Monday, March 01, 2004
European Constitution: Majority Rule

It is time that I turned my attention again to that hardy weed, the European Constitution. No matter how much poison one may use to try and kill it off, it comes back, reinvigorated by the greed and lust of Europols. Even a majority of the British favour this monstrous document, as the headline in the Scotsman proclaimed, even if it was 1% plus 50. Of course, the public, misinformed by a government that prefers to stifle debate, thought there was going to be a European Army (not so removed from the realms of possibility) and a directly-elected European President (them, trust the people to have a say, are you having a laugh?)

But whatever it is, 51% of Britons think the constitution ? designed to streamline EU decision-making and clarify who does what ? is vital to the future smooth running of the enlarged Europe of 25 countries.

A similar proportion ? 52% ? think the UK should make policy concessions to get a constitution agreed.

And 57% would be happy to see a ?two-speed? European Union, in which various groups of member states forge ahead in some policy areas without waiting for others to agree.

The 51% of Britons who say the EU should adopt a constitution is the lowest proportion of all 25 member states. Across the EU as a whole, an average of 77% back the constitution, a 10% increase on the number in favour before the start of the intergovernmental conference last year to thrash out the details.

Some light amidst the gloom and one can envisage such support dropping as the consequences of the Constitution are debated more vigorously.

However, the European elite has geared up to promoting the European Constitution as the answer to all of the problems of European integration, caused by Enlargement and the current structural niceties of the Amsterdam treaty.

Joschka Fischer has reversed his call for an avant-garde core and has stated his, and therefore Germany's support, for a large-sacle integrated European Union. This is coordinated with the repeated calls from Chirac for the Constitution although France gives greater emphasis to further integration within the framework.

There is a concerted push to agree a constitutional settlement by the end of the Irish Presidency, although there does not appear to be concrete negotiations underpinning the public exhortations from the usual suspects. Whilst many federalists continue to publicise this settlement, it is unclear if this is bluster or public preparation.

Whilst France and Germany have agreed to channel their integrationist ambitions through the proposed Constitution, failure would propel them to establish an avant-garde core outside of the current structures of the European Union - their vocal position at the breakdown of the negotiations in early December. The Germans have publicly refused to compromise on the voting system drawn up under the new Constitution and therefore, the Spanish or the Polish, are left to make concessions.

If a compromise is reached, this will be evaluated at the Spring Conference (25th to 26th March) before final agreement at another IGC. If this "final push" does not succeed, then the Member States may conclude that they have exhausted this approach and that a constitutional settlement cannot be reached at the present time.

(23.25, 1st March 2004)


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