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Constitutional Times

Submitted by on 30/10/04 – 11:00No Comment

Writing journal
On Friday 29th October, the heads of state from the 25 members of the European Union met in Rome to sign the Constitutional Treaty. Despite its misinterpretations in the more sceptical press in Europe, the treaty for bad or worse has been signed.

But what will the benefit be for the man in the street? How many people know any more than the politicians and newspapers tell them? Currently, it seems, not much. What benefit will it give the man in the street? Also, it seems, probably not much.

The treaty was designed to streamline the decision-making process and make the Union run more smoothly, however no sooner than the years of preparation was complete, than the politicians decided to start changing parts of it. Never mind efficient running of the Union, never mind more contact with the people, this treaty missed the point.

As it stands, the Treaty consolidates all the previous treaties into a single document, which is good. Navigating through the various treaties since 1957 must have been tricky even for the most learned European. Recognising the expanding Union would also need a smaller Commission to run it is also common sense. Recognising the current role of the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy as the Union’s Foreign Minister is also useful, although the title as obviously ruffled a few anti-European’s feathers.

But the treaty has missed the opportunity to connect the Union with the people who live within it’s borders. The Union’s population is mostly ignorant of the contents and the weighty document is clearly not written with them in mind. Why? The commission set up to create the constitution clearly did not understand the growing gulf between the institutions of the Union. Why? Was it arrogance, incompetence, neglect or a simple misunderstanding of the opportunity?

Of course the national governments of each state also have their share of the blame. They had ample opportunity to promote the commission’s work to the populations of their countries and to get the people involved in its construction. Might have taken longer to finish the project, but might have been better? How many of those in the streets of London, Berlin, Warsaw, Vienna, Riga, Rome, Lisbon, Athens or Nicosia knew the treaty was being constructed? How many can say that they contacted the commission to forward their comments?

So have we a bad treaty? Perhaps. The treaty could make the Union work better but the signing of the document in Rome does not mean it will ever be used. The populations of many states must ratify the treaty in referendums. Any one of which could wreck its introduction. The unusual decision of the British government to hold a referendum instead of letting Parliament decide will almost certainly doom it’s acceptance. The British population is used to a diet of euro sceptic stories and inaccuracies. Like many across the EU, the British peoples feel disconnected from the Union and see no benefit despite the occasional lone voice in the wilderness standing up and stating the obvious.

So what next? Well assuming the Treaty will fail to be ratified the next step is for the Council of Ministers, European Commission and the Parliament to sit down and think again.

Should we vote for it, if we live in a state where a referendum is being offered? Well that depends on a gamble. If you believe a better treaty could be created if you vote no, then you’ve probably already decided anyway. If you believe that yes would help speed up it’s introduction and allow the EU to move forward, then you may have faith in document already.

Remember despite the misreporting this treaty clearly defines what areas of responsibility lie at Union and what at National levels. Many euro-sceptics are often ignorant of those distinctions in it. So whatever you may have heard about super-states and federations is wrong.

A copy of the treaty with easy reading notes can be found at euabc.com.

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