The EU constitution

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» Quotes on the Constitution

The EU Constitution, rejected by decisive majorities in France and the Netherlands in 2005, is still on the agenda of European leaders. Their statements below clearly demonstrate their intentions. After a "period of confusion", their initial dilemma remains: How to push through their vision of Europe against the will of the electorate? It seems that many in the EU's institutions do not understand that we need a shift in the quality of participation in the political and legislative processes of the EU. The EU Constitution has now been "replaced" by the Treaty of Lisbon, which is currently in the process of being ratified. For further information on this treaty, please consult "The Lisbon Treaty" page of this website.

After the French and Dutch No (June - December 2005).

Jean Claude Juncker (Then European Council President): "Unfortunately the electorate did not realize that the constitutional treaty was specifically aimed at meeting their concerns. We believe that the ratification process must continue. There will not be a better treaty. There cannot be even the glimpse of any putative renegotiation."

Jose Manuel Barroso (Commission President): "We do not want to give up the constitution nor do we want to carry on with business as usual and pretend nothing has happened."

Josep Borrell (Then European Parliament President): "Not a single member state asked for the complete suspension of the ratification procedure. It would just have taken ONE to speak out against the procedure to stop the whole business. We are slightly changing the timetable in order to allow for an in depth debate and a wide ranging discussion."

A new package for an old content? (26 June 2007)

Many people have criticized Mrs. Merkel's attempts to revive the Constitution rejected two years ago by France and the Netherlands. Criticisms centre on the stubbornness of European leaders in continuing to advance, reinforce, harmonise, and integrate. By the EU leaders' own confession, the content of the new treaty is the same as the old one:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "The fundamentals of the Constitution have been maintained in large part. We have renounced everything that makes people think of a state, like the flag, and the national anthem." El Pais (25 June)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier: The mandate approved by the EU will "preserve the substance of the constitutional treaty." Agence Europe (25 June)

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero: "A great part of the content of the European Constitution is captured in the new treaties." El Pais (25 June)

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern: "Thankfully they haven't changed the substance- 90 percent of it is still there." Irish Independent (24 June)

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen: "The good thing is that all the symbolic elements are gone, and that which really matters- the core- is left." Jyllands-Posten (25 June)

Finland's Europe Minister Astrid Thors: "There is nothing from the original institutional package that has been changed." TV-Nytt (23 June) (Source: Open Europe)

    
» Quotes on moving forward with the EU Constitution
Jan-Peter Balkenende, Dutch Prime Minister (23 May 2007, Source: EUobserver)

"We must come up with a mutually acceptable solution that does justice to the concerns which emerged following the Dutch and French referenda", Balkenende said in the European Parliament.

Although he recognized the need to reform the EU, Balkenende is in favour "of a more traditional document, in the same vein as the treaties of Amsterdam or Nice."

The new EU treaty should drop the name "Constitution" as it was a major factor in the Dutch rejection in 2005. Among other requested changes, Balkenende expressed his concern over giving up the Dutch veto right if the qualified majority voting is implemented. He also pledged the reinforcement of national parliaments' control on EU policies, "If a majority of national parliaments are opposed to a given proposal, there must be consequences."

Finally, he criticized the rate at which the EU extends its borders. "After the latest round we have to realise that the public needs time to get used to the EU in its new form. Things have changed too quickly for some people's taste."

Alain Lamassoure, French UMP Member (8 May 2007, Source: EUObserver)

Talking about the Constitution that was rejected by the French population two years ago, Lamassoure explained that Sarkozy plans to stick "as much as possible to the original text." In other words, the controversial expressions will disappear but the consequences will be the same.

Referring to the post of European Foreign Minister, he said that: "as long as his status and powers are preserved we're fine with [a title change]." The only real change will be with regards to the Charter of Fundamental Rights- this part will be reformulated so that "the charter can be interpreted as legally binding in some countries, such as France and Germany, and non-binding in others, such as the UK."

