Keeping Tabs on the Constitution

The Center for Applied Policy Research (CAP) has put up a page detailing the steps on the way to ratification for the European constitution. Green, yellow and red lights mark the status in each country, and the chart can be viewed by country name or by ratification date. Unfortunately, the page is only available in a German version. (Full disclosure: I used to work at the CAP and still count a number of their projects as clients. But don’t think that means I will be able to persuade them to put up an English version.)

Fortunately, the Commission has done something roughly similar. Its page features an interactive map along with the expected list. The CAP’s commentary is more interesting, as might be expected. The Commission has also posted a version in French.

One of the CAP’s experts told me last week that the only significant problem for the constitution is the UK. Sentiments in France appear to be moving in favor of ratification. The other big and medium countries are also expected to have relatively easy paths toward ratification. And as for the smaller ones, well, it’s not like Malta would be truly missed if it opted to leave the Union.

But the UK is another matter. Not only politically and economically significant for the EU, but also home to one of the few fundamental debates about the Union. Normally this is a handicap, but in this case it will air essential issues in a way that probably hasn’t been done since the UK originally voted to join. This will probably be a real roller coaster ride.

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About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

26 thoughts on “Keeping Tabs on the Constitution

  1. Err, is it completely irrelevant what smaller member states’ citizens think about the Union?
    Do you believe that the decision to convene a convention rather than an IGC in order to draft the “constitution” was unrelated to Ireland’s initial rejection of the Nice Treaty?
    To track down what you call “fundamental debates about the Union” I caution against relying on UK media friendly intellectuals. Rather it is worth listening carefully to what ordinary people are saying wherever they live and vote in the EU. You might be amazed how clearly they understand the issues.
    (I say this as one who campaigned actively for a yes vote on Nice in Ireland.)

  2. As much as it pains me to say it, I can’t see the constitution being ratified in England. Public sentiment is heavily against the EU. Furthermore, Blair is clearly in favour of it, and in anything other than a general election (which runs the terrible risk of Howard getting elected) the public wants to give Blair a good and solid kicking.

  3. It’d be interesting to see whether arguments against the EU have changed since the 1974 (was it?) opt-out referendum.
    Anyone got a link on that one?

  4. I could see the Dutch referendum suffering from the recent clashes after van Gogh’s death, but as far as seeing it rejected, no. Maybe the margin will be thinner than it could have been.

    Anyway, the question Britons will be asked is out.

  5. Please take note that the italian Parliament ratified yesterday (but, ooops, mr. Berlusconi missed the final vote for a few minutes; he got in just when the Parliament passed the bill).

  6. I thought that France might reject the constitution before it got to Britain. I’m fairly sure that’s what Blair is hoping for. Sadly, I think the French will take the attitude “if Britain are against it, it must be a good idea” – they don’t want to be seen to be putting the brakes on the European project themselves. Yet again, Britain will let itself be cast as the bad guy.

  7. VVD voted for the referendum. They are allergic to referendums so the only way i can see them voting for it is that they are privately against it.

  8. Belgium was supposed to have a referendum, but last week the parliamentary majority for having one got lost, after the Flemish left-liberals of Spirit withdrew their support. They were afraid people would see it as a referendum on Turkey’s accession to the EU and vote against it. And as the Flemish socialist party leader Steve ‘Stunt’ Stevaert (the self-claimed defender of democracy) said: “Things like these are too complex to be decided by ordinary people. We politicians know what is good for them.”

  9. VF, no, not completely irrelevant. There’s clearly a continuum of impact and importance. One of the EU’s great successes has been the contributions it has been able to get from small states. Another is their sense of belonging to the Union. The contributions you cite are one example. Another is that small-state presidencies have been noticeably more successful than large-state ones over most of the last decade.

    That said, the small-state governments also recognize their location on the continuum of impact and importance. Truly, if Malta (for example) does not approve the constitution and heads for the EU exit door, will the Union be greatly changed? On the other hand, the EU is inconceivable without Germany, silly without France, deeply challeneged without Italy or the UK, and foundering without Spain or Poland. A series of rejections in smaller states would have a significant effect as well.

  10. “It’d be interesting to see whether arguments against the EU have changed since the 1974 (was it?) opt-out referendum.”

