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29 April 2007 Blog Home : April 2007 : Permalink

The Economist on EU Constitution

For all its occasional faults here and there the ecomomist is in the main a remarkably sound magazine. This week its Charlemagne column makes the key point that after two years f scratching their heads abotu what to do with the EU Constitution our glorious leaders seem to have decided to just go ahead and implement it anyway but not tell us that they are doing so.

Europe's leaders are united around two incompatible beliefs. The first is that their citizens want them to press ahead with reviving most or all of the constitution. The second is that it is wisest to avoid testing this thesis by asking those citizens directly in new referendums. For this contradiction, blame those exquisitely tuned political ears. EU bosses insist that they hear citizens demanding that the union be made more “effective”; and this, the politicians say, means salvaging bits of the constitution (even if they disagree over which bits). But to avoid putting this to the test, their efforts are bent on avoiding referendums (except for Ireland, whose law may make a referendum unavoidable). As one top Eurocrat puts it, the thought of further referendums inspires “absolute, sheer terror” in Brussels.

The whole column is a must read but the conclusion is pretty good as it explains that this passing by stealth is somewhat of a retreat from the original raison d'etre of constitution:

But if European leaders now pretend that they are simply correcting the excessive claims they made in the past, they are being too easy on themselves. The truth is that plans to resurrect the constitution display contempt for their voters' intelligence. The extraordinary 12-point questionnaire sent out to EU governments by Ms Merkel in recent days is designed largely to explore possible ways of smuggling a new text past unwitting voters. Suggested tricks include sacrificing high-profile bits that do not matter (an article confirming that the EU anthem is the “Ode to Joy”); and hiding other sensitive bits, for instance the Charter of Fundamental Rights, a sweeping list of social rights, by replacing its full text with “a short cross-reference having the same legal value”. Those with long memories will recall that, when the charter was first proposed in 1999, the politicians argued that making fundamental rights “more visible to the union's citizens” was indispensable to the EU's legitimacy. Now, it seems, it is indispensable for the charter to vanish from sight altogether.

Such sneakiness matters. The starting-point for the constitution, the 2001 Laeken declaration, talked of making the union more transparent and bringing it “closer to its citizens”. Never again would Europe advance by stealth, went the boast. The people of Europe were crying out to be inspired by an ambitious new text, the politicians declared—and they could hear them.

It is this kind of bollocks, combined with the way that Brussels allows unelected jobsworths to shift the buck for brain dead rules, that makes me embarrassed that I once thought the EU was a good idea.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin