at least, the embargo stays. What exactly will happen when the Galileo system is put into place, remains to be seen.
I had the somewhat dubious pleasure yesterday of going to Rotherham – the constituency of Denis MacShane – to be interviewed by BBC television with Anna Chester, the Yorkshire and Humberside representative of Britain in Europe.
Before I have even managed to open my mouth, the egregious Anna Chester was denouncing the "lies" and the "myths" of her opponents, and pledging to bring to the attention the consequences of voting against the constitution – the clear inference being that a "no" vote meant leaving the European Union.
What stunned me rather was the sheer aggression of this approach – the interviewer called it "passion" - and the total negativity. As usual, it was a pledge to tell people about the constitution, rather than actually telling people about it.
In response, I chose my words carefully, offering the line chosen by Mark Steyn in his piece for The Daily Telegraph on 22 June, when he suggested that the salient fact about the constitution was that "it’s the legal framework for a state".
It is a question of whether you want a self-governing country or want to be ruled by a state called Europe, said I, or words to that effect, only to have our Anna dissolve into paroxysms of indignation, denouncing my suggestion that the EU was becoming a "superstate".
Evidently so conditioned was this lady that she had not even listened to what I had said. I carefully avoided the term "superstate". As my colleague and I have observed frequently, while the EU is undoubtedly acquiring the trappings of a state, there is nothing at all "super" about it.
But then, it seems, a common characteristic of the Europhile fraternity seems to be its prickliness. For instance, the egregious Toby, on his Europhile site "straight banana" has taken exception to my lapse of good manners in my Blog, describing Steven Everts, senior research Fellow at the London-based Centre for European Reform, as a "dismal little cretin" for describing Eurosceptics as "anti-Europeans".
But my point is really quite a simple one. Either Everts doesn't know the difference between being "anti-EU" and "anti-European", or he is being deliberately provocative. In either event, the epithet stands.
I really am getting a little tired of the puerile little jibes from the Europhile fraternity, and my patience is wearing thin. If these people cannot enter into a debate without resorting to their games, then they really should not be surprised if they are not treated with the civility to which they believe they are entitled.
Most of all, however, what seems to upset our Toby is what he takes to be my assertion that "pro-EU people" hold their views because they are too stupid to understand their own follies. Has it not occurred to me, he asks, that there might be some people who have thought about the issues in an intelligent way and come to a considered opinion which happens, rightly or wrongly, to be different to his?
What price then a sample of the output from the Britain in Europe site:
Britain in Europe need you. The forces ranged against us are strong, but unrepresentative of the British people. Are you willing to have the future of this country decided by foreign press barons and their hired pens? We are not afraid of the anti-Europeans or their silly arguments.Linked to this is a list of press articles, mostly from the Sun, making claims as to what the EU might or might not be doing, but my bet is that there will be no link to the op-ed in the Telegraph today, written by Charles Moore, where he notes, in respect of the EU’s growing involvement in justice and home affairs:
Like most things in the EU, it has crept up on us. For years, the EU was only an "economic community". Justice and home affairs first feature in EU treaties with Maastricht in 1991, and have been moving forward ever since. Now we have ideas such as the common European arrest warrant and a common asylum policy. We are also moving towards a pan-European prosecuting magistracy and the granting of executive powers to Europol, which is supposed to be no more than a body for police co-operation, rather than a European police force.Crucially, he then adds: "Most of these powers, in fact, are not in the treaties – they are simply pushed forward on the basis of summit communiqués and suchlike."
That is the reality of the EU – the gradual accretion of powers, accompanied by constant denial and then, as we now see, aggression, when people begin to notice what is happening.
However, in the spirit of even-handedness for which this Blog has become famous, we cannot let this go without noting that the self-appointed "Vote-No" campaign has proudly launched its cinema ads, the rationale for which, as we recall, was that the referendum could be called in 2005.
Now that we know - and could have guessed (as indeed we did) - that it is going to be in 2006, this renders the ads somewhat redundant and, having seen the production on the web site, we wish they were.
Against all advice, the campaign has chosen the slogan: "say yes to Europe and no to the constitution". According to that, the "Vote-No" campaign is perfectly happy with everything that the EU has done – and is doing – to press, and only finds the constitution unacceptable. But which bits?
As many people rightly observe, much of what is in the constitution is already in existing treaties. And if you are in favour of those provisions, what is so objectionable about the additions? After all, if you accept the principle, the detail is really only, er... detail.
It seems that it is not only the Europhile community that has its cretins.
No doubt there will be great rejoicings in the European Parliament and much (well, some) metaphorical throwing of hats in the air in the media about the great victory for, oh I don’t know, liberty or equality or fraternity or something of that kind. Buttiglione has announced that he will stand down as the Italian Commissioner, in order to help the new Commission become strong and actually take up its position.
The presence or absence of the new Commisison has not made a jot of difference to the European Union or its legislative and regulatory process. If you do not believe me, have a look at the Official Journal and count the number of Regulations published every day.
Nor has it exactly enhanced the democratic prestige of the European Parliament. They are still the junior partners in the European project, representing nobody, as there is no such thing as a European people or demos. But the EP has served a purpose. The MEPs revealed the true, somewhat intolerant nature of that project. To be part of it one must support one particular strand of political, social and moral thinking. And, since we do not have a choice of whether we want to be part of that project (having become citizens whether we liked it or not), we, presumably, shall all have to accept that point of view and make it our own.
Buttiglione is not too far out when he describes himself an innocent victim. Nor is the Catholic Church (or any other Christian group), a central part of that European identity that the EU is supposed to be an expression of, wrong in raising the alarm. In fact, we should all start getting worried, whether we agree with Buttiglione or the Catholic Church’s teachings or not.
In the meantime, there is discussion of who will be the replacement. Possibly Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini or, possibly, Mario Monti, who would not be averse to a third term, will be called back. That, the BBC avers, would be a popular choice. Popular among whom?
At least Blair had the decency - if it can be called that – to skip the grand, ceremonial banquet in Rome yesterday, after signing the constitution, this time having the excuse of his recent operation, allowing him to claim tiredness.
But early departures are something of a feature of Blair’s "engagement with Europe", most notably at Porto Carras in July 2003, when Giscard presented his famous draft constitution to heads of state and government.
Also of note then, Berlusconi had taken on socialist leader, MEP Martin Schulz, likening him to a Nazi concentration camp guard. How sweet Schulz must now regard his "victory" of bouncing Buttiglione and embarrassing Berlusconi. As they say, revenge is a dish best eaten cold.
That, at least, gave the press corps something else to do, other than witness the ungainly bunch step forward and add their signatures to the document of infamy, and if they were at least fairly positive about the event, we now know why.
All the journalists attending, and there were 1,890 accredited, each was provided with a gift pack comprising pen, notepad and a set of mugs – just the things that no respectable hacks would have thought to bring with them. Cameramen, strangely enough, were given their own disposable cameras. One can imagine what they did with them.
