Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, February 18, 2005

"Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe..."

On Sunday, Feburary 20th, Spain will become the first nation to hold a referendum on the European Union's proposed Constitution. According to the BBC, opinion polls show that Spain is likely to vote Si! by a comfortable margin, even though the majority of Spaniards, "still have no idea what the constitution is about." Their vote has been scheduled first in hopes of building momentum for victories in less Europhilic nations. Assuming the Spanish referendum succeeds, the score will be: 1 down, 21 to go. (Slovenia, Lithuania and Hungary have already ratified the text by parliamentary vote.)

It seems to me that the E.U. Constitution would be a good idea, but I'm afraid I'm in the boat with most Spaniards in not knowing what it's all about. All I remember is that The Economist thought the 325-page Constitution was a particularly ugly piece of committee-work that was a real missed opportunity. A brief look at the preamble suggests that they are correct. It even includes a self-congratulatory shout-out to the authors. Here it is, in all its glory:

"His Majesty The King Of The Belgians, The President Of The Czech Republic, Her Majesty The Queen Of Denmark, The President Of The Federal Republic Of Germany, The President Of The Republic Of Estonia, The President Of The Hellenic Republic, His Majesty The King Of Spain, The President Of The French Republic, The President Of Ireland, The President Of The Italian Republic, The President Of The Republic Of Cyprus, The President Of The Republic Of Latvia, The President Of The Republic Of Lithuania, His Royal Highness The Grand Duke Of Luxembourg, The Parliament Of The Republic Of Hungary, The President Of Malta, Her Majesty The Queen Of The Netherlands, The Federal President Of The Republic Of Austria, The President Of The Republic Of Poland, The President Of The Portuguese Republic, The President Of The Republic Of Slovenia, The President Of The Slovak Republic, The President Of The Republic Of Finland, The Government Of The Kingdom Of Sweden, Her Majesty The Queen Of The United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland,

Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, democracy, equality, freedom and the rule of law,

Believing that Europe, reunited after bitter experiences, intends to continue along the path of civilisation, progress and prosperity, for the good of all its inhabitants, including the weakest and most deprived; that it wishes to remain a continent open to culture, learning and social progress; and that it wishes to deepen the democratic and transparent nature of its public life, and to strive for peace, justice and solidarity throughout the world,

Convinced that, while remaining proud of their own national identities and history, the peoples of Europe are determined to transcend their ancient divisions and, united ever more closely, to forge a common destiny,

Convinced that, thus "united in its diversity," Europe offers them the best chance of pursuing, with due regard for the rights of each individual and in awareness of their responsibilities towards future generations and the Earth, the great venture which makes of it a special area of human hope,

Determined to continue the work accomplished within the framework of the Treaties establishing the European Communities and the Treaty on European Union, by ensuring the continuity of the Community acquis,

Grateful to the members of the European Convention for having prepared the draft of this Constitution on behalf of the citizens and States of Europe,

Have designated as their plenipotentiaries:
Who, having exchanged their full powers, found in good and due form, have agreed as follows:"


Raised By Republicans said...

Yes, 1 down...perhaps.

I could go on for hours and hours about this "constitution." At 325 pages its an unwieldy and convoluted series of statements about what policies are in what jurisdictions on almost a case by case basis. For some reason they also feel the need to include detailed descriptions of every little advisory committee.

I've had conversations with Europeans pushing agendas on this "constitution" and one thing I always suggested was that they read the Federalist papers. Not because I think they should adopt the American constitution but because the main issues discussed in the Federalist Papers are very basic and show how the entire function of government can flow from some fundamental institutional relationships. But they usually scoff and say something snide about Americans.

Now, as for whether this thing will pass or not. A number of Member States established referenda to strengthen their bargaining positions. They were saying in effect, "Our hands are tied, if you don't give us more structural fund money or more ag subsidies, this won't pass our referendum." In many cases these are countries that have not used referenda for EU matters before.

Bottom line: I don't think it is likely that all these refernda will pass the Constitution. The question is what effect will that have. I don't think it will matter much for the following reasons. First, the important parts of the Constitution, namely the legislative procedures etc, are already in place. Second, when referenda have ambushed previous Treaties, Member State governments either called "do overs" (as in Denmark) or were ignored.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I keep thinking they ought to have called it "Articles of European Confederation" because Europe cannot very well function under its long and tedious nature, overly protective of national rights. It is a grand missed opportunity, but there will be other opportunities.

It is written, sadly, as a treaty, not a constitution. Thus, the actual persons agreeing are the King of the Belgians, etc. It is not "We, the peoples of Europe" or "We, the nations of Europe" or even better, "We, the people of Europe." A real constitution is drafted in the name of the people. This one is drafted, rather, "on behalf of the citizens" of European countries. A minor tragedy at that.

It shows, I think, that Europe's moment has yet to come. That is to say, the political moment that makes constitution-making and state-making possible is not yet here. Europe, as a project, remains inchoate. Pan-European politics have yet to arrive.

Raised By Republicans said...

Consider what would have happened to the Americans had they failed to establish a stable constitution when they did: certain invasion by Imperial Britain, default on debts and economic collapse, reolonization by the British and possibly the Spanish as well.

In contrast what's the worst that happens to Europe if this "constitution" fails? They muddle along in peace and prosperity as before. Not exactly a huge incentive to make changes.