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A Constitution for Europe

Page history last edited by Christos Lymbouris 14 years, 1 month ago

The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (or Constitutional Treaty) was a draft treaty formulated during the 2002-2003 European Convention. It was written with the aim of overturning the previously enacted series of treaties in favour of a single constitutional document. The draft treaty was approved by the leaders of the Member States in June 2004, but was rejected by Dutch and French voters in national referenda in 2005.





The Constitutional Treaty comprised a preamble and four parts: 


  • Part I covered such key provisions as the EU’s competences, institutions, membership, objectives and values.
  • Part II came ready-made in the form of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
  • Part III consisted mostly of the existing treaties, with some important changes.
  • Part IV (general and final provisions) included protocols and other ancillary material.


     The central idea behind the Constitutional Treaty was a means of resolving the legitimacy deficit at the heart of the European Union. By anchoring the Union in a formal constitution, it was hoped that a common political culture would emerge. Without central constitutional symbols and a constitutionally framed European political sphere, it would be impossible for shared political values or a strong sense of solidarity between Europeans to emerge.





The Treaty was designed to:


  • Replace all existing treaties with one single constitutional document, thereby simplifying the legal framework of the EU.



  • Appoint a full time president to the European Council.


  • Appoint a Minister for foreign affairs.


  • The creation of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office.


  • Alter some shared competences to include energy policy and space exploration.


  • Identify the EU as being based on ‘values’ encompassing liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law, human dignity and equality. EU society would be described as one in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between men and women prevail.


  • Incorporate provisions for Member States who violate these values to be denied voting and other rights.


  • Incorporate provisions that would allow Member States to withdraw from the EU.




     To enter into force, the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe had to be ratified by all the Member States in accordance with each one's constitutional rules, namely either parliamentary ratification or referendum. Although the treaty was approved by the leaders on the member states in June 2004, there were serious doubts that when the treaty was to be put to a national vote in each country it would be unanimously approved. 


     On Monday 30th of May, these doubts were realised when it was reported that 54.87% of the French ballot voted against the Treaty. Reasons cited included the vote as representing a judgement by the French people on President Jacques Chirac and the French political elite as opposed to the merits of the treaty itself, fears that the treaty would increase the unemployment rate in France, and a belief that the text of the Constitutional Treaty itself was too neo-liberal and pro-market. 


     On Wednesday 1st of June, the second ‘no’ vote against the treaty by the Netherlands was reported, with 61.6% of those who voted casting against the treaty. The reasons for this large percentage were similar to those of the French voters several days before, with a stronger fear from the extreme right along with socialist and various Christian parties that the EU was now too big and not sufficiently sensitive to the concerns of small countries. It can also be inferred that, as in France, many voters from the Netherlands used the referendum as an opportunity to voice their opinion on their government its economic policies. Anti-Muslim sentiment, opposition to EU membership for Turkey and fears over losing control of immigration policy all contributed to both the French and Dutch votes. 





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