Other statistics give some idea of the scale of the event. there were 580 PC stations, provided, 20 plasma screens set up for the assembled hacks to watch the proceedings, served by 42 video cameras; 30 press agency mobile stations were kitted out. To serve the electronic media, 250 km of cable and 60 km of fibre optic cable was laid, and to deal with the more immediate needs of the press, there were 90 hostesses on call – a mere one per 200 hacks.
And just in case they were bored, 1500 copies of the preliminary speeches to the signing of the constitution were provided, with 1800 CD ROMs on the constitution – one wonders which version.
Back home, Michael Howard had already dismissed the constitution, in a speech to Goldman Sachs stating that "The EU was designed to liberate our markets. Instead it has burdened them with extra costs and regulations, undermining their ability to compete… yet far from addressing these problems, the European Constitution will compound them."
The constitution "will be a giant ball and chain round the ankle of British business," he added.
Shadow foreign secretary, Michael Ancram, also weighed in with his personal condemnation, saying: "What we are seeing today is the opposite of democracy in action. The pomp and ceremony of seeing a treaty which the British people have indicated in opinion poll after opinion poll they do not want to see shows, in my view, a contempt for people."
Good stuff, for once.
Howard and Ancram has an unexpected ally in Italian Institutional Reform Minister, Roberto Calderoli. He has told his boss, Berlusconi, that he was "against the new EU Constitution" which he saw as "negative and involving a transfer of popular sovereignty." "Therefore", he added, "the Italians must vote. I am going to propose the approval of an ad hoc constitutional bill allowing the people to vote. A simple ratification bill is not enough".
If Berlusconi does need a replacement for Buttiglione, he has a likely candidate here.
Straw, of course, is gung-ho for the whole thing, telling us that it might be in March 2006, but also stating that the British referendum "won't necessarily be the last one of all the member states." Asked if Britain might not hold a referendum if France had already rejected it, he said "All sorts of things are possible."
Blair, we are told, is hoping to use Britain's EU presidency to launch the referendum, hoping he can keep the issue on the back burner until after the election, although he has to publish a bill within weeks of next month's Queen's Speech, in order to get the referendum underway, and to start the ratification process.
The idea is to get it over quickly, so as to clear the way for the election. That plan may, however, be scuppered by the Hunting Bill, if it is delayed by the Lords.
But, if things do go to plan, that puts the referendum campaign proper starting in July 2005, giving Blair nine months to get his message across. One can almost empathise with Bertie Ahern, who wants his referendum in Ireland to be "be the last for a long time."
There again, if some countries vote against the constitution in their referendums, they could make them the best of three… five, er… seven… Either way, we are in for the long haul. Just as well those journalists got their free notepads and pens.
As the Israelis wisely allowed Chairman Yasser Arafat to leave his compound for medical treatment in France, Javier Solana has sprung into the breach on behalf o the European Union.
As we have written several times before, the EU has consistently supported Chairman Arafat, despite his political, legal, humanitarian and purely personal financial record, mainly because he was seen as part of the Palestinian problem by both Israel and the United States (as well as a large number of Palestinians, but let that pass).
It has been reported that Solana, the foreign affairs supremo of the EU, briefed the Palestinian delegate in Brussels, Sevki Al-Armali, of his talks with the Israeli government, in which he insisted that Arafat’s safe return home after the completion of his treatment should be guaranteed. All well and good, but given Arafat’s age and health problems, it may not be the Israeli government or the mighty EU that will be making the decision.
Solana has also expressed concern about potential problems in Gaza caused by Arafat’s failing health and the forthcoming Israeli withdrawal. No detailed ideas have been advanced publicly. All previous solutions, that is, demands that Israel do this, that or the other, somehow seem unsatisfactory at the moment.
President Putin has been openly campaigning for the pro-Kremlin candidate in the Ukrainian elections, which have been marred by a great deal of violence and intimidation as well as a suspected murderous attack on the opposition presidential candidate.
There is a strong suspicion that in a year or so there will be a referendum in Russia, similar to the Belarus one, which will change the constitution to give Putin another term (or as many as he might wish).
Tension in Eastern Europe is also increasing by the feeling that Russia is trying to insinuate itself into the economies of those countries through the energy industry. We have already reported that Russia supplies a very large proportion of the oil and gas that the new member states use.
In a recent enquiry in Poland into details of a Russian attempt to take over the country’s second largest refinery, Rafineria Gdanska, by Lukoil, evidence has been presented of all kinds of skullduggery from agents of the KGB’s successors. Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, a former Polish spy chief and an important figure in the ruling left, said in his testimony:
"I agree that we are facing a restoration of the Russian Empire through economic means and with the principle of 'yesterday tanks, today oil'."The Polish media has seized on this and other statements to sound the alarm. Not surprisingly, neither the Russian Embassy, nor the Polish Foreign Ministry has commented on any of the accusations.
One must remember that the “privatized” energy giants in Russia are coming more and more under state control with Putin’s friends and allies acquiring important positions on the boards, and even becoming directors and chairmen.
According to the Reuters report, published in the Moscow Times:
“The most shocking revelation the inquiry has produced so far was that Poland's richest man, industrialist Jan Kulczyk, held secret talks in Vienna about the future of the Polish energy sector with a former KGB agent resident in Poland. According to declassified intelligence reports, made public by a special parliamentary committee leading the inquiry, Kulczyk had offered to use his
political influence to help Russian firms make another try for the Gdansk refinery.
Kulczyk denies the accusations.”
My thanks to Anne Palmer for this important piece of information, obtained from Europe Direct:
…we would like to inform you that as the signature by the Heads of State and Government is foreseen for 29 October 2004, the definitive printed version of the text of the future Treaty will not be available before the beginning of 2005.This, of course, does complicated matters. As I understand it, the numbering will be changed from the draft versions, to present a consecutive numbering scheme. Also, until we see the final version, it is not possible to confirm absolutely what the text does or does not say.
Interestingly, if the Italians are intent on ratifying the constitution before Christmas this will mean that their MPs are approving it sight unseen – just as the British parliament agreed the treaty of accession without having seen it.
And, just as a matter of interest, what did the heads of state and governments sign?
According to Matthew Tempest, political correspondent of The Guardian, in his online report on the signing of the constitution:
The new "rulebook" for the EU replaces over 80,000 pages of legal documentation accumulated through a variety of treaties bonding the original European Economic Community of 1957, and was prompted by the accession this year of 10 new member states, mostly from the former Soviet block.Er, no Matthew. I think you are a little confused here. The 80,000 pages to which you refer encompasses the acquis communautaire, the "lawbook" for the EU (and it's 97,000 pages anyway). This remains unchanged by the treaty, although it is being added-to daily under the existing treaties.
As for being prompted by the accession of the ten new member states, our readers know different.
This analysis has been compiled by the National Platform EU Research andInformation Centre, 24 Crawford Avenue, Dublin 9, Ireland.
It draws from many sources and has been checked for legal accuracy by authorities on European law; its political judgements are those of its compilers. The National Platform is affiliated to The European Alliance of EU-critical Movements (TEAM), which links together some 60 organisations in 20 different European countries that are concerned on democratic and internationalist grounds at EU developments, excluding racist or fascist bodies ).
The National Platform's secretary is Anthony Coughlan, who is an economist and Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin, and who may be contacted at 00-353-1-8305792
THE TREATY ESTABLISHING A CONSTITUTION FOR EUROPE
An analysis of the Constitution that makes the EU into a State
"The Constitution is the capstone of a European Federal State."
Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian Prime Minister, Financial Times, 21-6-2004
"For the first time, Europe has a shared Constitution. This pact is the point of no return. Europe is becoming an irreversible project, irrevocable after the ratification of this treaty. It is a new era for Europe, a new geography, a new history."
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Le Metro, 7-10-2004
We know that nine out of 10 people will not have read the Constitution and will vote on the basis of what politicians and journalists say. More than that, if the answer is No, the vote will probably have to be done again, because it absolutely has to be Yes."
Jean-Luc Dehaene, Former Belgian Prime Minister and Vice-President of the EU Convention, Irish Times, 2 June 2004
AN EU STATE CONSTITUTION THAT IS SUPERIOR TO NATIONAL CONSTITUTIONS
The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, to call it by its proper official name, is not just another EU treaty. This Treaty (Art.IV-437) repeals all the existing EC/EU treaties from the Treaty of Rome to the Treaty of Nice and then founds or establishes quite a new EU, based on its own Constitution. Legally, constitutionally and politically this new European Union would be quite different from the existing EU.
The new EU, founded on its own State Constitution, in fact becomes a new European State in the world community of States. A young State and a new one, a weak State perhaps, but a State nonetheless, with virtually all the essential features of a State, in which the existing Member States are reduced to the constitutional status of regions or provinces. Simultaneously the EU Constitution becomes the fundamental source of legal authority within Europe, supplanting the Constitutions of the Member States as the ultimate source of legal power.
The EU Constitution becomes part of our Constitution and will not be amendable except with the consent of other countries. This is therefore the most decisive step ever in the near-60-year-old project of European integration, aimed at turning the EEC/EC/EU into a fully-fledged State, a superpower in the world.
To call it a "constitutional treaty" is to downplay its significance. "Constitutional treaty" implies that this is comparable to previous EU treaties like Nice, Amsterdam, Maastricht, and the Single European Act, whereas the most important thing about it is that it is a Constitution as well as a treaty. In international law a Treaty is a contract or agreement between independent States, the High Contracting Parties, as equal sovereign partners.
A Constitution is the fundamental law of a State, setting out its institutions of government, how it makes its laws, determines its policies and actions and relates to other States. This treaty will only be a treaty until the Constitution comes into effect. From then on it is the Constitution we will be bound by and will have to obey.
Article 1.1 of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe states: "This Constitution establishes the European Union." As the European Union already exists as an intergovernmental cooperation between its Member States established by the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, what this Treaty-cum-Constitution proposes is an EU that would constitutionally, legally and politically be a fundamentally different thing from the EU we are at present members of.
Article I-7 gives this new European Union, established now on the basis of its own Constitution, legal personality and a distinct corporate existence for the first time. Hitherto the EU has had no legal existence apart from its Members. At present the Member States, not the EU, are superior. This is shown by the fact that the Member States if they wished could agree at any time to dissolve both the EU and EC, and interact with one another like the rest of the world community of States, and as they did themselves before the 1957 Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community (EEC).
The Constitution changes this. Legally and constitutionally it makes the new EU separate from any of its individual Member States, just as Germany is a separate state from Bavaria or Brandenburg, the USA from Virginia or California, and Canada from Ontario. This is the most essential constitutional step for those who seek to turn the EU into a State, an international actor in its own right for the first time.
Article I-6 then provides that "The Constitution and law adopted by the Institution of the Union in exercising competences conferred on it shall have primacy over the law of the Member States." Thus the proposed Constitution of this new EU overrides and is superior to the Member States' national Constitutions, potentially in all areas of public policy; for the EU Constitution does not seek to reserve any governmental area permanently from EU control. The central issue concerning the EU Constitution is this:
Which Constitution takes precedence, the European one or the national? That after all is the central question of politics: Where do power and legitimate authority lie? The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe is clear. The new EU State and its Constitution will be paramount.
If the Constitution is ratified, the EU Member States would constitutionally and legally become provinces within a European Federal State, with their national democracy, sovereignty and political independence abandoned as they agree formally to subordinate themselves to the superior entity, as in any State Federation.
The Constitution's continental champions are quite honest about this, like the Belgian and French Premiers quoted above. In fact an earlier draft of Article 1 stated explicitly that the Union would exercise its competences "on a federal basis." The word "federal" was dropped because of concern that it would hinder ratification in some countries.
The Article now provides that the Union will exercise its competences "in the Community way." That is a Federal Statist way, even if the words "Federal" and "State" are not used. In a Federal State there are two levels of law-making, with the Federal level superior to the provincial or regional level.
Having repealed all the existing EC/EU treaties, the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe then reapplies the existing body of EU law, some 100,000 pages of it, as if it were made under the constitutional primacy of the Constitution established by the new Treaty.
Simultaneously it transfers some 40 further areas of government policy or national decision from the Member States to the new Union, centralising them in the Brussels Institutions.
NO LONGER "POOLING SOVEREIGNTY", BUT ACCEPTING AND GIVING ALLEGIANCE TO A NEW SOVEREIGN
It is an historical moment of some importance - this attempt to turn much of the continent of Europe into a State and world power, in which 25 previously sovereign Nation States are reduced constitutionally to provincial status in a European Federation. Their hitherto sovereign peoples and national Parliaments must thereafter obey the laws made by the 25 politicians on the Council of Ministers in Brussels, backed by the EU's supranational bureaucracy.
This is no longer a question of States "pooling sovereignty" in some limited areas of government, the better to attain certain agreed purposes. "Pooling sovereignty" was always a misleading term anyway, aimed at disguising from the public the reality of what was happening. The legal concept of sovereignty has nothing to do with international power or economic weight. It refers to the exclusive right of a State to make its own laws, and consequently of its people consequently to govern themselves.
It is therefore no more possible to "pool" sovereignty than it is to be half-pregnant! But in so far as people believed that EU membership involved some such pooling, the Constitution's provisions now show the unreality of that. Under the Constitution the sovereign powers of the European Union would be vested in European Institutions, the EU Council, Court, Commission and Parliament, which are given legal supremacy over the laws and sovereignty of the Member States.
The EU and its Institutions would become our new sovereign. We would all, for the first time, become legally bound as direct citizens of this new legal entity. One can only be a citizen of a State. Under the Constitution we would legally become citizens of the new European Union, not just as an honorary title, an adjunct to national citizenship, as under the Treaty of Maastricht, but with rights and obligations direct to the European institutions rather than through our national institutions.
Article 1-10 provides: "Citizens of the Union shall enjoy the rights and be subject to the duties provided for in the Constitution."The once-in-a-lifetime decision of adopting the EU Constitution would directly concede power and sovereignty to the EU over the legal and constitutional framework that guards our civil liberties and democratic rights. It would do this for our children and future generations. It would change the international status of our country from being an independent democratic State to being a subordinate state within a greater European power.
Those pushing the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe are effectively asking us to be abandon our right to determine the laws we agree to obey and to decide our own government, which is our most fundamental democratic right.
IDENTICALLY WORDED PROVISIONS HAVE DIFFERENT LEGAL IMPLICATIONS IN AN EU CONSTITUTION AS COMPARED TO A TREATY
Parts 1 and 2 of the four-part Constitution are its core constitutional parts. Part 3 transposes most of the existing EU policies into the Constitution, while adding some new ones. This doubtless is what has led some politicians to refer to it as a "tidying-up exercise". That is to play down the significance of what it proposes.
A fundamentally important point here is that the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) which interprets EU treaties and will interpret the Constitution if it is ratified, does so in relation to their "objects and purposes", as shown by their preambles or other evidence of the intentions of their drafters.
That is the continental legal tradition, in contrast to the emphasis in English-speaking countries on the meaning of the wording of treaty provisions in the present tense.
The ECJ has laid down in the 1992 EEA Agreement Case that identically worded provisions in two separate treaties can be interpreted to have very different effects. Clearly changing the legal basis of the European Union from a series of treaties to a self-contained Constitution would fundamentally alter the Court's view of the objects and purposes of the legal texts it is applying.
In practice, there would be a presumption that the Member States are only permitted to exercise powers in the residual areas left to them under the Constitution, and even in those areas they would be regarded as constitutionally obliged to fit in with any over-arching EU policies or foreign policy imperatives in accordance with their general duty to "facilitate the achievement of the Union's tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union's objectives"(Art.I-5).
Shifting the EU from a treaty basis to a constitutional basis would radically affect the Court's interpretation and application of treaty provisions as well as of the scope of EU directives and regulations. Henceforth all EU laws would be interpreted by the Court as having the force of constitutional law. It would be quite proper of the Court of Justice to see all areas of national government as either actually or potentially subordinate to the EU Constitution.
If the proposed Constitution is ratified, the only significant power of Statehood the EU would not possess would be the power to impose taxes. The EU State-builders aspire to that in time and the Constitution opens a legal path towards it. One can only be a citizen of a State, so the Constitution makes us legally real European Union citizens for the first time, for up to now the EU did not have legal personality or a corporate existence on its own account.
Only the European Community, covering the supranational areas of the EC treaties, had that under the Treaty of Maastricht. Now the new EU State will be founded on its own Constitution just like other States.
It will possess its own population and citizenship, a territory, an external frontier, a currency(the euro), an armed force(the EU Rapid Reaction Force), an embryonic police-force in Europol and judiciary in Eurojust, a legislature in the Council of Ministers and EU Parliament, an Executive (the EU Commission), a Supreme Court (the ECJ), a political President (the proposed President of the European Council), a Public Prosecutor's Office, a human rights code (the EU Charter), a foreign and security policy, a Foreign Minister and diplomatic corps, a body of federal law that covers ever-expanding areas of life and that is accepted as superior to national domestic law in any case of conflict, and power to conclude international treaties with other States in the ever-growing areas of its exclusive competence.
A State needs its State symbols. Unsurprisingly therefore Article I-8 of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe provides that the EU State is symbolically capped with its own flag, anthem, motto and annual public holiday - Europe Day - which are given a legal treaty-cum-constitutional basis for the first time.
The new EU State will have control, or potential control, according to the terms of its Constitution, over all areas of public policy, even though in a new and young State it can take time for that to become clear. A European Union founded on its own Constitution may seem a weak State by comparison with other States and to have some peculiar institutional features.
But it would be no weaker than the early USA after it first adopted its Constitution and before it became strong and centralised enough to prevent some of the Member States that founded it breaking away in the 1860s American civil war. The EU State may strengthen, break-up or remain weak in the years to come - only time will tell - but a State it undoubtedly will be if the Treaty is ratified and the Constitution comes into force.
IS THERE ANYTHING GOOD IN THE EU CONSTITUTION?
There are some positive proposals in the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe. It provides that part of the meetings of the Council of Ministers when they are formally adopting new EU laws would be held in public, although most of their discussions would still be in private. It provides that one million or more EU citizens coming from "a significant number of Member States" may petition the Commission to propose a new EU law to the Council of Ministers, although neither the Commission nor the Council need accede to such a request.
A Protocol on Subsidiarity lays down that the Commission must give National Parliaments prior notice of any law it intends to propose, and if one-third of these contend that the proposal violates the principle of subsidiarity, the Commission must review its proposal, after which it may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw it. The Constitution also provides for a Member State that wishes to leave the EU, although the procedure it lays down for this could significantly disadvantage a State that sought to negotiate a fair withdrawal agreement.
The EU Member States can introduce all these changes anyway, in so far as they are desirable, without establishing the EU itself as a State on the basis of its own Constitution.
BACKGROUND TO THE CONSTITUTION
The most revealing account in English of the history of European Iintegration to date is C. Booker and R. North's "The Great Deception, The Secret History of the European Union" (Continuum, London and New York, ISBN0-8264-71056-6) A revised paperback edition of this book, bringing the story down to the signing of the Constitution, will be published in spring 2005.
Why do these authors speak of "deception"? Because the process of building a Europe-wide State has taken place in gradual steps, by governments using stealthy salami-tactics, a series of five treaties between 1986 and now, each of which has been represented to the public in the Member countries as necessary and desirable for economic growth and jobs.
But the real political State-building aim has been subscribed to only by the key political, economic and bureaucratic elites that are pushing the project. It has not been agreed to by the citizens of the different countries of Europe, although the Constitution confronts them with that choice clearly for the first time.
There have been five gradual steps to the EU State Constitution:
1957 Rome Treaty: free trade; a protected agriculture; supranationalinstitutions in the EU Commission, Council of Ministers and EU Court ofJustice;1987 Single European Act Treaty: the internal market; wide use of majorityCouncil voting to make EC laws;
1992 Maastricht Treaty: the euro as a single currency for the eurozone, but excluding Britain and Denmark, with Sweden opting out de facto in its 2003referendum; beginnings of a common foreign and security policy;
1998 Amsterdam Treaty: "the progressive framing of a common defence policy";2003 Nice Treaty: "enhanced cooperation"; sub-groups of EU States may usethe EU institutions for closer integration among themselves even if othersdisagree, opening the way to an unequal EU with an inner core dominated bythe Big States.
The historical origins of the EU project are in the 1920s and 1930s, withJean Monnet and others who conceived and pushed it for decades. Threefactors gave it impetus after World War 2:
* State Power Motivation:
Well-known Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung sums that up as follows:"One basic formula for understanding the Community is this: 'Take fivebroken empires, add the sixth one later, and make one big neo-colonialempire out of it all" (The European Community, a Superpower in the Making,1973.)
