What is Constitutional Treaty? Part II

What is Constitutional Treaty 2

6: A protest against enlargement rather than the text?

Opinion polls show that the proposed reforms in the Constitutional Treaty had broad support in the member states. It is further interesting that none of the reform proposals were directly disputed in the national debates ahead of the referendums in France and the Netherlands. Perhaps the most important reform – the establishment of a European Foreign Minister – had the support of around 70% of Europe’s population. It was thus not the actual content of the constitutional proposal that led to popular protest. Instead, the protest seems to be an expression of people’s fears of unemployment as a consequence of enlargement in general and a possible incorporation of Turkey in particular.

Although there is no obvious link between enlargement and unemployment in the West, the French and Dutch referendums could lead to a halt in the enlargement process. At the EU summit in June, there was thus very little focus on the next enlargement. Less focus on enlargement can thus be an immediate consequence of the Constitutional Treaty being rejected. In the slightly longer term, it is likely that a change in the EU’s economic policy will force itself forward. Many argue that the EU spends too much money on protecting and subsidizing inefficient agriculture in the West and too little on research and development that can make the EU more competitive in a globalized world and thus create safer jobs.

The problem, however, is that the EU lacks the political leadership to make the necessary decisions. Both German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac have been politically weakened after suffering defeats in German regional elections and the French referendum, respectively. Tony Blair is the only one who has some political room for maneuver after being re-elected recently. On the other hand, Blair is criticized for going too far in prioritizing further enlargement and a free market over stronger social rights and political institutions at EU level.

7: What happens next?

Formally, the treaty cannot be implemented as long as it has not been ratified by all member states. In the past, however, EU countries have found viable ways out of such situations. When the Danes rejected the Maastricht Treaty in a referendum in 1992, Denmark was granted an exemption from some of the provisions of the treaty. The same thing happened after Ireland voted no to the Treaty of Nice in 2001. Such a solution is unlikely this time around: First, France and the Netherlands consider themselves core countries in the EU and are therefore unlikely to accept such special arrangements. Secondly, the Constitutional Treaty is also of a somewhat more fundamental nature than previous treaties, which further complicates exemption provisions.

However, it is too early to say whether this will lead to the shelving, postponement or amendment of the Constitutional Treaty. At the EU summit in June 2005, the EU countries agreed to postpone the ratification of the constitution for one year in the first instance. This means that the EU will thus continue to function on the basis of the Treaty of Nice until further notice.

Although the EU can operate on the basis of existing treaties, a failure to ratify the Constitutional Treaty is still a serious setback for an EU that has spent a lot of time and resources on this process. How deep this crisis goes, however, is another question. Major or minor setbacks are nothing new for the EU. Since the founding of the EC, several important proposals have been rejected without resulting in any dissolution of the cooperation. In most cases, similar proposals have reappeared later, albeit in a slightly different form. According to Theinternetfaqs, EU stands for European Union.

8: From constitutional crisis to budget crisis

During the budget negotiations (for the period 2007–2013) at the EU summit in 2005, Tony Blair proposed a radical reorientation of the budget and thus also the EU’s economic policy. The reorganization meant, among other things, reducing transfers to unprofitable agriculture in the west, transfers that France in particular benefits from. Unexpectedly, France opposed the proposal and instead proposed reducing the British “discount scheme” in the EU – a scheme the UK received in 1984 when the British economy was weak, and as the UK was not entitled to transfers from the EU.

In short, the United Kingdom no longer wants to finance unprofitable French agriculture, while France no longer believes it is right to give the United Kingdom a discounted price. Germany, which also believes the country pays too much into the EU coffers, supports France on this point. Due to these conflicts, a long-term budget was not agreed at the June summit. The budget negotiations were thus temporarily postponed. The crisis in the EU after the French and Dutch referendums was therefore exacerbated by the budget fights at the June 2005 summit. How the EU will emerge from this crisis is currently unclear. Some people trust that the United Kingdom has taken over the presidency of the EU and that a possible change of government in Germany in the autumn of 2005 could make cooperation easier.

Under the disagreement over the budget, however, there is a deeper disagreement between the United Kingdom on the one hand and France and Germany about the EU’s future and character. While the UK wants fewer political regulations and a freer market, France wants politically strong institutions at EU level. This disagreement can be traced back in the history of the EC / EU and will probably not disappear immediately. The solution will now, as before, probably be somewhere between these two positions. The big question, however, is whether this solution will address some of the concerns of EU citizens, which were so clearly expressed in the referendums mentioned.

Although the Constitutional Treaty was intended to make the EU more efficient and democratic, it was not perceived as such by the people of France and the Netherlands. The EU’s main challenge is therefore to find a solution that is also supported by the people, and not primarily by the elites.

What is Constitutional Treaty 2