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More on the not-Constitutional Treaty

by Colman Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 07:39:14 AM EST

Is there an official name for the replacement for the badly named EU Constitution yet?

EU Observer reports that Merkel is going to ask the European Parliament to debate the treaty:

Greens co-chairman Monica Frassoni urged the German chancellor to "have courage to take a risk at democracy" by involving both parliament and wider public in debates about the revision of EU constitution, with Danish eurosceptic Jens-Peter Bonde calling on her "not to take away power from European citizens."

In her reply to deputies, Ms Merkel repeated the argument used previously that not all of Europe's deals can be "achieved out in the open marketplace" and publicly reported at every stage.

But she admitted that "European public must be stakeholders in what we are doing" and suggested that the European Parliament could organise a debate for civil society representatives in May on what should be in the revised EU constitution.

This public debate could be used as an "input" ahead of fast-track negotiations among member states in the second half of 2007, according to the likely scenario Ms Merkel plans to unveil in late June.

The Parliament is probably the most representative body available, so it's a good place to have the debate, if it is taken back to the voters at home.


Meanwhile, the zero-sum thinking Polish government wants to change the voting system to give them more power:

Poland plans to propose a new voting system in the upcoming EU treaty talks that will be based on square roots of populations instead of simple populations. The so-called "Penrose square root law" would give Warsaw more say against Berlin, with one Polish official already talking about potential Polish vetoes.

The plan was confirmed by Poland's lead negotiators on the new treaty, Marek Cichocki (a historian) and Ewa Osniecka-Tamecka (a senior Polish official), to Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Wednesday (28 March) - three months before the June EU summit hopes to clinch agreement on a "roadmap" for a new text.

"If other countries do not want to discuss our proposal, we will take the last resort," Ms Osniecka-Tamecka said, on the possibility of a Polish veto on constitution talks. The new voting plan would be a "Polish historical rebate" for the fact that "for 50 years Poland for no fault of its own was outside EU integration," Mr Cichocki added.

The current draft constitution has a so-called double majority system, which requires at least 15 out of 27 EU states which represent at least 65 percent of the total EU population to get a decision through. Similar rules exist for establishing "blocking minorities" to stop reforms from going ahead.

By the by, apparently Turkey's enlargement talks have restarted after the general annoyance at their not being invited to the birthday party.

Display:
One of the joys of the EU is that we have lots more politicians to dislike.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 07:42:53 AM EST
Lots more political comedy, as well.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 07:44:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The new voting plan would be a "Polish historical rebate" for the fact that "for 50 years Poland for no fault of its own was outside EU integration,"

Ask the Soviet Union for a rebate, then. Oops, the Soviet Union doesn't exist any longer?

I suppose Poland is in the EU now by its own fault. Nobody forced them in, now did they?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 07:50:58 AM EST
I meant to highlight the gross stupidity of that line. Thanks.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 07:53:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If they're not careful they might find themselves out of EU integration for the next 50 years for their own fault.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 07:59:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The coalition parties behind the current government followed a more or less hard Eurosceptic line during the final accession talks.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 08:25:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there an official name for the replacement for the badly named EU Constitution yet?

I Can't Believe It's Not A Constitution!TM

Is the Penrose Method actually in use anywhere?

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 07:51:34 AM EST
Google "penrose square root law" and hit "I'm feeling lucky".

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 07:54:22 AM EST
In her reply to deputies, Ms Merkel repeated the argument used previously that not all of Europe's deals can be "achieved out in the open marketplace" and publicly reported at every stage.

Merkel is a worthy successor to Bismarck, she comes from the same school of sausage-making.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 08:03:13 AM EST
It's striking how those (usually neolibs) that blame the EU for its democracy deficit are also those that say that there should not be a new Constitution but instead a mini-treaty that can be approved by Parliaments only.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 08:24:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The neolibs certainly, but who else? The Eurosceptics don't want any kind of treaty and see Merkel's actions in a bad light too, and other critics of the EU's democracy deficit (here I'm not sure what you meant with "blame the EU for its...") point to the mini-treaty as proof.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 08:29:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]

The neolibs certainly, but who else?