It is not the whole story, but it is perhaps the most essential partof the story. The "foundation myth" of the EU is that it has its origins asa peace project to prevent wars between France and Germany. In fact war wasimpossible between individual members of either of the two blocs during theCold War. Washington and Moscow would just not have permitted it. The atomic bomb makes inter-State wars in Europe impractical anyway. Most wars are civil wars.
The end of the Cold War in 1989 brought war back to Europe after 45 years of armed peace - in Yugoslavia and Chechnya. The real historical model for the EU is the unification of Germany in the 19th century, which began with a customs union and common market, then became a confederation of formally equal states, and then a unified Federal State with one Constitution, currency, army and government to represent it internationally vis-a-vis other States.
* Economic Motivation:
The aspiration of European-based transnational firms to be as free as possible of national State control and interference and to obtain maximum freedom of operations for their profit-maximizing activities. Constitutions do not normally enshrine an economic ideology, which is the stuff of debate between political right and left, but set general rules for working out such differences.
By contrast the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe erects extreme neo-liberalism, laissez-faire, a competitive market economy on the basis of cross-national free movement of goods, services, capital and labour, and a monetarist economic policy into constitutional principles.
These are especially congenial to the EU-based transnational firms organised in the EU Employers Federation, UNICE, and the European Round-Table of Industrialists, who have been the principal advocates of successive EU treaties prior to their negotiation, and major backers of the international European movement.
* Personal Power Motivation:
The process of EU integration transfers power from elected national parliaments and governments to a small number of politicians and bureaucrats, who obtain a huge accretion of personal power thereby.
At national level Ministers are part of the executive arm of government, responsible to their elected national parliaments and citizens. But transfer a particular policy area to Brussels and the relevant national Ministers become supranational EU legislators, members of what is literally an oligarchy, a legislative committee, of 25 persons on the EU Council of Ministers who make laws for 450 million people.
They are irremoveable as a body. They become ever more distanced from their national electorates. Their willingly accepted personal task vis-à-vis their fellow Ministers, with whom they interact on first-name terms, becomes to deliver their peoples in support of further EU integration National parliamentarians who aspire to become Ministers, whether they are in government or opposition, go along with this. Someone has described this process as "a slow coup against political democracy". It means that at national level those running the State itself become party to depriving their fellow citizens of the power to make their own laws and decide their own government.
Simultaneously at civil service level senior members of national bureaucracies are substantially freed from public scrutiny as powers are transferred to the bureaucracy in Brussels with whom they regularly interact. There they prepare EU laws for enactment by the Council of Ministers outside the ken of national parliaments or even the European Parliament, which can propose amendments to EU laws but cannot have those amendments adopted without the agreement of Council and Commission. Democracy, public accountability, wilt or disappear. This process, which would accelerate under the EU Constitution, is clearly building inevitably to a major crisis of democracy across our continent.
THE EU'S FUNDAMENTAL DEMOCRATIC PROBLEM
It is possible to turn the EU into a State, but it is not possible for that State to have a democratic basis. The reason is that democracy means rule by the demos, the people, through the representatives they elect and on whom they confer legitimacy and authority.
A European people does not exist except in the statistical sense, and one cannot be artificially created from above in the way the EU is attempting. The 450 million inhabitants of the EU are divided into many peoples, real national communities speaking their own languages, who desire to make their own laws, decide their own government and self-determine themselves as they have done for generations through representatives they elect and who are responsible to them.
The EU cannot be democratised by giving the European Parliament power to make laws instead of the 25-person Council of Ministers, as some suggest. The democracy that is needed to underpin a stable State is not just majorityrule, but majority rule on the basis of a community, a demos, normally a national community, where there is sufficient mutual identification and solidarity among its members as to induce minorities willingly to obey the majority, so giving majority rule its legitimacy and authority.
The existence of such a real, self-aware community is crucial for underpinningthe legitimacy and stability of a State with its own tax and public service system, from which some citizens are net gainers and others are net losers - if that State is to be stable and endure. It is the absence of such a community at European level, and the impossibility of artificially creating it, that is the root cause of the EU's crisis of authority and acceptability.
The EU's "democratic deficit" problem is inherently insoluble without repatriating major powers back from the supranational to the national level. The Constitution does the opposite of this. If it is ratified it can only worsen the crisis of democracy at both EU and Member State level. Just as people often only appreciate the value of health when they become ill, they appreciate the value of their democracy only when they have lost it, and they must begin the struggle to win it back again.
So it is and will be with the EU.
WHERE THE CONSTITUTION CAME FROM: THE LAEKEN DECLARATION AND THE CONVENTION THAT FAILED TO DO ITS JOB
The 105-person body, the Convention, that drew up the Draft Constitutionwas set up by the Laeken Declaration of EU Presidents and Prime Ministersin December 2001. This Declaration acknowledged the lack of democracy and transparency in the EU, said that the Union needed to be brought closer to its peoples, referred to the possibility of "restoring tasks to the Member States" and the possibility "in the long run" of adopting "a constitutional text."
Instead the Convention, which was dominated by Federalist EU-State-builders, rushed headlong into drafting a Constitution that for the first time makes the EU separate from and superior to its constituent Member States, transfers more powers from Member States to the EU, reduces the power of national parliaments and citizens further, and contains not a single proposal to repatriate powers from Brussels to Member State parliaments.
Over 1000 amendments were proposed, but the Convention chairman, former French President V.Giscard d'Estaing, ruled out any votes. Giscard decided when there was a "consensus" and that was that. The Draft Constitution was amended by the June 2004 EU summit of Presidents and Prime Ministers in relation to the population-based voting figures, the reduction in the number of Commissioners to two-thirds of the Member States after five years etc.
There has been no popular demand that the EU should be turned into a European State on the basis of its own Constitution. It is Europe's powerful political and bureaucratic elites, especially in the Big Countries, that are pressing that. Small Country elites are happy to go along, in particular if they face big problems at home, as the East Europeans do, for which they can henceforth seek to put the blame on Brussels.
What fundamentally inspires most of them is the old European dream of Big Powerdom, the intoxication of empire-building, of taking part in however small a way in running a Superpower, while simultaneously freeing themselves from democratic control and political accountability to national parliaments and electorates domestically. The pressure for EU integration that culminates in this Constitution comes wholly from the top down, not the bottom up.
STRUCTURE OF THE EU CONSTITUTION
The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe has 448 Articles dividedinto four parts. With its Protocols and Declarations it is some 800 pageslong. Following its signing in Rome in October 2004 it will go around forratification by all 25 EU Member States by November 2006. Some 10 countries will hold referendums on it. It cannot legally come into force if any one of them says No.
One of the Declarations states that if all 25 States do not ratify it they will meet to discuss what to do, but there is no legal mechanism for imposing the Constitution on a country that does not want it, or forcing such a country to leave the EU. In theory if 23 States said Yes and two said No, the 23 could set up a new Union based on the proposed Constitution, while the existing 25 would retain the existing EU with its resources, structures, euro-currency and institutions. But two EUs of this kind side by side is quite unrealistic.