    I campaigned for a “Yes” vote in the UK’s referendum in June 1975 on continued membership of the, as then, European Economic Community (EEC), to the extent of going around with other politicians making scheduled public speeches at venues in the English county where I lived then. Overall 64.5% voted “Yes” in the 1975 referendum.

    The leading issues then were seen as very different from now and focused largely on the economic benefits of reducing trade barriers in Europe, very sensibly so. The EEC’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was regarded as deeply flawed but reluctantly accepted as part of the price that had to be paid for EEC membership. At that time, the UK economy was not performing well relative to other major economies in mainland Europe. GDP per head in West Germany had accelerated past Britain’s in the late 1950s or early 1960s and France’s by the late 1960s or early 1970s, depending on exactly how the comparisons were made. The prospect of access to faster growing markets and the new competition in industrial markets from EEC membership were seen as means of galvanizing British business.

    The situation now is very different. The UK’s economy is performing well in comparison with the Eurozone. Further reductions in European trade barriers, especially on trade in services, reform of the CAP and trade relations with the rest of the world are still pressing issues. However, the Eurozone economy is not performing well. European monetary union has come to be seen as mistaken or at least premature – recall how the Belgium finance minister in 1995 said monetary union was all about preventing the encroachment of Anglo-Saxon values in Europe.

    In Britain, there is no appetite for signing up to an EU constitution which is patently centralising with its joint competences and which would grant supra-national powers to impose policy harmonization on the UK. Other prominent issues from a UK perspective are the continuing reports of corruption in the EU Commission – recall the Eurostat scandal of summer 2003 and the refusal of the EU Court of Auditors to endorse EU Commission accounts for nine years in succession. The manner in which even recent EU agreements, like the Eurozone’s Stability and Growth Pact of 1997, can be simply disregarded by EU governments when convenient to do so hardly encourages belief that treaties, pacts and mutually agreed EU directives are taken seriously once all the Communautaire fanfare has subsided. If so, why extend the scope of the farce?

  11. Stages of development of the EU:

    1. The EU is Eternal Guarantee of Freedom, Democracy and Prosperity.
    2. Who is against the EU is a strange fellow – who else would be against Freedom, Democracy and Prosperity, anyway?
    3. Who doesn’t fully agree with the EU is (a) communist, (b) fascist, (c) nationalist, (d) complete idiot, (e) you name it.

    Yes, we’re in the stage 3 now. Here’s what’s yet to come sooner or later:

    4. Europhobia declared hate crime by EU law. Maximum penalty five years and a EUR 100,000 fee.
    5. Ein Reich, eine Europa, eine Kommission! (Pardon my German.) Long live Freedom, Democracy, Prosperity! Hooray! Hooray! Long live European Politbureau! Hooray! Hooray! (Endless ovations.)

  12. Bob,

    Then maybe this time people will vote for the constitutional treaty because it specifically provides for an exit processus?
    At least it would be just as good for the pro-Europe lobby to mention this, if only to take away some of the more UKIP-ish arguments.

  13. Well Pavel, we all knew that you hate the EU. Now why would that be? I reckon that is so because the EU does not allow for the abuses that are rampant in your country. Probably you are an ultra-limes barbarian, the kind that send their daughters in prostitution in the whole word. The kind that extortionate their fellow citizen when these get a good work in the really developed world. The kind that rejoice when an old man suicide in despair for the misery they have to live in. The kind of people that form mafias. etc.


  14. Let’s tone down the personal abuse here, please. This is a yellow card, AJ.

    Anyway, it’s “ein Europa” as “Europa” is neuter, as far as I can remember.

    And furthermore, aren’t people getting a little over-exercised about a body that’s responsible for less than 2 percent of GDP? (And more like 1.1 percent, in countries where one level of government or another typically accounts for roughly half of GDP.) Even for tiny economies that are eligible for heaps of aid (e.g., Latvia, with fewer people than metro Atlanta, Georgia) that help will be capped at 4 percent of GDP. Pardon my German, but that’s peanuts.

    The Brits I can understand a bit. They’ve gotten along reasonably well, thank you, for sometime now without a constitution. Why get one now at the European level? And the UK is making out like bandits with the rebate. There’s no way their sweet deal is going to continue through the next financial framework. So there’s pocketbook and principle at work. Plus, as was said above, the public’s looking to pull Tony’s beard a bit without handing the reins over to the Tories. Would it be too cynical to expect a referendum on the euro before the one on the constitution? The UK public could strike a pose on the single currency and come to an informed decision about the future EU.

  15. Popo: “Then maybe this time people will vote for the constitutional treaty because it specifically provides for an exit process?”

    But the draft Constitution (unhelpfully) provides for a lot more besides.

    There is an excellent case for cross-border joint enterprises in Europe, for dismantling remaining trade restrictions, for creating a pan-Europe capital market, for engaging in international trade negotiations with a unified voice and for reforming the Agricultural Policy. But it is in the realms of pure fantasy to claim the Eurozone economy is working well, as a new report from the Commission on this virtually admits:

    Commission President Barroso has spoken in the same vein:

    On the front page of today’s Financial Times is a forecast that unemployment in Germany is set to reach 5 millions by the end of next month. Last week’s news was full of reports about the national strikes in France.

    The EU Constitution is not going to resolve the fundamental problems of over-regulated markets, excessive tax burdens alongside budget deficits, unsustainable welfare systems and premature monetary union. A 155 German economists in February 1998 warned that conditions were not right for launching the Euro:

    Some EU governments are absolutely wedded to archaic industrial policies for subsidising national champions instead of promoting new, innovative businesses:

    Economics is not renown for its satire but this delicious piece by Bastiat has very properly survived the test of time:

    We don’t use candles for lighting much nowadays but otherwise it seems as though not very much has changed since Bastiat wrote that in 1845.

    Btw when are they going to sort out the corruption in the EU Commission? The EU Court of Auditors has refused to endorse the Commission’s accounts for nine years in succession.

  16. The Holocaust link is closed to comments:

    Always, Darkness Visible


    IN January 1945, 60 years ago today, the wheels of destruction in Auschwitz stood still.

    The few people left alive describe the prevailing silence as the silence of death. Those who came out of hiding after the war – out of the forests and monasteries – also describe the shock of liberation as freezing, crippling silence. Nobody was happy. The survivors stood at the fences in amazement. Human language, with all its nuances, turned into a mute tongue. Even words like horror or monster seemed meager and pale, not to mention words like anti-Semitism, envy, hatred. Such a colossal crime can be committed only if you mobilize the darkest dark of the soul. To imagine such darkness apparently needs a new language.

    “Where were we?” “What did we go through?” “What’s left of us?” the survivors wondered. Primo Levi tried to use images of Dante’s hell; others turned to the works of Kafka, especially “The Trial” and “In the Penal Colony.”

    In the penal colony of Auschwitz, the Jew was not condemned because of his old or new beliefs, but because of the blood that flowed in his veins. In the Holocaust, biology determined a person’s fate. In the Middle Ages, the Jew was killed for his beliefs. A Jew who chose to convert to Christianity or Islam was saved from his suffering. In the Holocaust, there was no choice. Observant Jews, liberal Jews, communist Jews and Jews who were sure they weren’t Jews were crammed into the ghettos and camps. Their one and only offense: the Jewish blood in their veins.

    The Holocaust stretched over six years. Such long years there probably never were in Jewish history. Those were years when every minute, every second, every split-second held more than it could bear. Pain and fear reigned, but even then, in the midst of hunger and humiliation, the amazement sprouted: “Is this Man?”

    During the Holocaust, there was no place for thought or feeling. The needs of the hungry and thirsty body reduced one to dust. People who had been doctors, lawyers, engineers and professors only yesterday stole a piece of bread from their companions and when they were caught, they denied and lied. This degradation that many experienced will never be wiped out.

    Under conditions of hunger and cold, the body, we learned in the camps, is liable to lose its divine qualities. That too was part of the wickedness of the murderer: not only to murder, but first to humiliate the victim utterly, to exterminate every shred of will and faith, to turn him into a despicable body whose soul had fled, and only then, that degradation complete, to murder him. The lust to debase the victim until his last moments was just as great as the lust for murder….

