The new EU "treaty" Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, June 23, 2007
I can't help but see this as a total sell out by the elite in Europe. When the EU constitution was rejected by the people of France and the Netherlands, the elite went to work to find a way to implement their plan and avoid a referendum. If you're wondering what the new treaty looks like, this paragraph fairly well explains it:
Much of the agreement is based on the content of the European constitution, rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands. There are a few cosmetic changes and a couple of new opt-outs for Britain.
The Conservatives immediately called for the British people to be given a referendum.
Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague said: "Not all the details are clear or finalised but we now know the basis of the new EU Treaty and it is clear that large parts of the EU Constitution are repackaged but back.
"Blair and Brown have signed up to major shifts of power from Britain to the EU and major changes in the way the EU works. Given their manifesto commitment to a referendum on the EU Constitution, the Government have absolutely no democratic mandate to introduce these major changes without letting the British people have the final decision in a referendum."
But Mr Brown later backed Mr Blair's assertion that a referendum on the treaty would not be required.
And, of course, that's how it will be presented to the French, the Dutch, the Germans, etc. While Europe has never claimed to have governments "of the people, by the people and for the people", it's newest governmental entity certainly can't make that claim.
I don't know about you, but to me that says "sell out".
I can’t help but see this as a total sell out by the elite in Europe. When the EU constitution was rejected by the people of France and the Netherlands, the elite went to work to find a way to implement their plan and avoid a referendum
Sorta the same thing as Reid’s plan to ram the unwanted immigration bill through.
The first "constitution" wasn’t a real constitution, it was a treaty given a fancy name in order to try to make it seem like they were really moving forward.
Forgive the long post — and don’t read on if you don’t want to learn more about the EU "constitution," but I think some people would benefit from a better understanding of the situation:
While there were new provisions, their scope wasn’t that much greater than the Treaty of Nice, and less dramatic than Maastricht. Why call it a constitution? Doesn’t that make it seem more important than it is? Aren’t we really just debating the nature of QMV and some expanded competencies? A constitution can be seen as implying a state. The response was that most organizations have constitutions, and this was meant to put together all the progress made over the past 20 years and have a clear document which brings this all together (hence the length). But that raises an interesting question – if it hadn’t been called a constitution, would it have been so contentious?
First, a number of things were codified that simply reflect EU principles of the past:
1. Return of the “Council of Ministers” – the “Council of the European Union” term has never really been accepted, so they’ll go back to the old title.
2. The treaty would recognize “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven as the anthem of Europe (and codify recognition of the existing flag and motto in varietate Concordia (united in diversity).
3. Subsidiarity and proportionality are more closely defined. Subsidiarity specifies the lowest level (acknowledging not just states, but regional and local governments) of government possible should handle issues, thus avoiding a "superstate," and proportionality demands that the supranational authority not go beyond what is necessary to achieve a desired end. Conferral is also put in the treaty; powers to the EU can only be conferred by the states themselves.
4. The following conditions are put forth as both what states must do to gain entry into the EU, and what states in the EU promise to uphold: freedom, human dignity, the rule of law, equality (equal rights, not outcomes), human rights, minority rights, democracy, market economies, pluralism (in general, not as a form of interest intermediation), non-discrimination, justice, solidarity, tolerance, and gender equality.
5. Aims of the EU: a competitive and effective social market economy, peace, freedom, social justice, sustainable development, and respect for cultural/linguistic diversity. A social market economy means that in essence market economics is embraced, but with respect for social justice (originally from Germany after WWII – rejecting socialism, but accepting welfare state policies).
6. The Flexibility clause from the original 1957 treaty is maintained: if there unanimous agreement and the EP approves, they can act in ways not explicitly in the treaty. But this is only valid if the action is to achieve the objectives as stated in the treaty.
What was new in the old "constitution":
1. A solidarity clause that if a state is victim of a terrorist attack the other states will help, with the Council of Ministers determining how.
2. New competencies in cohesion, space, and energy policy (allowing supranational action in those policy areas).
3. A legal personality under International Law (the next thing to statehood; though not officially a state – again, a Union).
4. Charter of Fundamental Rights: this is already there, but there is an opt out option which the British have taken. Ratifying the constitution would make it mandatory.
5. New police powers in areas of terrorism, crimes against children, drug and arms trafficking, corruption, fraud and human trafficking.
6. A Union Minister for Foreign Affairs (the High Representative for the CFSP is the closest thing that position now). This person would be limited to expressing EU opinion when there is agreement, but states would still have the ability to disagree.
7. QMV: 55% of Council of Ministers members, representing 65% of the EU population when the issues is sent to the Council from the Commission or the Foreign Affairs Minister. If initiated in the Council, 72% of the Council must vote yes.
8. President of the European Council, chosen by heads of government with a 2 ½ year term, renewable once. An individual, not a country would hold this position. The Council of Ministers would shift too, having an 18 month Presidency shared by three states. When the foreign ministers make up the Council, the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs would head it. Also, all Council of Ministers meetings will be required to be public.