The edited text of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe may be consulted here. The Reader-Friendly Edition of the EU Constitution by Danish MEP Jens-Peter Bonde is the most useful text to enable citizens to understand theConstitution, because of its invaluable Index and Glossary. This is available on the internet here.
Part 1, with 60 Articles, is the core constitutional part. It lays down the Union's general principles, sets out its objectives and values, its Institutions and the respective powers and competences of the EU on the one hand and its Member States on the other. It is clear and readable, even if much longer than the US Constitution. People should take care to read it. Its provisions are short, if deadly for national Constitutions.
Thus Article I-1: "This Constitution establishes the European Union"; Article I-6: "The Constitution shall have primacy over the laws of the Member States."; Article I-7: "The Union shall have legal personality"; Article I-12: "The Member States shall exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised, or has decided to cease exercising, its competence."
Part 2 (54 Articles) is the Charter of Fundamental Rights. For the first time ever this gives the EU Court of Justice power to decide our human rights in all areas covered by EU law. The ECJ in Luxembourg should not be confused with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which is not connected to the EU and has over 40 European States as members.
Part 2 is important in that the Constitution could create new rights or take away existing ones. It would supersede our national Constitution, which is clear about rights, as well as the European Court of Human Rights, in areas affected by EU law, whereas the meaning of some of the rights in the Charter is anything but clear - the right to "human dignity" for example, or the right to "good administration".
The inclusion of a human rights code with full legal effect is further evidence that this is a truly Federal Constitution for a new EU. Unless adequately restrained, the doctrine of the legal supremacy of the EU Court of Justice would allow the new EU rights law to displace national provisions in highly sensitive areas of social policy, unrestrained by democratic accountability or control.
Part 3 (322 Articles) is the largest part. It sets out the detailed policies and functioning of the EU - free movement of goods, services, capital and labour; agricultural and fisheries policy; economic and monetary policy; foreign and security policy; crime and justice policy; social policy; EU financing etc. Much of this is already EU law, apart from the new powers the Constitution gives the EU, but the Court of Justice will interpret these provisions as having the force of a constitutional imperative if the Constitution is ratified. That is why the provisions of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe are more significant than those of a conventional EU treaty.
Part 4 (12 Articles) gives general and final provisions dealing with ratification and amendment of the Constitution, the admission of new Members and provision for a State to leave the EU. It provides for succession by the new European Union to the rights, responsibilities and assets of the existing Union. It carries over the 100,000 pages of the acquis communautaire from the old EU and entrenches the case-law of the ECJ as the source of interpretation for this and for the Constitution.
Protocols: The 36 Protocols or agreements on particular topics attached to the Treaty now become part of the EU Constitution and are as legally binding as its substantive text. They include Ireland's Abortion Protocol (No.31), which generated controversy at the time of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. They also include the Eurotom Protocol (No.36). The Euratom Treaty, which supports nuclear power, was due to end in 2007 after being in existence 50 years. It is now given an indefinite lease of new life by being made part of the EU Constitution. In addition there are 48 Declarations, which are not legally binding but are statements of political intention by the States making them.
ELEVEN KEY FEATURES OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE NEW EU
1. PROVIDING THE NECESSARY CONSTITUTIONAL BASIS FOR AN EU STATE
A Treaty is an agreement between legally equal sovereign States, the High Contracting Parties. A Constitution is the fundamental law of a State setting out the relations between its subordinate parts. Up to now the European Union has been a descriptive term referring to various forms of cooperation between the EU Member States, some supranational – the so-called Community "pillar" - some intergovernmental, the foreign policy and security "pillar" or the justice and home affairs "pillar".
Up to now the European Union has been legally indistinguishable from its Member States. The Constitution changes this. Article I-1 states "this Constitution establishes the European Union, on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common."
These objectives are set out in Article I-3 and are very wide. They include promoting the EU's values - also very wide - a single market based on free competition, establishing an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, sustainable development, economic growth, full employment, price stability, social justice, upholding the EU's values and interests vis-a-vis the wider world etc.
Article I-7 provides: "The Union shall have legal personality." Article I-6 lays down: "The Constitution and law adopted by the Institutions of the Unions in exercising competences conferred on it shall have primacy over the law of the Member States" That includes their constitutional law of course. This has never been stated in an EU Treaty before.
The doctrine of EU legal supremacy was developed by the EU Court of Justice in the 1960s in relation to the mainly economic areas of the EU, in which EU law was accepted as superior to national law in any case of conflict. This was the relatively narrow, supranational, area of the European Community, or EC.
Non-economic areas such as foreign and security policy, or civil and criminal law, were "intergovernmental", based on treaties between equal State partners and outside the domain of supranational Community law. The EU Commission, the non-elected body that proposes all EU laws, had no function in these intergovernmental areas.
The Constitution abolishes this distinction between the supranational "Community" area where EU law operated, and the "intergovernmental" areas where it did not apply. It thus brings all government policy either actually or potentially within the scope of the EU. It is one thing for Member States to go along with a principle of EU legal superiority established by the EU Court of Justice and applied to a restricted range of matters like customs duties or tariffs. It is quite another to concede national sovereignty to an EU Constitution whose writ covers everything from economic policy to criminal law to foreign policy and fundamental human rights.
2.EU POWERS AND COMPETENCES ... THE EU COURT DECIDES THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN EU AND NATIONAL POWERS
The Constitution gives the EU exclusive competence - i.e. powers – in certain areas of government(Art.I-13). This means the Member States lose all power to decide such matters. "The Union shall have exclusive competence in the following areas: Customs union; competition rules for the internal market; monetary policy (for eurozone members); common fisheriespolicy; common commercial policy."
Exclusive competence means that it is the EU, not Member States, that will conclude international treaties with other States for these areas. The existing legal obligation on Member States is not to enter into an international agreement which conflicts with an EU obligation.
The Constitution now greatly extends the areas in which the EU is entitled to conclude treaties in its own name: "The Union shall also have exclusive competence for the conclusion of an international agreement when its conclusion is provided for in a legislative act of the Union or is necessary to enable the Union to exercise its internal competence, or insofar as its conclusion may affect common rules or alter their scope.". This would cover for example international crime conventions and extradition and asylum agreements. Together with the provisions of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the Constitution would deprive Member States of much of their present treaty-making powers.
Then there are areas of shared competence, where power is divided between the EU Institutions and the Member States. This is a peculiar kind of sharing, for EU power is stated to be constitutionally superior or primary, so that Member State powers are essentially residual and on sufferance.
Article I-12 provides: "The Member States shall exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised, or has decided to cease exercising, its competences." Areas of shared power with Member States include the internal market, elements of social policy, economic and social cohesion, environment, transport, energy, the area of freedom, security and justice, aspects of public health etc. In jurisdictional disputes as to the boundary between EU powers and Member State powers, it is the EU, through the Court of Justice, that would decide which is which.
