Are They Really Sure About This?

According to the EU Observer this morning:

“The new German government plans to use its 2007 presidency of the EU to revive the ratification of the EU constitution, according to a coalition deal struck on Friday (11 November).”

“We pledge to continue the ratification of the European constitutional treaty after the first half of 2006 and to give new impulses to [the ratification] under the German presidency in the first half of 2007,” the deal reads.

I’ll believe it when I see it, but the unreality of all this really dopes make one want to ask questions about the viability of what’s in the rest of the agreement.

Divided Opinions in the Czech Republic

the Czech president has become the first prominent EU politician to call for the ratification process to stop after the French vote.

According to the Czech news agency CTK, Vaclav Klaus, a well-known eurosceptic, said that to carry on the ratification process would be useless, although the Czech prime minister has said he is in favour of continuing.

“The decision has been made and I hope everybody understands it”, Mr Klaus is reported as saying.

In fact, were the ratification process to continue, the Czech Republic has still not decided the actual method of the ratification and the government has admitted it will consider limiting the procedure to a parliamentary vote after all, since the constitutionional change necessary for holding a referendum has proved difficult to agree on among the different parliamentary parties.

If The Netherlands Vote No………

If the Netherlands vote ‘no’ tomorrow (and the opinion polls don’t seem to leave much room for doubt), then according to the FT Jack Straw will tell the House of Commons next Monday that the UK government is immediately suspending parliamentary passage of the European treaty bill. This means the ratification process will be dead, not just in theory (which I think it is now) but in practice. This announcement leaves me with a strange feeling. These days I don’t feel especially British, I am not a great admirer of Tony Blair and Jack Straw, but somehow they seem to have drawn the obvious conclusions, conclusions which clearly are not obvious to many other EU politicians. I can’t help thinking that if we could get to the bottom of why this is, we would understand a bit better why there is such a communication problem between the UK and other parts of the EU.

Britain is to suspend plans to put the European Union constitution to the vote if the Netherlands follows France and rejects the treaty in a referendum on Wednesday.

As the shockwaves of the French vote were resounding on Monday, it emerged that Tony Blair and Jack Straw, foreign secretary, have decided immediately to freeze plans for a UK referendum if, as expected, the Dutch vote No.

The government hopes other EU states would at once declare that rejection in France and the Netherlands meant ratification in all countries must be suspended. Even without consensus the prime minister and foreign secretary believe it would be politically impossible for the UK to carry on with its own ratification.

Incidentally, Jaques Chirac is to make a formal statement about the future French government and his interpretation of the vote on French TV tonight.

Denmark, Sweden and Finland to Continue With Ratification

For now, at any rate, the Nordic countries are to continue with the ratification process. We will see how this eveolves as the days pass.

We naturally respect the decision of the French people but it is crucial that Danes be allowed make their own decision in the autumn,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark’s prime minister said.

There would be no change of plans should Dutch voters also reject the treaty on Wednesday, he added

.

Goran Persson, Sweden’s prime minister, described the French result as “a severe setback for the treaty” but pledged to continue the Swedish ratification process.

Matti Vanhanen, the Finnish prime minister, said he would proceed with the ratification process and expressed hope that other EU states would do likewise.

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.