Friday, 8 June 2007

The spectre of Charles de Gaulle

No, it was not that the United Kingdom left itself behind on the European Coal and Steel Community and the Rome Treaties (EEC and Euratom). It was the pragmatism of Jean Monnet to launch European integration again, after the failure of the European Defence Community and European Political Community that Eulawblogger meant. See “What Monnet did: a further response to the Grahnlaw blog” on:

Raising the spectre of Charles de Gaulle, was a real masterstroke.

How can I talk about ‘disruptive behaviour’ looking at the present: a well-meaning, but timid British government trying to wriggle itself out of a quandary, a Polish government ‘willing to die’ for the over-representation it somehow wrestled during the chaotic Nice summit, or the general unenthusiasm of the Czech government?

Pretty silly stuff, I have to admit, when we look back at Charles de Gaulle’s view of himself, of France and of Europe. A coalition of Gaullists and Communists shot down the EDC and the EPC. The efforts to downgrade the Commission, the empty chair, the Luxembourg ‘compromise’ effectively reinstating a general veto power, the Fouchet plans to emasculate the Communities, the two vetoes against British membership, were the hallmarks of a certain idea of Europe, but far from European in spirit: self-aggrandisement that has left a lasting legacy.

In those days one unadulterated nationalist was able to wreak havoc on a Europe of six. Today, the European institutions, which have to serve 27 members and almost 500 million citizens, are all the more fragile, because one man can still damage the Union, but the actors have multiplied.

This basic weakness would in no way evaporate if the Constitutional Treaty entered into force; still less if important pieces are left outside the new ‘simplified treaty’.

At a more practical level, there seems to be some movement on EU treaty reform.

The latest news that I have seen are all dated yesterday, 7 June 2007:

International Herald Tribune: Sarkozy says he and Blair agree on reforming the EU MEPs for votes swap suggested to Poland in EU treaty debate
EurActiv: Parliament pushes for ‘Treaty plus’

Pragmatism and cherries in the air. I still hope that substantial treaty reform wins the day.

Ralf Grahn

Squandering political capital

Eulawblogger asked “Is there an obligation to ratify the Constitutional Treaty in international law”, on 5 June 2007. The answer, quite correctly, was No, and it can be read on:

I noticed later that, for some reason, my comment did not appear on the Eulawblog, so I’ll post a new one here, on my own blog.

Eulawblogger’s answer is correct, legally or legalistically, however you want.

But, I did not assert that a national parliament is legally bound to ratify an international treaty entered into by its government.

I just wanted to invite readers to assess a pattern of behaviour from an ethical and political standpoint:

A government has signed up to a European treaty with 26 others. It later uses the failed referenda in France and the Netherlands to try to roll back major substantial provisions, which seem to have almost no connection with the ratification difficulties in these countries.

Going back on your word, either as an individual or as a government, is bound to affect your trustworthiness.

I thought (and still think) that acting in ‘good faith’ as a ‘civilised nation’ and using the law of treaties as moral guidance are more relevant measures of conduct than an unexplained reversal. (I chose the cautious words ‘could have been a more meaningful point of reference’ after checking Brownlie.)

One can, of course, try to understand the political climate in Britain, and the arduous task of trying to educate a tabloid-reading electorate, but political capital can be squandered in Europe as well as at home.

Perhaps ‘fixated upon the UK’s position’ has something to do with the general perception that Great Britain (again) is something less than a team player in the European Union; and sometimes you have to concentrate on the main stumbling blocks.

Disruptive behaviour should be judged according to the same principles, whoever the actor is.

Ralf Grahn

Thursday, 7 June 2007

New treaty with substance

The French president’s office has distributed an interview, where Mr Sarkozy said that France holds the keys to leaving the European crisis behind. Now there needs to be agreement on the contents of the new treaty. It cannot be a Constitution, which the French did not want. It should have substance: a stable president of the European Council, a European foreign minister, greater scope for majority votes and a reference to the fundamental rights.