A gesture towards placating concerned democrats and "sovereignists" is Article I-11(2), which provides: "Competences not conferred upon the Union in the Constitution remain with the Member States." This is like the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution, adopted in 1791, which states that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
However, the 10th Amendment has not prevented the USA from becoming a fully-fledged and highly centralised Federal State over time, with provincial states like New York, Virginia and Kansas quite subordinate to the Federal Government in Washington. The similar Article in the EU Constitution can offer no such reassurance either.
In addition the Constitution gives the EU the right to coordinate theeconomic and employment policies of its Member States, to conduct a common foreign and security policy covering all areas of foreign policy including "the progressive framing of a common defence policy", and "to take supporting, coordinating or complementary action" at European level vis-a-vis its Member States in relation to industry, health protection, education, vocational training, youth, sport, culture and civil protection.
3. EU LAWS TO BE BASED MAINLY ON POPULATION SIZE, WHICH ADVANTAGES THE BIG STATES
Apart from the establishment of the European Union as a State in its own right, the most important provision of the Constitution in power-political terms is the shift to a primarily population-based voting system for making EU laws by the Council of Ministers. The Constitution abolishes the weighted voting system that was agreed in the Treaty of Nice to provide for EU enlargement. It lays down instead that EU laws will in future be made by a "double majority" of States and population: 55 percent of the Member States, at least 15, as long as they include 65 percent of the EU's population.
Thus 15 States, if they satisfy the 65 percent population criterion, would be able to outvote 10. On the number-of-States criterion a blocking minority must be at least 11 States, so that will be harder to assemble than before. This shift to a mainly population criterion for EU law-making makes it easier for the Big States with their big populations to get their way. It reduces the relative voting weight of middle-rank and smaller Member States. It would make EU laws easier to pass, which means there would be more of them.
The word EU law" replaces "directive" under the Constitution, as is normal in States.
4. MEMBER STATES TO HAVE NO EU COMMISSIONER FOR ONE-THIRD OF THE TIME
One-third of the Member States will lose their Commissioners five years after the Constitution comes into force. Thus each Member State will have no national representative for lengthy periods of time on the body that proposes all EU laws which those States and their citizens must obey.
5. A NEW POLITICAL PRESIDENT, AN EU FOREIGN MINISTER AND DIPLOMATIC CORPS, AND AN EU PUBLIC PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE
The European Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers will elect a permanent Council President for up to five years, who will preside over their quarterly summit meetings. The present revolving six-monthly EU presidency system will disappear. The European Council President will be the EU's top job, the chief political representative of the EU, in effect its Head of State and chief spokesman to the world.
The EU Minister for Foreign Affairs will conduct the Union's common foreign and security policy, chair the Council of Foreign Ministers, manage the EU diplomatic service (The European External Action Service) and serve also as a Vice-President of the Commission. Only States have Foreign Ministers. For the rest of the world the EU Foreign Minister will be the foreign policy representative of the fledgling EU State. As the Foreign Minister will be appointed by majority vote this will make it possible for some Member States to be represented internationally at EU-level by someone who is unacceptable to them.
There will be a European Public Prosecutor's office to prosecute fraud against the EU, whose powers may be extended by unanimity to prosecute any serious crime with a cross-border dimension.
6. AMENDING THE EU CONSTITUTION WITHOUT NEED OF FURTHER TREATIES OR REFERENDUMS
The "Passerelle" or Bridge Clause:
Article IV-444 provides that the European Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers, acting unanimously, may authorise the Council of Ministers to act by qualified majority in areas where unanimity is currently required.
This cannot be done if a national Parliament objects, but the formal approval of national parliaments is not required. This means that policy areas where States still retain a national veto can henceforth be put under EU majority voting without the need for new treaties, formal parliamentary approval or ratification by popular referendums - as would at present be required for any such development - so long as the Heads of State and Heads of governments of the EU’s member states agree.
Convention Chairman Giscard d'Estaing dubbed this escalator article, the passerelle or bridge clause, "a central innovation" of the EU Constitution. It is not hard to see why. The existence of this and other "passerelle" clauses means in effect that the Constitution will not be a wholly accurate guide to its own provisions.The Flexibility Clause:
In addition there is the "flexibility clause"(Art. I-18) which provides that if the Constitution has not given the EU sufficient powers to attain one of its very wide objectives, the Council of Ministers, acting unanimously "shall adopt the appropriate measures".
This enables the Council of Ministers to extend their own powers without need for new treaties, so long as they act unanimously. This has been widely used over the years for internal market matters. The Constitution replaces an existing treaty article, Number 308, which applies only to the internal market, and extends its scope to everything in the EU Constitution, including civil and criminal law, fundamental rights, social policy, culture etc. This is an extraordinary power to have in a supposedly democratic document.
Delegated Legislation by the Commission:
Article I-36 of the Constitution allows the Council of Ministers to delegate law-making powers, such as making regulations, to the non-elected Commission as regards "non-essential elements" of EU laws. The Council decides what is "non-essential" but it could be very wide.
This turns the EU Commission, a body of nominated, not popularly elected persons, which France's President De Gaulle once described as "a conclave of technocrats without a country responsible to nobody", into a subordinate legislature in its own right, which we all as EU citizens must obey.
7. "LOYAL" SUPPORT FOR EU FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY... EU DEFENCE MOVES FROM "MAY" TO "WILL"
The Constitution provides for a unified foreign and military policy for the new EU State. Art.1.40 lays down that "Before undertaking any action on the international sceneŠeach Member State shall consult the others within the European Council or the Council." EU Members are thus constitutionally precluded from conducting a meaningful independent foreign policy.
The Constitution provides that the Union's competence in matters of common foreign and security policy "shall cover all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union's security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence."(Art.I-16).
It lays down as a constitutional imperative that "Member States shall actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the Union's actions in that area." The word "loyalty" here again shows which is superior.
Article I-40(3) of the Constitution requires all Member States, including the military neutral ones, to "make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defence policy" and to "undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities."
The Constitution points to the end of the formal military neutrality of Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Austria by replacing the Nice Treaty provision that the progressive framing of a common defence policy "might lead to a common defence, should the European Council so decide" with the provision of the Constitution that it "will lead to a common defence, when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides."
"Enhanced cooperation", permitting sub-groups of States to use the EU institutions for closer integration amongst themselves may now be undertaken in the security and military area, as was not permitted by the Nice Treaty. Here it is to be called "structured cooperation".
This inner group of States is likely to be bound by a mutual defence pact, will work closely with NATO and will be served by the EU Foreign Minister. The Constitution does not require EU actions in the military field to be in accordance with the United Nations Charter, which is the foundation of modern international law. As a superpower-in-the-making the EU reserves theright to ignore the Charter if need be.
8. THE EU CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS GIVES THE ECJ POWER TO DECIDE OUR RIGHTS
It is proper that the EU and its Institutions should respect and abide by human rights. But should they have the power to decide those rights? Part 2 of the Constitution makes the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was approved as a political document by the Nice summit in 2001, now legally binding in supranational EU law. This gives the Court of Justice power to decide our rights in all areas covered by European law, including Member States when implementing that law. The scope of EU law is now vast and most EU policies can be interpreted as having a human rights dimension.
