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A constitution for the EU?

   

PoliticsAs many of you probably know, the French population voted against the proposed European constitution last sunday (may 29th). It is also likely that other countries will follow (Netherlands on june 1st, others follow later). Politicians have been loudly voicing dissapointment, and uttering stark warnings regarding the negative consequences of deciding against the porposed constitution.

Next wednesday (1st of june) I am allowed to vote on this, and I am going to vote no, just like the French did, and just like many of my fellow countrymen are likely to do. In the following 'rant' I will try to explain why I am going to vote no, and what EU politicians (and those in charge of the member states) have to do to get some working EU constitution at some point.


Politicians have voiced their dissapointment about the French vote.

Well, big deal I'd say.. people have been dissapointed in those who are in charge of the EU for some time now, maybe they should have drawn their conclusion before ever comming up with this proposed EU constitution.

Without going into detail regarding the proposed constitution, lets take a peek at some of the issues at hand:

  1. Power of the Union versus power of the member states
  2. Democratic institutions for governing the Union
  3. Creation of a European identity without destroying the national identities of the member states
  4. Harminisation of laws between the member states

Things like preservation of national identity and the distribution of power between Union and member states , and the harmonisation of laws are directly related. The only way to achieve a stable and viable Union without forcefully oppressing the national identities is by limiting the Union to concern itself with things like interstate trade, foreign policy and defense. All other things should be left to the member states.

This will of course result in certain laws being different between neighbor states in the Union, but unless those laws deal with the issues mentioned above, that is a simple consequence of the desire to preserve national identity, and should be valued as such.

When we can preserve national identity in this way, there is also far less of a problem with implementing a one man one vote system for the European parliament. The danger of the parliament deciding on things that suppress national identity, or that deal with local civil law are very small (because in most cases they simply can't) while decisions on things that affect us all (defense, foreign policy, interstate trade) we do get a much more democratic system.

This will inherently result in the small member states getting less of a say because they have a smaller population. In the end however the issues that the parliament deals with are seldom national issues (they should never be) and it is exceptional that opinions on such subjects are simply split along state borders.

That peopel in the small member states are afraid of being 'overrun' by the big member states on many local issues is not unwarranted in the current Union, and the proposed constitution does little to remove that fear, rather, it gives people more reason to fear this.

The problem is that a system where every individual vote for a member of parliament, regardless of where you live, counts equally strong, is an absolute must for ever getting to a working democratic system, and that will simply result in more French then Dutch (Belgian, whatever smaller country) votes. This is unescapable unless we decide to just give up on the EU idea alltogether.

The only thing we can do is preventing this from taking over the individual member states to the point of them losing their identity and ability to make their own laws.

Members of parliament should never represent a specific country, they need to represent a specific set of ideas. Citizens of EU member states should be able to vote for MEPs based on their political point of view, regardless of what country they are from.

To somewhat counter this, the commision should be made up of ELECTED (and not appointed as is the case now) representatives of all of the individual member states.

A constitution for this should provide the foundations for a EU parliament and commision, define their roles and limitations, and make very clear where the borders are between the powers of a EU administration versus that of the member state administrations.

A EU constitution must also make clear the rights of the citizens of member states and it must provide a clear framework for:

  • Adding member states
  • Member states wanting to leave the Union
  • Actions a member state can take to stop the Union from interfering with strictly internal affairs
  • Actions the Union can take when a member state refuses to cooperate with what are defined Union affairs.

Last but not least, the EU needs a recognizable 'head of state' and government. While their function is limited by the limited powers assigned to the Union, they should have a prominent role in the day to day governing of the Union as well as in representation for foreign affairs.

Of course, France does not like giving up making its own foreign policy, and neither France or the UK is going to easily give up their seat in the UN security council for example. All those things mean giving up power they have gathered, but if they expect the smaller countries to give up some of their own power for the bigger good, then the large member states should do the same. It concerns different kinds of powers, but the emotional attachment is no different.

Untill the day that politicians make clear they udnerstand those things and are clearly commited to addressing them, I am going to vote against a EU constitution, not just because of its content, but because of the realisation that those who want this constitution are not doing the right thing for the right reasons.

An example that is relevant to me for personal reasons is the utter undemocratic way in which the EU commision is trying to get a new patent directive pushed through. Democratic institutions are just being ignored or when needed, seriously subverted. Protection of rights of citizens and member states is completely ignored, this all so that a tiny but in the commision powerfull group of people can have more power (in the form of economic monopolisation of technology). In this specific example, we have the EU commision propose a directive, the EU parliament adding some serious amandments to limit the scope of the directive to what they believe is reasonable. The commision then ignored this completely and proposed the same old drective once more. The final decision in the commision gets delayed for a while because nationla parliaments in a multitude of member states being against and threatening their commisioners. With some trickery it gets decided on still and the directive is back to its original form (which was disapproved by the EU parliament earlier on). Trickery includes outright lying to national parliaments (and blaming the lie on a messup of a word processor?) and trying to obscure content and intent.

An example that we all saw was the EU getting split over the Iraq invasion. While I do not know if the EU would have participated or not if they had centralized defense and foreign policy, divide and conquer tactics as employed by both sides in the Iraq conflict would not have worked on the EU as they did in the last few years.

At any rate, if politicians want people to favor a EU constitution, they better start ensuring that that constitution actually provides people with something to their advantage that is also not too difficult to understand. Any of the current arguments used by politicians come down to either extremely far-fetched possible advantgaes, or just trying to impose fear for the consequences of voting against. For this the proposal needs change, change such that it actually serves the people and member states instead of EU burocrats.

While it is far from perfect, EU politicians would do very good to take a look at the constitution of the USA because it actually attempts to provide for those things. It will need quite a few 'fixes', but its basic line of thought is the only one that is correct for a union of states that does not want to base itself on suppression of its member states and citizens.

Citizens in the EU should realize that without a one man one vote system, the EU will never ever become democratic. It is an absolute must. Politicians must realize that the only way to achieve this with support of the citizens, is by putting some clear limits on the power of the EU by defining very clearly what the EU has power over, and ensuring everything else is left to the member states.




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A constitution for the EU?
Authored by: bart on Wednesday, June 01 2005 @ 09:45 PM CEST
And it looks like the Netherlands follows the example of France, the counting did not finish yet as I write this, but it looks like a substantial majority voted against.
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