Today, the European Parliament gave a resounding Yes to the substance of the Constitutional Treaty, when it voted on its Plan B, as in Barón Crespo and Brok.

Ralf Grahn

Realistic treaty assessment

With a slimmed-down treaty [as outlined above], the EU would become somewhat more efficient and democratic, but it is questionable whether it would really prepare the Union for the future, Sebastian Kurpas and Stefano Micossi of the Centre for European Policy Studies concluded (CEPS Policy brief No. 130, May 2007: Will the European Council end the institutional deadlock in the EU? The Narrow Trail to an Agreement).

I am going to report how the member states have positioned themselves, according to the Policy brief.

The authors noted that any solution will have to respect a fundamental constraint: whatever new treaty emerges from the negotiations, the French, Dutch and British governments demand it to be of such nature that it will not require them to hold a new referendum.

In its opposition to meaningful institutional change, the United Kingdom will be able to enlist the support of Poland and the Czech Republic, certainly as regards opposition to constitutional symbols in the new treaty. However, Poland’s main interest is to prevent the double majority voting system in the Council as it is outlined in the Constitutional Treaty, to preserve at least some of the disproportionate weight relative to its population that it currently enjoys under the rules agreed during the Nice inter-governmental conference, Kurpas and Micossi remarked.

On the other hand, any deal must pay due recognition to the fact that 18 member states have ratified the Constitutional Treaty. The bulk of provisions in Part I must be saved, as any other solution would inevitably unravel the delicate balancing of the interests of the member states that made agreement possible in the last inter-governmental conference, Kurpas and Micossi wrote.

In a crisis scenario, the majority of the members that want a stronger union may eventually decide to proceed without permission of those that do not want to proceed. Anyway, the enlarged European Union will increasingly depend on mechanisms for flexible integration. These mechanisms should be used as a constructive tool to overcome tensions between countries that want to go ahead faster and those that prefer not to participate, said the authors.

Even if a compromise far beyond a lowest common denominator is found, important issues will remain on the table: particularly the conditions for future treaty reforms, which are of central importance in order to avoid institutional inflexibility, and the lack of transparency in a Union of 27 member states, Kurpas and Micossi reminded.

The Policy brief dealt with more detailed questions under discussion, but those interested enough are best served by reading the brief in its entirety.

Somewhat more efficient and democratic, but unfit for the future; that is a realistic assessment of the outcome of possible EU treaty reform. Our best hope?

Ralf Grahn

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

European level democracy

We, the citizens of the European Union, should learn to appreciate that there are questions that are best solved on a European level, and that there are directly elected representatives in the European Parliament who debate and vote on issues of common concern.

Before we ignore or criticise them, we should perhaps look at what they say and do. (Their multi-lingual news services are excellent, their reports and decisions can be accessed, and with the help of interpreters we can follow their plenary sessions live on the web.)

Today, the European Parliament debated the Union’s constitutional process based on a report by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs. The rapporteurs were Enrique Barón Crespo and Elmar Brok, who represent the two largest political groups in the European Parliament.

What do they propose that the European Parliament votes on tomorrow?

