A New Constitution for the European Union?


Esko Seppänen, MEP,  considers the latest proposals on "European governance"



The most important redistribution of power in Europe since World War II is now being discussed under the auspices of the Convention for the Future of Europe. It will take the form of a new constitution for the European Union, which could be adopted as early as December this year in Rome. The goal, in accordance with the desire of the all-European political parties, is to make the EU a federal state, a state of nation states.


The Nice Summit has been described as a coup d'etat by the big EU Member States. This would also be a fitting description of the recent Franco-German proposal on constitutional issues.


Romano Prodi's "Penelope plan", although rejected by certain Commissioners, was the Commission's own attempt at a coup. It has been sentenced to death by the Franco-German paper. The redistribution of the EU's power will not be through the "Community method", i.e. through giving more power to a strong Commission.


Previously, it was thought that the EU would become a federal state only by the Community method, which is why the federalists support this way of doing things.


The Community method is essentially the power of the civil servants, the eurocracy. However, in this kind of supranational decision-making, the biggest loser is national democracy. We have to ask if the EU, in becoming the second largest federal state in the world and potentially having 27-28 member countries, is too big to be democratically governed. Is democracy as we know it only possible in national states, and where there is no supra-national decision-making?


The federalisation of the EU through the Franco-German inter-governmental method is the new dimension in the discussion of the future EU. The alternative to this proposal to create the skeleton of a new type of federal state is not the Community method, but the democratisation of the intergovernmental method, which is based on parliamentarianism: the right of parliaments to exert control over their own governments.


The new federal state under discussion appears to leave little room for military non-alignment. Germany and France have also proposed to militarise the Union. A request that the 5th article of the Western European Union Treaty be written into the constitution has been made in the Convention working group on defence. Arguments for establishing a European Armaments or Capabilities Agency are put forward on the grounds, also,  of increasing the independence of the EU from the US.


While Germany and France are demanding qualified majority voting for all EU decisions, including external relations and armament policies, and thus creating pressure for a common defence policy, they are destroying the political identity of non-aligned countries. A non-aligned country can neither accept militarisation of the Union nor the fact that this would be written into the constitution.


A French member of the Convention, Alain Lamassoure, along with his kindred spirits, is demanding that countries that will not accept the new constitution be expelled. More worryingly, the Commission´s Penelope plan proposed the same thing. With this kind of argument, the big players are threatening the smaller countries who have sound legal grounds for rejecting the constitution should they decide to do so. As things stand, consensus is still required for the Treaty on the European Union to be modified.


The treatment of the applicant countries can hardly be called democratic. If a new constitution is adopted in December 2003, those countries about to join the EU in 2004 will not even be able to participate fully in the inter-governmental conference that will take the final decision.


There are other problems with the Franco-German proposal. The proposal to elect a full-time President of the Council and the Commission by qualified majority would in practice - as was agreed in Nice - give Germany and France together with some other third state a veto. What about removing a President of the Commission? What would happen if only one party, either the Council or Commission,  passed a vote of no confidence?


The elite of the EU are re-shaping the Union with a new constitution. At the very minimum, each Member State must have a referendum on the outcome. Surely also the federalists themselves, who believe in their cause, would wish such a legitimacy for their newly-emerging federal state.



Esko Seppänen is a Member of the European Parliament for the Finnish Left Alliance, which sits in the United left /Nordic Green Left group (GUE-NGL) of fifty progressive MEPs from eleven countries. He is an alternate member of the Convention on the Future of Europe.