  17. I espect that in France the “yes answer” will win but nothing is so sure in my country.

    The Labour in UK is very courageous to lead a campaign for the constitution, despite of the genral public opinion in GB.

    Maybe british people will have a truly pro-european big party for the first time.

  18. “The Labour in UK is very courageous”

    Tony Blair is the eternal optimist but then he is the Big Picture man. Mere detail is for lesser mortals, which is why the absence of any Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq has turned out to be compeletely irrelevant to his decision to back George Bush and invade Iraq.

    Tony Blair is personally convinced that he can persuade us, or sufficient of us, to vote for the EU Constitution, notwithstanding the present commanding majority of the grumblers and naysayers.

    Predictably, there will be heaps of advertising to paint critics of the Constitution as proto-fascist nitpickers, demented xenophobes, wild men with staring eyes or just dyed in the woodwork Conservatives. Anything, any abuse and any distraction to avoid actually focusing on the deep flaws and corrupt practices in the EU, which make the draft Constitution rather like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. As someone notorious wrote in 1925: The broad mass of a nation will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one.

    It is not the absence of a Constitution which prevents present national governments in the EU from dealing with the fundamentals causing the miserable unemployment rates and poor economic growth in the EU. No one obliges present EU national governments from disregarding agreed EU treaties, pacts and directives whenever it is convenient to do so. Will an EU Constitution ensure that the EU Court of Auditors endorses the EU Commission accounts thereafter?

  19. Claims that Europe has a miserable unemployment rate and poor economic growth are highly exaggerated

  20. Really? I quote from Peter Weinberg, the CEO of Goldman Sachs International, in Friday’s Financial Times [p.19]:

    ” . . Eurozone growth has averaged 1.8 per cent a year and unemployment has remained stuck at about 9 per cent. This failure to raise economic performance meaningfully was recognised in the recent report by Wim Kok, former Dutch prime minister, and is reflected in the desire of Jose Barroso, European Commission President, to reinvigorate the Lisbon agenda. . . ”

    Any suggestion of some conspiracy between myself and Goldman Sachs is (regretfully) fanciful and I only read the piece in the FT many hours after posting my previous comments here.

  21. “The Labour in UK is very courageous”

    I agree with that. Well maybe not Labour, but at least dear Tony. He basically put politics back at the center stage: even if biased, even if polluted by national debates, people will have to discuss and think and ultimately will have their country’s fate in their hands (which, except for the Swiss, doesn’t happen that often). As our Irish participant mentioned, people do get some of their reading done. And I guess it is a good mental exercise to ask oneself every once in a while: “where do we want to go?”

    I do not think that leaving people in the dark, with “elites” only saying that they are acting for the greater good, is a good way to build trust.

    Anyway, Rhode Island did refuse to ratify the original US constitution, and did so through.. a referendum!

    I don’t know though whether R.I. accounted for a bigger or smaller state back in 1788.

  22. Wim Kok was send out to write a negative report and guess what, he did. Unemployement is officially that high because it is better that way. You don’t have to employ grossly incompentent people and you don’t have pressure to raise pay.

  23. continuig c’s scenario…

    And capital is employed conservatively, very lazily, and money remains with those who own, versus work hard and with enterprise..

    And businesses that are not competitive or futuristic retain lobbyists with political power, gaining subsidies and more wealth, over more useful enterprises….

    And others working at the bottom get dissolusioned, and increase the low-end malaise..

    And governments become more important, the distributors of alms to the poor…

    And populaces get into this two-society deal (Hamilton versus Jeffersonian).. where you have haughty middle class people afraid of one day losing their job, blaming the poor, And these same middle class people ordinarily unable to afford a nanny in the free market place, get their slave afterall, a la the third world husband who has a wife-slave, or an inefficient Texan farm with its Mexican migrants in Texas…or Saudi oil companies with their Pakistani workers without rights…….

  24. How many good middle class, educated Euro Liberals REALLY WANT full employment, a truly FREE MARKET PLACE, citizenship and all social rights for all residents, equality for all, expansion of the EU into all the poor countries surrounding it…and a short term reduction in the wealth of many affluent individuals, and immediate changes in national political landscapes..lots of changes…

    And how many conservatives really want this..

    Methinks the answer is not very many, not very many at all, from either camp!!

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