Well it certainly seems to have gone eerily quiet over here. Meantime the Intergovernmental Conference has been working its weary way onward. Perhaps it’s a measure of the magnitude of the boredom that no-one has felt sufficiently inspired to get down to writing about it. This definitely hasn’t been the case with fellow blogger Eurosavant, who has a substantial piece reviewing the response across some parts of the European press. His principal conclusion on the progress: there hasn’t been any. His feeling: that we Europeans need to ‘be more decisive’. Maybe he has a point. He certainly is right that pragmatically this might have been better sorted-out if things had been done before the membership expansion. I suppose in the end we will ‘muddle through’. I don’t share the disintegration perspective, I don’t really think there’s anywhere else to go in an increasingly interconnected world, but equally I don’t really suppose we have missed an opportunity to inspire the world with our dynamic and vigourous European leadership. I don’t think things ever were going to pan out in that direction. The future is looking as if it’s going to have a decidedly Asian flavour about it.
As varied as the individual details may have been, one theme clearly predominates the preceding accounts on this website, from the French, Dutch, and the Czech press, of the progress of the EU draft Constitution Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) so far. And that is, of course, that there has been virtually none – indeed, that there is even considerable dissatisfaction over the process currently being used to try to gain common agreement on an EU Constitution.
………..sometimes “decisive measures” are what is needed to forge an enduring Constitution. Look at the American example: A decisive American legal transformation in the 19th century, highlighted by the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, raised the power of the federal government over that of the component states, just as increasing industrialization and technological development was making such a political shift desirable. That this legal transformation managed to occur in the first place was precisely because it happened at a time when those who might have voted against it – i.e. the southern states – were not even present in the Congress since they were still under occupation by federal troops in the post-Civil War. In a similar way, just imagine how much faster and decisively this whole EU Constitution process could proceed if not everyone’s opinion needed to be heard, if not everyone needed to be persuaded to agree.
Actually, there was a very real opportunity to accomplish precisely this, but I suppose those in charge were simply not tough-minded (i.e. Machiavellian) enough to carry it out. I’m referring to holding the Constitutional Convention and the IGC processes without the participation of the ten future members (hey, they are after all still not members, not yet). Instead, the eventual Constitution (approved by those who currently are members) would be presented to the electorates of the candidate states for approval, bundled into their EU accession referenda. All of this would not have to be on a strictly “take-it-or-leave-it” basis; there could be as much consultation with the candidate member-states as desired. Still, the important thing in this scenario would be that there is plenty of room to say “It looks like we can’t agree. Well, we’ll just present the Constitution, written up our way, to your electorate and let them decide whether they want to accept it, or whether they’d just as soon stay out of the EU.” I bet the whole constitutional process would have been a lot more swift and successful in such a case. (Frankly, sometimes it seems that there would be a lot more progress had this treatment been reserved exclusively for Poland!)
Still, that’s not the way it is, the EU has insisted on being fair and including everyone, with both present and future interests in the Union. The result, unfortunately, is possibly that people will simply not be able to agree, will not be able to compromise sufficiently, and that the Constitution project will fail. We have to recognize this as a very real possibility, together with its corollaries, e.g. the possible withdrawal of one or more member-states, a relapse to the unsatisfactory Nice Treaty as the EU’s latest legal basis. One thing is certain in such a case: after adding ten new members-states (which will happen whether there is a new Constitution or not) yet failing to adapt its mechanisms to its greatly-increased size, the EU is certain to suffer a collapse of confidence in its collective ability to perform its fundamental function of ensuring peace and economic prosperity for its citizens.