Wednesday, 18 July 2007

EU constitution architect deplores 'cosmetic' text changes


EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – The architect of the rejected European constitution, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, says the recently agreed changes to the document are “cosmetic” and designed to avoid the EU’s new reform treaty looking exactly like the EU constitution.

The former chairman of the European Convention – the body of over a hundred politicians which drafted the 2004 EU constitution – criticised the new-look version of the constitution on Tuesday (17 July). The reform treaty was agreed by EU leaders at a summit last month.

“What was [already] difficult to understand will become utterly incomprehensible,” Mr Giscard said about the new treaty blueprint. “But the substance has been retained,” he added, speaking before the European Parliament.

Under the June deal by heads of state and government, key institutional reforms included in the failed EU constitution found their way into the draft “reform treaty”. However, the draft has been stripped of all constitutional elements and has also abandoned the idea of merging European treaties from the past into one single text.

The reform treaty merely amends the 1957 Rome treaty and the 1991 Maastricht treaty -which legally continue to exist – effectively leaving the EU with “three treaties” Mr Giscard indicated.

Claiming there are no legal reasons for having three treaties instead of just one, Mr Giscard suggested political motives behind the unreadable character of the new treaty blueprint.

“Why not have a single text?” he asked. “The only reason is that this would look too much like the constitutional treaty,” he said, with French and Dutch voters rejecting the constitution in 2005 referendums.

“Making cosmetic changes would make the text more easy to swallow.”

His words echo remarks made last week by Italian politician Giuliano Amato, who worked under Mr Giscard as the vice president of the European Convention.

Mr Amato said that EU leaders had “decided” to make the new treaty “unreadable” so that key reforms would become difficult to recognise at first sight. This would diffuse possible calls for referenda in member states.

Asked to react to Mr Amato’s statements, Mr Giscard said the “presentational” changes to the 2004 text were “partially chosen, no doubt, to make it possible for the treaty to be ratified by parliaments.”

Mr Giscard also criticised some of last month’s changes to his project as going exactly against citizens’ interests.

Referring to a Eurobarometer poll indicating that a majority of Europeans are in favour of the idea of “a constitution” for Europe, he said “we say we are getting closer to citizens – and we do it by removing the term constitution? That to me is a little odd.”

He made the same argument on the European flag and anthem, which the Eurobarometer shows are liked by citizens – but which were scrapped from the treaty text.

The former French president particularly deplored the replacement of the EU’s charter of fundamental rights – a list of citizens rights fully included in the constitution – by a simple cross reference to the charter in the reform treaty.

“At a human level this is quite shocking. We always say that we want to protect citizens, and then we don’t mention their rights,” Mr Giscard stated.

By Mark Beunderman
This article first appeared on euobserver.com