Monday, 16 July 2007

Treaty made unreadable to avoid referendums, says Amato

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – The new EU reform treaty text was deliberately made unreadable for citizens to avoid calls for referendum, one of the central figures in the treaty drafting process has said.

Speaking at a meeting of the Centre for European Reform in London on Thursday (12 July) former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato said: “They [EU leaders] decided that the document should be unreadable. If it is unreadable, it is not constitutional, that was the sort of perception”.

“Where they got this perception from is a mystery to me. In order to make our citizens happy, to produce a document that they will never understand!”

“But, there is some truth [in it]. Because if this is the kind of document that the IGC [intergovernmental conference] will produce, any Prime Minister ‘” imagine the UK Prime Minister – can go to the Commons and say ‘look, you see, it’s absolutely unreadable, it’s the typical Brussels treaty, nothing new, no need for a referendum.”

“Should you succeed in understanding it at first sight there might be some reason for a referendum, because it would mean that there is something new,” he added.

Mr Amato, who is now minister of the interior in Italy, has been a central figure in all stages of the year-long process of writing a new constitution for Europe.

He was vice-president and leader of the socialists in the Convention, the body that wrote the first constitution-draft in 2002-2003 under the leadership of former French president Giscard d’Estaing.

But the draft was rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

Following two years of ‘reflection’ Mr Amato headed the 16-strong group of politicians which prepared a simplified version of the document.

Unofficially known as the “Amato Group” the group stripped the rejected constitution of its constitutional elements – including the article on the EU’s symbols. But the main elements of the original constitution were kept in.

EU leaders in June agreed on a “reform treaty” blueprint which follows the outlines of the Amato Group’s proposal but which has also come under criticism for complicating rather than simplifying the text.

A so-called Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) – a round of technical negotiations on the treaty – will kick off on 23 July and should be finalised by October.

The job to produce a so-called consolidated text, updating the existing treaty with the new paragraphs, will be left with ‘the Secretariat’, Mr Amato said referring to the secretariat of the EU council, member states’ decision-making body.

“Nothing [will be] directly produced by the prime ministers because they feel safer with the unreadable thing. They can present it better in order to avoid dangerous referendums”.

The speech was recorded by UK based think tank Open Europe. It is also available on YouTube.

“This is an extraordinary admission from someone who has been close to the negotiations on the EU treaty”, said Open Europe director Neil O’Brien.

“The idea of just changing the name of the Constitution and pretending that it is just another complex treaty shows a total contempt for voters.”

By Lisbeth Kirk
This article first appeared on