There is nobody 'else', except extremists...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 08:58:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What kind of extremists?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 09:03:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Anyone not in the "neoliberal consensus", so I suppose greens, hard leftists, and right-wing nationalists. Even the social democrats are in the consensus now.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 09:21:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The point is that none of those extremists favor the mini-treaty.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 09:26:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The parenthesis in Jerome's "those (usually neolibs) that blame the EU for its democracy deficit" was an attept at ignoring that.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 09:28:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Even the social democrats are in the consensus now.

Precisely not. The Blairists are in. The real social democrats are not in the consensus and are thus called extremists or "dinosaurs" or similarly dismissive words (like Ségolène Royal) - precisely because they're not in.

As to greens and hard leftists, you have a whole range of opinions on Europe out there.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 11:36:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh yes. As far as I can tell, in Spain, Germany and Italy economic policy since the fall of the Soviet bloc is pretty much the same regardless of who's in charge, and social democrats are part of the neoliberal consensus. It's a running joke that Spain doesn't need a Social-Liberal party or a modern, European centre-right party, because we have the PSOE. And that's true even under Zapatero. Solbes, the current minister, was minister before 1996 and the 8 years of Rato in the middle are pretty much indistinguishable (and had Solbes as EU commissioner). Prodi isn't much "better".

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 11:43:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
from your perspective, but it's not from mine.

Competence is accountable, even if it's not kicked out of power.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 05:16:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does your perspective entail German, Spanish and Italian economic policy?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 05:20:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll let Redstar argue the French case.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 05:56:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
She's left enough, even if not scoring highest on my little Le Monde test. DSK, though, not. He would fit your narrative I think.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri Mar 30th, 2007 at 03:43:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bad, bad ones. The "against us" type. What other kind is there?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 09:22:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wait a second.

The "democratic deficit" is a charge coming from all over the political spectrum nowadays. It may have originated with the neolibs or with the Eurosceptics, but it has taken a life of its own because it has a kernel of truth. The truth is that the EU, as an intergovernmental organisation, has features that people have a hard time getting their heads around, given the perception of the EU as a "superstate" and the expectation that states will be democratic.

It's the political elite, and the governments of the Member States, that want the treaties passed by the parliaments. After all, the governments more or less control their own parliaments.

Maxi or Mini, the treaty requires a referencum in some of the member states anyway. Including France now, right?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 08:47:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you blame the EU or the national governments for the EU's democracy deficit? Maybe that's the differencet Jérôme meant.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 09:08:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU is a construct of the national elites and of the member states. The EU's democratic deficit is structural and the member states are responsible for it, but there's no other structure they could have built. However, the Democracy™ rhetoric forces the states to introduce formally democratic elements which then get a life of their own, such as the Parliamentary Assembly becoming a directly elected Parliament, so far without legislative initiative but which recently acquired more codecision and accountability power (and it flexed its muscles with the appointment of the Barroso commission, REACH, Bolkestein and the CIA prison/flight ad-hoc committee).

In other words, the EU has a democratic deficit but by creating it the member states sowed the seeds of their own loss of sovereignty to a truly democratic EU maybe in the next 50 years.

Giscard's decision to call the new treaty a "Constitution" backfiring and getting a life of its own (with the majority of people in the EU favourable to a constitution but not this one, and two failed referenda in founding member states) is another case where the present not totally democratic structures contain the seeds of their own replacement by truly democratic ones.

Assuming we keep the eyes on the ball and don't let the Neoliberals run with it, or the US put in wedges and trojans.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 06:20:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The EU is a construct of the national elites and of the member states. The EU's democratic deficit is structural and the member states are responsible for it, but there's no other structure they could have built.

Maybe at some point someone will notice that the EU was working a lot better when it was not supposed to be democratic and only works today when it is really democratic (i.e. when the European Parliament actually is involved).

  • technocratic decisions are to be taken by technocrats, and there is no reason to change. You don't get to vote on how to run a train.

  • political decisions are to be brought to popular vote, as they should.

Of course, our current crop of leaders, and all too many of those arguing for democracy (and yes, I include a number of commenters here, feel free to take it as you want) argue for something that looks a lot closer to the opposite.

Abnd note that those people that voted against the EU Constitution by arguing against "this" constitution disagreed with the bits that were not subject to a vote and are still in force today.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 30th, 2007 at 03:48:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And note that those people that voted against the EU Constitution by arguing against "this" constitution disagreed with the bits that were not subject to a vote and are still in force today.

