The truth about the European reform treaty, Part Five


September 25, 2007 20:15 | by Francis Wurtz, MEP

Among the principal questions posed on the subject of the contents of the future European treaty, there are at least two which to which I have not yet referred, although they are certainly worthy of attention: the "Charter of Fundamental Rights" and the "European Security and Defence Policy". I will, therefore, look at each of these today.

I believe that the existence of a charter of rights is, in itself, a good thing. The European Union must be - or become - a community of values. Every citizen should enjoy a certain number of rights, equal for all, in every area of life, and adapted to the times in which we live. The question which occurs to one is therefore not of whether this charter should exist but relates instead to its contents and to its real significance.

In this respect, all of the criticisms provoked in recent years by the weakness of the guarantees offered by this text - and even by its references to other texts - remain valid, because nothing in its contents has changed. One might recall, for example, that the traditional "right to work" (which should be assured to all men and women) becomes, in this charter, the "freedom to seek employment, to work". The re-evaluation of social rights to be written into the charter - on the basis of consultation with trade unions - is therefore a legitimate demand.

Moreover, you will remember perhaps that a certain number of articles of this charter are followed by "explanations", addressed to the courts, serving to give an extremely restrictive interpretation of the content of these articles. For example, an article states that "the Union recognises and respects the entitlement to ... social services providing protection in cases such as maternity, illness, industrial accidents, dependency or old age..." But the "explanations" which fix the actual legal significance of this state that "The reference to social services relates to cases in which such services have been introduced to provide certain advantages but does not imply that such services must be created where they do not exist."! Incredible, but true. The suppression of all of these restrictive statements is thus a very reasonable demand.

In the end, Great Britain obtained a charter which would have no legal force for itself. This seems to me unacceptable. All of the Union's citizens should enjoy the same rights.

As for the European Security and Defence Policy, several aspects of this provoked debates during the referendum campaign of 2005. Yet nothing has changed in the text of the future European treaty with respect to it. Three passages of this text present, in my view, particular problems.

1.'The policy of the Union... is compatible with the common security and defence policy fixed in the framework (of the North Atlantic Treaty)". This is, is it not, an expression of an allegiance to NATO? It is not known what, in the future, the policy of this instrument of United States strategy will be, yet we are blindly committing ourselves never to break from it...

2."The Member States commit themselves progressively to improve their military capabilities." Should this injunction to increase expenditure on armaments be inscribed in the sort of ambition which ought to feed the European Union?

3.The (European) Council may entrust the achievement of a mission ... to a group of member states in order to preserve the values of the Union and to serve its interests." These states will "establish a permanent (military) cooperation structure, within the framework of the Union" on the basis of "more restrictive commitments... with a view to the most demanding missions". Where might this not lead us, in the name of the "preservation" of our "values" and our "interests"?

Is this the vocation of the European Union? Doesn't all of this confirm the urgent need for a public debate covering the real contents of the future European treaty, followed by ratification by means of a referendum? To pose the question is to answer it.

Francis Wurtz is President of the United European Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament. This is the final part of his analysis of the European Reform Treaty. This article first appeared in the French weekly L'Humanité Dimanche and its sister website

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