That the European Parliament
1. Reaffirms its endorsement of the content of the Constitutional Treaty, the aim of which is, as a decisive step, to formally give the European Union its inherent political dimension, and strengthens the efficiency of its action, enhances democratic control over its decision-making procedures, improves transparency and strengthens the rights of European Union citizens while representing a compromise, and which meets the needs of the European Union in its current stage;
2. Emphasises that two-thirds of the Member States have already ratified the Constitutional Treaty and that four others have clearly expressed their commitment to the provisions it contains, as demonstrated by the recent meeting held in Madrid at the initiative of the governments of Spain and Luxembourg;
3. Notes the concerns expressed by the people of France and of the Netherlands and the debate which has taken place in both of those countries;
4. Notes that concerns have been raised in some other Member States too, but that the governments concerned have expressed their support for finding a satisfactory solution that preserves the key reforms contained in the Constitutional Treaty;
5. Reminds the political responsibility of those Member States who have signed but not ratified the Constitutional Treaty;
6. Reaffirms its commitment to achieving a settlement of the ongoing constitutional process of the European Union that is based on the content of the Constitutional Treaty, possibly under a different presentation, but takes into account the difficulties that have arisen in some Member States;
7. Supports, in light of this, the efforts of the German Presidency to obtain from the European Council of June 2007 a commitment to calling an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), and the definition of a roadmap containing a procedure, a clear mandate and the objective of reaching an agreement before the end of this year;
8. Recalls the need to guarantee the decision-making capacity of the European Union, the effectiveness of its policies, and their full democratic legitimacy, towards which the Constitutional Treaty makes undeniable progress in terms of scrutiny, legislative and budgetary procedures, as well as the need to strengthen the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the role of the European Union in the world in order to allow it to influence the definition and the implementation of the responses to the pressing challenges which humanity is facing;
9. Insists on the preservation of all basic principles as contained in Part I of the Constitutional Treaty, including the double nature of the European Union as a union of States and of citizens, the primacy of the European law, the new typology of acts and procedures, the hierarchy of norms, and the legal personality of the European Union and stresses that the Constitutional Treaty also conveys other important improvements in matters such as the consolidation of the existing treaties and the merging of pillars, the express recognition of the values on which the European Union is based and of the legally binding force of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as in enhancing the participation of citizens in the political life of the European Union, clarification of the respective competencies of the European Union and of the Member States, respect for the principle of subsidiarity and the role of national parliaments;
10. Stresses that any proposal for modification of the Constitutional Treaty needs to secure the same level of support as was obtained at an earlier date by the provision it seeks to replace;
11. States that it will reject any outcome of the negotiations which, if compared with the Constitutional Treaty, would lead to a diminution of the protection of the rights of citizens (insists, in particular, on maintaining the Charter of Fundamental Rights, especially its legally binding force) as well as to less democracy, transparency and efficiency in the functioning of the Union;
12. Recognises, in this context, the need to take into account major issues that have been raised during the reflection period, and to clarify others that have already been addressed in the Constitutional Treaty, such as:
– sustainable development, in particular the struggle against climate change,
– European solidarity in the field of energy,
– a coherent migration policy,
– the European Social Model in the context of demographic change and globalisation,
– terrorism,
– the dialogue between civilisations,
– effective common mechanisms for the coordination of economic policies in the euro-zone, while safeguarding the role of the European Central Bank in monetary policy in accordance with the Treaties,
– the Union's criteria and procedures for enlargement;
13. Believes that, in view of the success of the Convention method in preparing the draft Treaty, it is necessary to retain, in any solution to the constitutional process, the basic principles of parliamentary participation, association of civil society and full transparency;
14. Recalls that Parliament, as the only institution of the European Union directly elected by the citizens, must be fully involved in the IGC at all levels, and to a greater extent than during the 2003-2004 IGC;
15. Calls, furthermore, for the setting up, in parallel with the active participation of the representatives of the European Parliament in the IGC, of an interinstitutional conference inspired by the model followed during the elaboration of the Treaty of Maastricht, in order to keep the European Parliament informed and bring an important contribution to building a cross-party and transnational consensus in the IGC;
16. Reiterates its commitment to the Convention mechanism should the Heads of State or Government decide to embark on a substantial revision of the existing texts;
17. Calls on the Commission to fully play its role in the upcoming negotiations and to prepare proposals for modernising the Constitutional Treaty with respect to the topics set out in paragraph 12;
18. Emphasises the importance of dialogue between national parliaments and their respective governments through the IGC and expresses its willingness to maintain close contact with the national parliaments during the forthcoming negotiation phase, as well as with the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, with the European Social Partners, with religious communities and with civil society;
19. Calls for the conclusion of the ratification process of the new Treaty by the end of 2008, in order to allow the next Parliament, which will be elected in 2009, to start its mandate under the provisions of the new Treaty;
20. Demands that all Member States coordinate their ratification procedures, in order to allow for the ratification process to be completed simultaneously;
21. Emphasises that everything possible must be done to avoid the creation of a two-tier Europe;
22. Intends to deliver an opinion on the convening of the IGC in accordance with Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union, in light of the criteria set out in this resolution;
23. Instructs its President to forward this Resolution to the members of the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the national parliaments of the Member States, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.