But the same people (=those in power) who decided to leave out the important bits, also wanted you to vote "oui". So how could you stick it to them without voting "non"? It is a perfectly reasonable response of powerlessness. Withhold that which is asked of you even if it hurts yourself, refuse to play nice. Burn cars in your own neighbourhood.

By the way, this is actually quite similar to the US lefts discourse of elections. Given two bad choices (as neither gives a chance to change the importnat bits), do you either a) hold your nose and vote for the democrat (better then the alternative) or b) protest and vote for a candidate which has no chance to get elected? So now we know that Jeremy, who (in a parallell universe) was brought up in the US, is pretty angry at those who voted Nader...

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Mar 30th, 2007 at 09:18:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You make a good point, except that the choice is between somewhat bad and really, really bad and that should not be a hard choice to make. It's a luxury sometimes to have that choice, something which seems to be forgotten.

It's an indulgence for most of us (or despair/bloodthirst for the true revolutionaries) to think that it's better to be pure than to work to improve things somewhat within the (more than imperfect) system.

btw - Jérôme and Jeremy are not etymologically related.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 30th, 2007 at 09:37:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure what neoliberalism has to do with this. In economic terms the current Polish government is made up of the three most left wing parties in the country, the europhile opposition is a mix of hardcore neoliberals (PO) and softcore ones (post communists and left-liberals ex dissidents). The PiS campaign against the PO relied on  positioning themselves as the anti-liberals in all senses of that word - so no to economic neoliberalism, yes on social conservatism, and yes on nationalism with all those seen in Poland as part of the same package. Liberalism means moral degeneration, deregulation, economic inequality, secularism, and a cosmopolitan lack of loyalty to the nation in the political discourse of the Polish right.
by MarekNYC on Fri Mar 30th, 2007 at 04:06:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I actually agree with that claim, some progress in the EU does indeed require cattle trade behind closed doors, which is preferable to open conflict between states of head.

But I don't think her argument applies to the deal in question.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 08:41:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Parliament is probably the most representative body available, so it's a good place to have the debate, if it is taken back to the voters at home.

I agree with the idea of a debate lead by the European Parliament, but I think many European citizens wouldn't accept not to be consulted. In my view, the best method was the one proposed by the Greens: to organise a Europe-wide referendum on the same day. That would lead partisans of the "yes" as well as those in favour of the "no" to campaign at European level.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 08:25:11 AM EST
They should agree that the 2009 EP will write the treaty. That way the 2009 EP elections would actually focus on the EU instead of national politics, for a change.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 08:52:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or would be used by domestic parties to turn EU politics a national politics issue.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 09:05:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(Like Fidesz is turning the EU-supported Nabucco vs. Gazprom-built Blue Stream pipeline poker issue into national politics here right now.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 09:06:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Waiting for the next parliament to write the treaty would postpone it too much.

I think it would make sense to organise the referendum and the EP elections on the same day in 2009. That would leave time for the debate.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 11:55:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Too much for whom?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 11:59:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For me: I'm getting old...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 07:13:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mais pas du tout!

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 07:39:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There have been studies that show that whatever the voting weights chosen, practically no decisions can be taken unless there are wide consensuses (and indeed I have no recollection of any major controversial directive or measure that's ever been put in place via a majority vote with strong (if unsuccessful) minority opposition).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 08:26:29 AM EST
If it is slimmed down to institutional reform, I will swallow the intergovernmental-treaty replacement for the EU Constitution, even if there is no name change. Otherwise, I think the EP can put enough pressure on Merkel & co only if the European Socialists join the choir.

On the Polish government, I had a good laugh. The plan is clearly designed to win the backing of small countries, but I don't expect that to succeed both because I think governments remember prior experience, recognise that consensus on this new idea with the bigger or sceptical smaller countries is unlikely. So after them saying "If other countries do not want to discuss our proposal, we will take the last resort," this looks to me like another instance of a Polish government steering itself into a corner in the making. (Like the CAP debate during the last accession summit in Denmark, or the previous fight over vote weights alongside Aznar's Spain.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 08:39:17 AM EST
They (that's a capital 'They') will call it the EU's Basic Law, or the Foundational Treaty, or the Treaty on the Foundations of European Union. Something along those lines.

There are good arguments for the Polish position, by the way. But it's probably all just political manoeuvring, as the EUObserver notes.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Mar 29th, 2007 at 07:48:58 PM EST


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