Sunday, 2 April 2006


(Open Europe Bulletin, 9 March 2006)

This week the German press reported that Paris and Berlin are engaged in confidential talks aimed at re-submitting the core of the EU Constitution to French and Dutch voters, who rejected the Constitution last year. French and German leaders had previously been in disagreement about the best way to go about bringing back the EU Constitution.

It is believed the plans involve reducing the Constitution to its first two parts – Part One, which sets out the EU’s competences, and Part Two, the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

German news weekly Der Spiegel reported that in order to be seen to address some of the concerns which led to the No votes, a short political declaration would also be added on to the Constitution, setting out the EU’s commitment to social protection. The new slimmed-down document would then be put to a fresh poll in both France and the Netherlands, while the third (and main) part, which details EU policies, would be ratified in the national parliaments of these countries.

In recent weeks more EU Heads of Government have added their names to calls for the return of the Constitution. Analysis by Open Europe suggests that 18 of the 25 member states are now backing the adoption of the EU Constitution in its original form. Poland and the Czech Republic are also backing a new treaty, though not the Constitution in its original form. Only the Netherlands (where nearly two thirds of voters said No) has said that the Constitution is “dead”. But even the Netherlands has suggested that it could be open to “something new”.

The consensus in Brussels is that the debate about the EU Constitution will “go live” again in Spring 2007 – due to the combination of the German Presidency of the EU and the result of the French elections.

Summary of the attitudes of EU Member States towards the EU Constitution:

Dead – Netherlands (but Foreign Minister agrees “something new” needs to happen)

Not the Constitution but a different new treaty – Poland and Czech Republic

Unsure – UK, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden

EU Constitution in some form – France, Germany, Finland, Portugal, Estonia,

Austria, Slovenia, Latvia, Hungary, Italy, Belgium, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Malta – have ratified the Constitution already

Where they stand:

Amongst others, Finland and Portugal appear to be backing the Franco-German plan, calling for an EU Constitution based on the original with only “marginal changes.” (Le Figaro, 7 March) Finland is expected to ratify the Constitution during its presidency of the EU in the second half of this year, and Portugal has said it will ratify a new version of the text as soon as it is agreed.

At a meeting in February the Presidents of Hungary, Italy and Latvia also expressed support for resuscitating the Constitution, and Slovenia, which will hold the EU Presidency in the first half of 2008, has announced that “the EU Constitution is very much alive” – thus revealing that every EU Presidency that will take place between now and 2009 is committed to bringing back the EU Constitution.

Of the other countries which have not yet voted on the Constitution, Denmark, Ireland and Sweden have not revealed their plans, but Estonia is quietly pursuing the ratification process.

President Lech Kaczynski of Poland has said that the Constitution “has practically no chance of being ratified in Poland, neither by referendum nor by parliamentary vote”, (Le Figaro, 24 February) but, along with Czech President Vaclav Klaus, he has called for a “new treaty” to be drafted.

Only the Dutch government has officially pronounced the EU Constitution “dead,” Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said “we have discussed the Constitution, which for the Netherlands is dead.” (Telegraph, 12 January) However, even the Dutch have left themselves some wriggle-room; in a subsequent interview with Die Presse, Bot agreed that “something new” needed to happen. (20 January 2006)

For its part, the UK has so far refused to say whether it believes the EU Constitution is dead. Tony Blair has said the Constitution “will have to be revisited” (PA, 20 February).

See also:…