Although the citizens of Europe have elected some flag-waving nationalists, most of who belong to an odd collection of splinter groups, there seems to be a broad consensus on a European project at the service of its citizens.

Therefore, the EP is expected to vote for institutional reform which safeguards the main achievements of the Constitutional Treaty, and for a new treaty which guarantees the rights of Europe’s citizens.

In comparison, demands for changes to the substance of the Constitutional Treaty floated by the British, Polish and Czech governments look less convincing from an all-EU perspective with its citizens at the centre.

Ralf Grahn

What did Monnet do?

EUlawblogger’s “Response to the Grahnlaw blog” was an interesting and fair presentation of his or her reasons. They enrich the discussion on EU treaty reform, even if we do not have shared views on everything.

I think that my previous post “Two basic approaches” already shed some light on our underlying assumptions about the “Whys” of European integration.

Thus, only a few minor points.

My conclusions about EUlawblogger’s preference for inter-governmental wrangling came from wording on the IGC and the “failure” of the Convention method. Happily, neither of us is a fan of secretive Treaty amendment.

I was intrigued by the question: What did Monnet do in the same situation?

Perhaps I should have caught the drift better, but what I did remember was the following: Jean Monnet nurtured close relations with the USA and the UK. He would have wanted to see Great Britain within the European Coal and Steel Community, and later the European Economic Community. Since the UK governments were not ready to participate, the six willing states became founders of the communities.

(To be sure, I then checked Jean Monnet: Mémoires 2. Livre de Poche, 1976, page 671. Monnet remembers how he had travelled to London in 1950 to try to persuade the British to join the negotiations on the Schuman plan, and now, in 1957, he tried to rally Britain to join the talks which would lead to the Rome treaties.)

Am I to infer that the willing and able have to advance, even if a valuable European player lacks the inclination?

Why did my blog only mention the UK?

“The UK is standing out as the most difficult member state with its long list of parts of the constitution it wants revised”, wrote Simon Taylor on on 31 May 2007. This perception has been fairly common, both before and after that.

Blog posts are usually more like snippets of information than treatises. Topicality is one reason to choose a specific theme at a certain time.

One would not have to go very far back to find my views on president Sarkozy’s economic reforms, for instance. I reported on Prodi’s and Balkenende’s speeches in the European Parliament on grahnlaw.

Formerly, on other fora, I have covered the challenges of globalisation, the French referendum, the German coalition government’s programme, the WTO Doha round, Gordon Brown’s views on CAP reform, and the EU’s failed Lisbon strategy, to name a few.

Political union aside, many would find quite a lot of similarities between (broadly) British views and mine.

I am not going to make binding promises concerning when to discuss the Polish and Czech governments, but I do see that they seem to lack some of the European spirit I would welcome everywhere.

Ralf Grahn

Two basic approaches

Basically, you can approach the European Union from two different angles. You can try to ponder what the Union could do for its citizens: external and internal security as well as enhancing prosperity. Or you can reason from a domestic perspective.

A sincere form of ‘special relationship’ would be to emulate the United States of America. The main purposes of that Union were succinctly put in the Federalist, number XXIII:

"The necessity of a Constitution, at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the preservation of the Union is the point at the examination of which we are now arrived."

"The principal purposes to be answered by the union are these – the common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace, as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States; the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries."

These core purposes are cross-border in character, and in my view in the 21st century even the greater European states are not able to tackle these problems effectively on their own, or even through inter-governmental co-operation.

Hugo Brady and Charles Grant of the Centre of European Reform singled out two areas where EU institutions and procedures work poorly: foreign policy, and justice and home affairs.

The Constitutional Treaty, agreed by all EU member states, and the new Treaty proposed on 4 June 2007 by the Action committee for European democracy, fall far short of ensuring effective common action by the European Union. But they would mean some progress towards more coherent decision-making, although key areas would still be hampered by unanimous decision-making = national vetoes.