9. Reduction in size of the commission to 18 (unless more states join, then it will be 2/3 of the states). States will serve two of three terms.
10. Expanded powers for the European Parliament: To have the last word on who the President of the Commission will be (on recommendation from the European Council), have co-decision powers with the European Council on all areas, with the power to amend, and EP power over all the budget, including the CAP.
11. The possibility of an EU-wide referendum, though properly called an initiative since it’s limited: 1 million people must sign, it has to be an initiative for something new (i.e., not getting rid of EU law), and has to be in line with the treaty aims of the TEC.
12. Withdrawal clause: although it was understood that sovereign states can withdrawal, the fact that there is currently no clause allowing it created fodder for conspiracy theorists who said that once you were in, it would be war if you tried to leave. This calls on a state to announce its intent to withdraw, and then negotiate the terms. If there can be no agreed terms within two years, the state can leave anyway.
Why did it fail?
The Treaty was overly comprehensive. The US Constitution has just under 5000 words, this treaty has over 160,000. It tried to not only put the principles and general rules in place, but sought to codify everything else earlier treaties had done. On the one hand, this has its good points. This allowed them to get rid of old jargon, avoid duplications, and simplify when possible. Rather than a variety of treaties, you’d have one main treaty to look to. But this also meant that, when put to a referendum, voters had their eyes glaze over. Was there something malign in the fine print? Why does this need to be so complex, does this mean the Eurocracy is dominant?
My view: They should have had two treaties. One constitution which lays out principles and rules of institutional governance, and one to create a document of EU law. A constitution shouldn’t be something so long and complex that citizens can hardly understand it!
Of course, opposition was intense from the usual quarters. Euroskeptics claimed it was an effort to create a super state, a federal United States of Europe. Leftists talked about it as capitalist neo-liberal plot to counter social reform and put big business in power, less accountable and more distant from domestic political consequences.
Some opposed the QMV, claiming veto powers should be retained in some areas (over 25 areas where there had been veto power, this was lost). Most didn’t see this as a huge problem, but strong proponents of maintaining sovereignty wanted to assure veto possibilities. Since EU law trumps national law, it is argued, QMV needs to have issues that touch most directly on state sovereignty up for a veto.
Finally, the Treaty doesn’t really solve the “democratic deficit.” The EP has expanded powers, but considerable authority is still shared by the Commission and the Council of Ministers. But how would one handle this otherwise? Wouldn’t it be dangerous to give a European Parliament extensive powers, might it not push the envelope and try to expand EU coverage beyond the principles of subsidiarity. More democracy could mean weaker states, having state governments so involved in a check on centralized power. Although the instinct of most is to decry the “democractic deficit,” these fears on too much EP activism are probably well placed.
Oh, and referenda in Great Britain are very rare, and are NEVER required. The French government in 2005 could have simply ratified the Constitution Treaty without putting it up for referendum if it had wanted to. There was no requirement in the last treaty to have referenda, state governments chose to. They should have just seen this as what it is — a consolidation treaty to simplify European Union law — and not have called it a constitution.
While there were new provisions, their scope wasn’t that much greater than the Treaty of Nice, and less dramatic than Maastricht. Why call it a constitution?
If it creates or supports extra-national rule-making bodies, executive institutions and courts, it’s a constitution; it is literally constituting a separate government. If it merely an agreement to be enforced by existing national governments, then it’s a treaty.
What makes the fifty states of the United States wealthy isn’t common national government. It’s the fact that there is a virtually pure state of free trade between the states, by constitutionally forbidding them to tax each other and compelling state government cooperation with the full faith and credit clause. Capital moves freely across state borders, including human capital, and out of state investment is unencumbered by government. A common currency has been helpful but wholly unnecessary as long as state currencies were traded freely for each other.
To achieve the same economic advantage as the US Europe need only trade freely amongst themselves via an agreement, or treaty. Many of these features are already in place in the EU, and to the extent political barriers to capital have been removed, EU countries benefit economically and will continue to benefit. But they need a an overarching redundant layer of mostly appointed uber-ministers like they need a hole in their heads. If they democratically opt for such an arrangement, oh well, poor them, but the People of Europe should get the chance to vote on it in my opinion.
Peter, I agree mostly with what you say. The so-called Constitution was really an effort to take all the treaties that have been signed since 1957 and create one, eliminating redundancies and obsolete items, creating one document with EU law and agreements. Institutionally it created nothing new, but expanded qualified majority voting and set the rules. It also reinforced the idea of conferral (no EU powers if not conferred by the states) and subsidiarity (issues should be dealt with closest to the individual and move to the supranational onlyl when necessary). I think subsidiarity is key — if they take it seriously, the EU can avoid becoming entrenched in bureaucratic malaise. Also, the states are not ready to let the EU become a "superstate" — France and Germany certainly don’t want that! I think a lot of people — in the US and Europe — hear the term "constitution" and imagine the EU is trying something more than it really is.