Czech Officials (4 May 2007, download the report online)

According to Czech officials, "further discussions should be based on the current draft of the Treaty on the Constitution for Europe," but it is necessary that the new treaty "bring more transparency, clarity and simplicity." They also argue that despite popular belief, the EU is not in a situation of crisis and any reform step should therefore be taken with a sense of extreme responsibility. The report points out that "the new treaty must not aggravate the current position or weight of the Czech Republic and countries of similar size in the voting procedure."

Furthermore, the government believes it necessary to remove all statehood attributes from the proposal, such as the anthem or the word "constitution." National parliaments must be allowed to "review European Commission legislative drafts with the possibility to reject any legal draft compromising the subsidiarity principle." Transfers of powers in the area of shared competences must become a two-way process with competences going back to the member states in order to "boost the Union's credibility in the eyes of the citizens."

Angela Merkel, German Chancellor (24 April 2007, Source: Times Online)

In a letter leak seen by the Times, Mrs. Merkel once again showed her determination to make only minimal changes to the rejected EU Constitution. The letter, sent to the European leaders, listed 12 discussion points for a new treaty, including a new name for the proposed EU foreign minister and the document itself. She said, "Every effort will have to be made to restrict change to what is absolutely necessary to reach an overall agreement and to ensure ratification by all member states."

Among the 12 discussion points, Angela Merkel is reported asking: "How do you assess the proposal made by some member states to use different terminology without changing the legal substance- for example with regard to the title of the treaty, the denomination of legal acts, and the union's minister of foreign affairs?" In the same way, she asks whether to "replace the full text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights by a short cross reference having the same legal value." As proposed by Mr. Blair, the replacement for the Constitution could be presented as a treaty that amends the Nice Treaty of 2001, she said, "with the necessary presentational changes resulting from the return to the classical method of treaty changes."

Vaclav Klaus, Czech President (17 April 2007, Source: EUObserver)

After a three hour meeting with Angela Merkel, Klaus has declared that Germany has understood that there will be no breakthrough over the EU charter during its six-month term at the bloc's chair. "There is a qualitative shift going on," Mr. Klaus said, adding that Germany seems to realise that substantive changes in the functioning of the EU are more important than a timetable for solving the Constitutional impasse.

Kaczynski, Polish Prime Minister (18 April 2007)

Kaczynski met Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels to pledge for a new voting model. "Poland is not satisfied with a situation in which from quite a privileged position in the Nice structure we are to become one of the least privileged," Kaczynski said. Analysts note, however, that Poland did not threaten to veto German efforts to revive the EU Constitution if they were not satisfied on this specific issue.

Alexander Vondra, Czech Prime Minister (13 April 2007, Source: Open Europe)

In an interview with Le Monde, Vondra said, "We are ready to participate in finding a consensus, so that everything is ready for 2009. We have agreed that the Constitutional text as it was signed constitutes a basis for negotiation." Although he said 80% of the text remained valid, Vondra insisted that he would favour the suppression of the rest. He also stated that a mere reference to the European Convention of Human Rights should replace the Charter of Fundamental rights. Concerning the Institutional reforms, Vondra said he would be ok with a fusion of the offices of High Representative for Foreign Policy and the Commissioner for External Relations. In the end, Vondra said he would prefer "Nice plus to less Constitution" and confirmed his support with the UK in defending a minimalist version of the Treaty.

Frans Timmermans, Dutch Europe Minister (11 April 2007)

Talking about the renewed negotiations on an EU Treaty, The Dutch government (represented by Timmermans) declared to Dutch MEPs that it would "simply not put to ratification a Treaty that was rejected by a large majority of the Dutch population." The government stated that the new Treaty should focus on the current shortcomings rather that aiming to become a Constitution. Timmermans insisted on the government's commitment to play a constructive role in the talks. He supported the reform of the decision-making system but rejected the enshrinement of the Charter of Fundamental Rights as such in the Treaty. Timmermans supported the definition of clear rules for enlargement, stating that, "There is merit in defining very clearly the criteria applied to membership, and perhaps good merit in incorporating the criteria for membership into a new treaty." To the question, "Will there be another referendum in the Netherlands?", Timmermans said that any decision on the matter would depend on the size and the scope of the document.

 

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