Saturday, June 14, 2003
The Publication of the Constitution - 14th June 2003, 23.23

European Ministers thronged and mingled, drinking champagne, and using their onerous tax burdens for eating and drinking whilst they celebrated their attempted release from the hated obligations of democratic accountability. Beethoven's Ode to Joy, a symphonic reminder of the days when European elites, and how many of them think of themselves as a latterday aristocracy, superior because of their meritocratic roots rather than their inheritances.

The International Herald Tribune has garnered a number of quotations from the humble worthies involved and they all seem to congratulate themselves on a job well done. France and Germany repeated their support for Giscard's enterprise:

We now have a draft constitution that is worthy of the word historic,’’ said Germany’s foreign minister, Joschka Fischer. France’s foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said the constitution would allow Europe to assume a ‘‘full role on the world stage.’’

Although the IHT article repeats the argument that the document tidies up the existing treaties, the areas of disagreement in tax and security policy were glossed over in the released statements of the politicians. Andrew Duff, the Liberal Democrat arch-federalist proved as out of touch as ever:

Andrew Duff, a British member of the European Parliament, said he hoped the constitution would turn British skeptics into europhiles. ‘‘It is my belief that the fruits of our work here will one day convince many more of my countrymen and women to shed their obsessive nationalism, to become more trustworthy partners of the European Union, and to make of our own country a modern, European place,’’.

If any Eurosceptics are converted by the work of the Convention, please let me know. However, in the latter part of the article, the divisions that will appear in the intergovernmental conference could not be papered over. Britain and Spain viewed the draft constitution as a basis for negotiations:

Several government representatives suggested they were expecting significant changes to the document. Spain’s foreign minister, Ana de Palacio, said her government had ‘‘a basic reservation’’ about the document and Britain’s representative, Peter Hain, called the constitution ‘‘a good foundation for final negotiations.’’

However, Giscard and his Franco-German sponsers are unwilling to countenance serious negotiations on the draft.

In his closing speech on the convention floor, Giscard appealed to governments not to significantly change the constitution. ‘‘The closer you stick to our text, which has been discussed and reflected upon at great length, the lighter your task will be,’’ Giscard said. In Berlin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, echoed Giscard’s sentiment. ‘‘There may be some people who suggest that we discuss the whole thing all over again from the beginning, open up every question again, and try to create something new,’’ he said, according to news agencies. ‘‘But that won’t work.’’

And just in case, you don't know the battlelines: For Britain, tax and defence; For France: it is audiovisual products. Who would have thought that a television was the dearest object for a Frenchman. How very Americaine!


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