In disputes as to the boundary between EU law and national law, it is he Court that would decide. This adds a further tier of lawyers and judges t EU level for people seeking redress in human rights cases. Justice delayed is justice denied. Big corporations will find it easier than private citizens to contest claims in the EU Court. This should make the vindication of human rights slower and more difficult in practice.
The Constitution states that the Charter "does not establish any new power or task for the Union." But the EU does not marry anybody, or provide health or education services, or concern itself with matters like reproductive cloning, academic freedom, the rights of children and the elderly, conscientious objection to military service etc.
Why then should it list these and many other things as rights in the Charter when they are wholly outside its powers and functions and up to now have been the exclusive responsibility of Member States with their national Constitutions and Supreme Courts? What is the point of listing them if they are not enforceable?
Neither is there any consensus across Europe on a wide range of human rights matters that could arise in an EU context - for example hard drugs, legal procedures such as trial by jury, displaying religious symbols in schools, marriage, succession law, abortion, euthanasia. How can the ECJ purport to lay down a common cross-EU standard of rights in such sensitive areas?
Article II-112 allows all the rights set out in the Charter to be overridden by providing that they may be limited by law "to meet objectives of general interest recognised by the Union." So the fundamental rights are not so fundamental after all. The conflict between a right and a justification for derogating from it is a highly political matter, in deciding which the Court of Justice would be able to extend its powers further.
The preamble to the Charter states that the fundamental rights listed in it are to be interpreted by reference to the "Explanations" prepared by the Convention that originally drafted it. This means that the ostensible legal meaning of the rights in the Charter may be altered significantly by the Court of Justice in interpreting them, relying on a document drawn up by a different body from that which drafted the Constitution. Article II-62 provides that "no one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed."
Yet the associated article of the Explanations lifts this restriction and states that the death penalty may be imposed "in times of war or during the immediate threat of war", presumably for EU-led operations, for all the Member States have abolished the death penalty in such circumstances.
The Charter does not strengthen workers' rights to organise or act collectively, as some have claimed. Article II-88 states that workers have these rights "in accordance with national laws and practices". The associated Explanation, which is now part of the Constitution, emphasises this and points out that the right of collective action is one of the elements of trade union rights laid down in Article 11 the European Convention of Human Rights, which all Member States are already bound by.
In so far as Article II-112 allows fundamental rights to be limited in the interests of the Union, some future ECJ judgement might possibly threaten workers' rights that have been long fought for and established at national level. The Charter as it stands ostensibly protects an employer's right to lock out his employees quite as much as an employee's right to go on strike, depending on what their national labour law lays down.
In truth, making the EU Charter of Rights legally binding under the EU Constitution has more to do with power than rights. Giving a human rights jurisdiction to the EU Court of Justice has huge federalising potential, as the history of the USA has shown. It could potentially bring the Union's Supreme Court, the ECJ, into virtually every area of our lives.
9. THE EURO TO BE CONSTITUTIONALLY THE EU CURRENCY
Article I-8 states that "The currency of the Union shall be the euro." If the Constitution is adopted, all EU Members will in effect have voted for and be constitutionally committed to abolishing their national currencies and replacing them with the euro, even though 13 of the present 25 EU Members still retain their national currencies.
10. EXTENSIVE EXTRA POWERS FOR THE EU
The Constitution extends EU powers to make laws that override national law in over 40 new policy areas or matters, in addition to the 35 areas agreed in the 2003 Nice Treaty and the 19 areas in the 1998 Amsterdam Treaty.
Under the Constitution national vetoes disappear for most things. The new areas transferred to the EU include judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters; harmonisation of legislation on criminal proceedings, sanctions and the definition of offences; border controls; asylum and immigration; civil protection; Europol and Eurojust; energy; culture; services of general interest(i.e.public services); structural and cohesion funds etc. Article I-12 lays down that "Member States shall coordinate their economic and employment policies within arrangements as determined by Part 3, which the Union shall have competence to provide."
This opens the way to extensive economic supervision and coordination powers for the Unionover its Members. It goes well beyond what is possible under the existingEU treaties and could potentially cover such things as taxation policy,national public spending, pensions policy and industrial policy.
11. AN IDEOLOGICAL CONSTITUTION
The Constitution of any normal State lays down the rules and institutionalframework for political decision-making. It does not seek to pre-empt theideological content of those decisions. That is left to political debatebetween the parties of Left and Right, abiding by the Constitution'sdecision-making rules. The EU Constitution is different. It enshrines aparticular economic system based on an extreme neo-liberal ideology, which it seeks to clamp as a constitutional imperative on 450 million Europeans.
The Constitution turns the fundamental principles of classical laissez-faire, free competition across national and State boundaries on the basis of free movement of goods, services, capital and labour, into constitutional imperatives, implemented by the rules and Institutions it establishes and enforced by the EU Court of Justice. At the same time, the sanction it gives for supranational regulation transfers the corporatist governmental traditions of some countries, e.g. France, to the pan-European level.
The Constitution enshrines as constitutional principle the monetarist economic policy of the European Central Bank, whose sole brief in setting interest rates and controlling the money supply of the eurozone is to ensure stability of prices, not maximise economic growth, foster employment or advance social cohesion. It encourages the privatisation of public services and permits the imposition of such policies on countries outside the EU through the trade and investment agreements the EU concludes under its Common Commercial Policy.
It lays down as one of the objectives of the EU "a highly competitive social market economy", but there is no definition of the term "social market", which is taken from the German Constitution, or anything to indicate that something other than maximising competition is implied. These ideological objectives and values of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe seek to pre-empt society's fundamental political choices into the indefinite future, as no other modern Constitution seeks to do.
THE ALTERNATIVE TO THE EU CONSTITUTION
IF THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTION IS REJECTED BY ONE OR MORE COUNTRIES, THE EU WILL CONTINUE AS IT IS NOW ON THE BASIS OF THE 2003 TREATY OF NICE, WITH THE VOTING ARRANGEMENTS WHICH THAT TREATY LAID DOWN FOR A EUROPEAN UNION OF 27 STATES
It would be appropriate then to revisit the Laeken Declaration, reconvene the Convention on the Future of Europe on a more democratic basis than Giscard's Convention of EU State-builders which gave us the present undemocratic document, and have a genuine debate among Europe's peoples and parliaments on the kind of Europe people really want.
Almost certainly that is not a Europe which is a State or superpower in its own right, run by a narrow elite of top politicians and bureaucrats, within which the ancient countries of Europe are reduced to the constitutional status of subordinate regions.
It is more likely to be a Europe of cooperating independent democratic States, where powers are repatriated back to the EU Member States from Brussels, as the Laeken Declaration originally mooted but which Giscard's Convention totally ignored. It is likely to be a Europe where national parliaments and voters have their democratic rights restored and where democracy, political self-determination and representative government are re-established for the peoples and nations of our continent.
Democrats all over Europe should say in the coming period: EU ConstitutionNo thanks; No to the EU State Constitution; Yes to democracy.