Saturday, 11 March 2006

The dead EU Constitution rises to haunt again

The Finnish Parliament will ratify the “dead” EU Constitution before Finland takes over the EU presidency on 1 July this year. This became obvious this week in discussions between a delegation from the European Parliament’s Constitutional Committee which included me and the Finnish Parliament.

The President of the Finnish Parliament, former Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, told us that he is in favour of an early ratification of the EU Constitution. The Finnish Government have sent a White Book on the Constitution to the Finish Parliament. They will now start deliberations on the text.

The Finnish Prime Minister, Vanhanen, is not keen on being involved in a conflict before his European presidency. He is not the person to push the matter. However, he is not the person to block the process either. In the Convention I worked with him for a referendum on the Constitution. He must have forgotten that when he became Prime Minister, thus illustrating the old proverb: “It’s the job that decides, not the person.”

The majority in the Finnish Parliament and all parties except a small minority of individuals want the EU Constitution now. We only heard one single voice of opposition during our visit: Timo Soini of the True Finns party. Everyone else was pleased with the Constitution, which I doubt most of them have even read.

At the same time support for the European Union in Finland has reached its lowest level ever in opinion polls. The appeasement policy of the Finnish elite towards Brussels was striking. I understand Finnish security interests in EU membership, but why sign a Constitution that will reduce Finnish democracy in the very year when they celebrate 100 years of Finnish democracy?

The ratification and the celebration may indeed coincide on the same days in June. What a paradox! The Finnish Constitution gives all the power to the Finnish voters. In the proposed EU Constitution you can only indirectly find the normal democratic principles.

Those people we vote for at national level cannot make proposals in the EU. All EU proposals are made by people that we cannot elect or select.

In Finland and all other democracies the elected members of parliament decide the laws. You can have a new majority at the next elections and then change the law by means of new legislation. This fundamental democratic principle does not exist in the European cooperation or in the proposed EU Constitution.

In the EU 85% of all laws are effectively decided by civil servants behind closed doors, and the remaining 15% by ministers and civil servants together. As a derogation from that, members of the European Parliament can influence EU law-making by proposing amendments to EU laws coming from the EU Council and Commission when they are supported by an absolute majority of the Parliament’s members, which require agreement between left and right.

In the Finnish Parliament all laws can be changed, amended and decided by a simple majority in the parliament. Finnish voters always have the last word.

We now need to re-start the debate on the content of the proposed EU Constitution before it will be ratified in more countries. Since the French and Dutch voters killed the Constitution, it has been ratified in Luxembourg, Malta, Cyprus, Latvia and Belgium. Estonia and Finland are on their way.

After the French presidential elections in May next year the German Chancellor and the new French President may try to have a re-run in France of the very misleading and short Parts I and II of the Constitution and then have the detailed Parts III and IV ratified by the French National Asssmbly

In the European Parliament my “Group for Independence and Democracy” is buying a bus to travel throughout Europe to meet the voters and debate the proposed EU Constitution and our alternatives with them. I hope that we shall have this bus ready for the European summit in Brussels on March 23th

Here is our alternative material on the Constitution:

Jens-Peter Bonde MEP
The EU Constitution: How to get it ratified: Briefing by Jens-Peter Bonde MEP, forwarded for your information by Anthony Coughlan, The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, Ireland