Tuesday, October 07, 2003
In the Fast Lane

The intergovernmental conference has begun the negotiations on the draft of the European Consitution to a flurry of reports on disgruntled countries and a minor show of unity. The anti-EU anarchists were out in force, throwing toilet rolls at the police. Yet, the whole episode continues to strike the outside observer as slightly unreal.

The major faultlines proved not to be the smouldering trail of gunpowder that the 'dwarves' wield but the unwillingness of medium sized Member States to accept a decrease in their influence. Poland and Spain have proved vociferous in their defence of the Nice Treaty and are unwilling to accept the electoral system proposed in the Constitution that provides a major shift to the largest countries. Unlike their smaller brethren who had to band together to make their voices heard, the middling states have kept their powder dry in order to make their opposition clear to the naive politicians that pass for diplomats in Europe these days. They thought that silence equalled assent, one of the oldest tricks.

As the draft constitution could now face a referendum in up to twelve states, Britain faces a distinctly unusal possibility: as part of a European centralised state without sharing its currency, whilst less integrated affiliates remain outside of the constitutional settlement and in Euroland.

(7th October 2003, 22.07)


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