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Next Week: Can The EU “Reconstitute” ?

  • June 16th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

merkel-resize.jpgStung by the defeat of expansion plans at referendums in France and the Netherlands, two years ago, European leaders have been regrouping around a plan B idea, for a new constitution.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel as the current EU president has been making the running on a revised plan for getting changes approved in 2007.

The first effort, which can be thought of now as plan A, was aimed at creating a first-ever European constitution.

It would have consolidated a set of Treaties that currently make up collective European law; it would have made the management of the EU simpler by moving towards qualified majority voting on many issues, instead of the consensus system.

That would have permitted expansion to include more member countries, and would have gone together with extended competency for the EU, especially by authorising a common policy on external relations – with an EC foreign minister.

The expansion idea hit a raw nerve with many voters at the time, as new countries had been admitted from Eastern Europe and there were campaigns going on against uncontrolled internal immigration.

In 2007 Chancellor Merkel has been promoting a “slimmed down” proposal that may not mention the word “constitution” but would include most of the key ideas – and it would not require referendums to be approved.

Already, all 27 member government have signed on formally to back the original constitution proposal, and 18 have obtained the necessary public or parliamentary approval – depending on their own national laws.

The Chancellor has earned praise as a deft negotiator and numbers getter.

During six months as President of both the EU and the Group of Eight (G8) main industrial powers, she has engineered agreement on making climate change a first-priority policy issue for Europe (see EUAustralia, Berlin Summit, 24, 27.3.07), and earlier this month brokered some presentable outcomes when faced with intractable disagreements among the G8 (at Samara in Russia, see EUAustralia, 4,6.6.07).

Next week (21-22.6.07) the EU Heads of Government will meet again for a summit at Brussels where the constitution, or at least its plan B replacement, is expected to be up for agreement.

The newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been active supporting it (see EUAustralia, Sarkozy at Brussels 24.5.07), meeting both Merkel, and yesterday (14.6.07), Polish leaders who had been talking of imposing a boycott. (They are against a suggested voting system that would recognise individual countries’ sovereignty but with a loading for the size of population, producing arithmetic that might reduce the voting power of some, including Poland).

Mr Sarkozy has said publicly and often that French voters endorsed his support for changing the European Union, when they elected him in May, and that would overtake their earlier decision in a referendum, on a different plan.

He has also been reiterating opposition to an application by Turkey to join the EU, a controversy likely to be brought up this time when the heads of government meet.