Scaling down the new treaty would, in my opinion, harm the interests of Europe’s citizens.

Then there’s the domestic perspective – thoughtful or less so.

As an example of the thoughtful kind, I would recommend EUlawblogger’s writing; the latest posts are “The quasi-Constitutional Treaty: state of play”, 31 May 2007, and now “Proposal for a quasi-Constitutional Treaty”, 5 June 2007.

My perception is that EUlawblogger is an independent spirit and constructive thinker, but that his or her perspective starts from domestic concerns and limitations.

Europe-wide problems and challenges look different if your priority is to tend to national sensitivities. But there’s no denying it, national preoccupations flavour the so called European discussion rather strongly. As such, we should at least be aware of them.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. I just noticed that EUlawblogger has responded to my previous posts in “Response to the Grahnlaw blog”, which I am going to read shortly. Perhaps even an answer is called for. – I have chosen to use the name EUlawblogger in order to make it easier for readers to distinguish between EULAWBLOG and EU Law Blog. No offence meant.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

New treaty proposal

“High-level group writes new-look EU treaty”, Honor Mahony reported on EUobserver, which has links to the relevant documents.

The Action committee for European democracy – a group of notable European politicians led by Giuliano Amato – published “A New Treaty and Supplementary Protocols” on 4 June 2007.

The New treaty, which consists of 71 articles organised in XI Titles, would replace the text of the present Treaty on European Union, as amended by the treaties of Amsterdam and Nice. The Action committee has tried to show that a new Treaty can be concise, accessible and readable.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights would be given legally binding force through a single clause, but would be published separately.

Part III of the Constitutional treaty would be replaced with amendments to the Treaty establishing the European Community.

The adaptation of the EC Treaty would be dealt with in two supplementary protocols: a Protocol on the Functioning of the Union and a Protocol on the Development of the Union’s Policies in Order to Meet the Challenges of the XXIst Century.

After consolidation there would be only two treaties and the Charter.

In its statement “The way forward for the European Union” the Action committee believes that a balance can be reached without reducing the ambitions for the reforms that the Union badly needs to the benefit of its citizens and without ignoring the objections raised. Therefore, the European Council on 21/22 June 2007 should adopt a clear and stringent mandate to enable an inter-governmental conference to be successfully concluded before the end of 2007, with a view to ratifying the new Treaty in all Member States before the European Parliament elections in 2009.

Institutional reforms are not an alternative to more effective results. On the contrary, they are the foundation on which better policies depend and have to be built. The Action committee invites the inter-governmental conference to assess whether new challenges, such as climate change and energy policy, should be addressed in the new Treaty.

The Action committee does a considerable service to the European public. First, it looks at the Union its citizens have a right to expect. Second, it does not bow too deep to intransigent deserters. Third, it makes its contribution public knowledge. Fourth, it broadens the discussion.

Ralf Grahn

Constitution Plus

Among all the talk about scaling down the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union, it is refreshing to go back to “Constitution Plus, renegotiating the treaty”, written by the Liberal MEP Andrew Duff and published by the Trans-European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) in February 2007.

Duff sees two fundamentally different approaches to solving the problem of Europe’s stalled constitution.

One option is to chop up the original 2004 text in order to devise a ‘mini treaty’ – with or without a promise of later, more radical reform.

The other option is to continue the good but uncompleted work of the original Convention. Duff favours this approach, and he proposes both presentational and substantive adjustments to the 2004 text.

In Duff’s view, an improved treaty and better marketing could lead to eventual success.

A settlement is needed if Europe is to acquire desirable internal cohesion and external strength. Globalisation does not wait for Europe to sort out its domestic difficulties.

Duff singles out five topics as unfinished business, which needs to be concluded:

· economic governance
· the social model
· climate security
· enlargement
· the financial system.

Easing future revision: The threat of the ‘liberum veto’ will continue to paralyse the constitutional evolution of the Union unless the up-coming inter-governmental conference is bold enough to introduce a greater element of flexibility.

In Duff’s opinion the Charter of Fundamental Rights would gain visibility and greater detachment from the functional clauses of the treaty by being published separately as an Annex, without affecting its legal standing. He proposes a more flexible revision procedure for the Charter.

Since Part III of the Constitutional Treaty, more or less, takes over the policies of the present EC Treaty, it needs to be up-dated and rationalised. Duff proposes:

up-dating economic governance,
strengthening the autonomy of the euro area,
modernising labour and social welfare policies,
greening the constitution,
retouching the objectives of the common agricultural policy,
adding a separate article for the common fisheries policy,
revamping energy policy,
introducing the Copenhagen criteria for membership,
creating an associate membership,
fleshing out neighbourhood policy and
reforming the financial system.

Both the Convention and the following inter-governmental conference spent most of their energy on institutional questions. Some progress was made, but Europe is still hemmed in by the ‘liberum veto’ at different stages. Duff’s proposals are modest, but would bring some flexibility.

Most of the policies of the European Community received scant attention, and a general up-dating exercise would be welcome.

An example: Obesity is a serious health-problem in Europe in 2007, but the present treaty and the proposed constitution read as if famine would still be the order of the day.

Duff gives directions for some changes which could be addressed by the coming inter-governmental conference.

Are our leaders going to catch the ball or to drop it? Your opinions are welcome.

Ralf Grahn

European spirit

The missing aspect in the debate on the Constitutional Treaty is the European spirit, which is pragmatic as well as idealistic.

One of the lessons to learn is to remember the citizens as Europeans.

These reminders come from Santiago Petschen in “Crisis constitucional, Declaración de Berlín y espíritu europeo (ARI), published on the Real Instituto Elcano website.

Something to think about as national leaders in Europe are called to rise to our common challenges.

Ralf Grahn

Monday, 4 June 2007

Generosity and stealth

Thanks to the generosity of the EU Law Blog, a worthwhile acquaintance in its own right, I found EUlawblogger, who has written on EU treaty change. (I have added both blogs to my links.)

Yesterday, I presented and commented on EUlawblogger’s “Picking the cherries”, which is well woth reading even if you don’t share all the views.

Today, I am going to point out “The Constitutional Treaty: Open Europe, please tell the truth”, 8 May 2007, where EUlawblogger analysed the shortcomings of “The New Treaty: What will it mean and do we need a referendum?”, by Open Europe.

Please, read and compare.

Incidentally, I covered the same ‘research report’ in “Spoilsports” on 27 May 2007, on a more general level, wondering at the (untold) assumptions that could explain such vilification: is it really an ethical position to be member of a union only to maximise one’s chances to fly solo, to obstruct progress and to sabotage decision-making? Or is the purpose of Open Europe to beat a retreat behind the moat and to restart an era of “splendid isolation”?

Back to EUlawblogger, who wrote: there is no justification for trying to bring back the vast bulk of the Constitutional Treaty by stealth, and it would be preferable to focus instead on going forward with only those provisions of the Constitutional Treaty which connect the EU more closely to its citizens.

By stealth? I find the perspective and the choice of words odd. The negotiations on a ‘simplified treaty’ are going to be closely watched all over Europe, in spite of their secretive, inter-governmental character (whereas the Convention was a lot more open to citizens). The end-result, at least, is going to be in the public domain, open to public debate and parliamentary scrutiny.

Officially, the UK government has been tight-lipped, but at the same time the “red lines” floated more or less point to wholesale scrapping of a treaty signed by 27 member states, ratified by 18 of them and supported by two more.

Wouldn’t it have been more to the point to scrutinise the ‘good faith’ of the British government? Perhaps the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Article 18 Obligation not to defeat the object and purpose of a treaty prior to its entry into force, could have been a more meaningful point of reference on the obligations of a ‘civilised nation’(?).

Who, if any, seems to act by stealth? How do these actions connect the EU more closely to its citizens?

Part II of the Constitutional Treaty, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union, is dedicated to rights, freedoms and principles aimed at putting the citizens of the Union at the centre of European integration. How would scrapping the Charter connect the European Union more closely to its citizens?

How does a Union paralysed by vetoes serve the interests of its citizens?

A ‘Global Europe’ for the 21st Century enhances both the security and the prosperity of its citizens.

Ralf Grahn

Sunday, 3 June 2007


EUlawblogger wrote thoughtfully on the EU’s Constitutional Treaty in “Picking the cherries” on 1 May 2007. Bringing back parts of the Constitutional Treaty cannot be seen as ignoring the public will. The Constitutional Treaty contained some useful provisions to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of the EU and to ensure more effective functioning of the political institutions, as well as to enhance the effectiveness of the Court of Justice, including the removal of unjustified restrictions on its jurisdiction over the area of ‘freedom, security and justice’. It also contained some useful provisions on human rights, although unfortunately the provisions, scope and effect of the EU’s Charter of Rights have been widely misunderstood.

Still, EUlawblogger wanted to focus on the provisions which would most reconnect the EU with its population, such as the provisions on subsidiarity and transparency, which should be strengthened, and avoiding as much as possible new powers or extensions of qualified majority voting regarding substantive EU powers. Extensions of QMV relating to the institutional functioning of the EU would not impose any further on national policies.

Roughly, EUlawblogger favoured provisions strengthening the Court of Justice and the European Parliament, but not a slimmer Commission, a President of the European Council or the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Interestingly, EUlawblogger found that any reasonable compromise was threatened by the intransigence of pro-Constitution states, not the ones reneging on their signature. Is this stance unbiased?

Pragmatism, including inter-governmental wrangling behind closed doors, looked more enticing to him or her than the transparent work of the Convention.

Although EUlawblogger is no abolitionist, the approach is fairly minimalist, in my view, and one or a few revisionist governments are unduly allowed to outweigh a clear majority.

The Treaty of Nice should have been the last of its kind. The Convention was a clear improvement and the subsequent inter-governmental conference only a moderate failure. The real calamity was leaving the European Union hostage to national vetoes, when Europe needs coherence in a less secure world.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is broader in scope as well as more systematic and up-to-date than the ECHR. It does not confer new powers on the EU, but it can be seen as the most visible example of a Union which was going to place its citizens at the centre of its actions. Leaving the Charter out of the Treaty sends the wrong (or perhaps realist?) signal the population and it should give cause to wide-spread concern.

Ralf Grahn

La perfide Albion !

It is not easy to find meaningful information on EU treaty reform from the UK government, although it seems to run an entire red line district of its own.

On 21 May 2007 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued a press release saying that the Minister for Europe Geoff Hoon will discuss progress on European reform issues when he visits France and Slovenia “this week”. He wanted to share the UK’s ambition for institutional reform that first and foremost serves Europe’s citizens.

As a European citizen I would be grateful for more substance and reasons than that.

According to the BBC, “Blair to meet German chancellor” on 3 June 2007, Mr Blair will push for a scaled-down treaty to update the EU’s institutions without wider and more controversial constitutional elements.

Simon Taylor put it more bluntly in on 31 May 2007: the UK is standing out as the most difficult member state with its long list of parts of the constitution it wants revised.

In the name of transparency: Which list?

The United Kingdom used a lot of energy to water down the text of the Convention drafting the constitutional treaty, and then continued in the same vein during the inter-governmental conference. In the end, all the 25 then member states signed the new treaty, as did the two latest accession states.

Suddenly, Europe’s citizens should, without any reasons offered, understand that the British government has found significant faults with the treaty, and that Her Majesty’s government has decided to fight for our interests, supposedly more than the 20 countries which have ratified or declared their support for the rather modest constitutional treaty.


It sounds more like a re-run of history. After languishing on the outside from 1961 to 1973, once inside the United Kingdom promptly re-negotiated its accession agreement and later its contribution to the Community budget. Today it’s the treaty.

Ralf Grahn