The Truth About the European Reform Treaty - Part One


August 25, 2007 14:55 | by Francis Wurtz, MEP

Last Monday in Brussels saw the launch of the "Intergovernmental Conference" (IGC, a body charged with the task of elaborating the definitive text of the future European treaty. Notably absent from this process were the citizens. Everything was dealt with "at the top" and behind closed doors. With great generosity the European Council has accepted that three Members of the European Parliament - one from the centre-right EPP (European People's Party, of which the French affiliate is the UMP), one from the PES (Party of European Socialists) and one from the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats of Europe, French affiliates the UDF and Modem) - will be in attendance at its proceedings (with no right of intervention)! I should add that all three are in agreement with the "mandate" established by the twenty-seven heads of state and government. An "overture" worthy of Nicolas Sarkozy.

In addition, the haste which characterises the calendar of this IGC reveals the fear which Europe's leaders have that their citizens will grasp the contents of these discussions and change the climate surrounding them. Judge for yourself: the negotiations begin in the middle of summer with an almost complete text prepared by the incumbent Presidency of the Union, on the basis of the ultra-precise "mandate" of the heads of state and government; then, from the 7th and 8th of September, the last adjustments are made before a technical revision by a team of accredited legal experts; lastly, the definitive adoption of the new treaty by the heads of state and government - on the 18th and 19th of October!

In this way, in the space of a few weeks, far away from those who will be most affected and from their elected representatives, will be fixed the European policies and the fundamental rules of the Union which will determine far into the future the lives of half a billion people and of twenty-seven countries! And to ensure that this denial of democracy does not cause too much of a hullabaloo, they are working to reassure public opinion - in each case regarding questions which were at the heart of the debates on the ex-Constitutional Treaty in 2005.

In the Netherlands, they are insistently drawing attention to the suppression, in the future treaty, of a certain number of words which had caused problems: "constitution"; "law" in place of "directive"; the European "flag" and the European "anthem", etc. This won't change the content, but it will reassure! Remember that one of the "twelve questions" put by the Chancellor Angela Merkel to the heads of government last May was "What do you think of the proposal... to change the terminology without at the same time modifying the legal substance?"

As for France, where the debate of 2005 turned principally upon the structures of "neoliberal Europe", Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal to suppress - in a single article, the one devoted to the "objectives of the Union" - the formula "free and unrestricted competition", was agreed. Certainly this principle remains affirmed elsewhere and is even given the aid and comfort of a "protocol" specially drafted to underline the importance of the competition policy as a "means"....Certainly Ms Merkel - whom I questioned on this subject in the European Parliament plenary on 27th June - was at pains to stress that "nothing is going to change" as a result of this modification. All of that is already known to the readers of L'Humanité and L'Humanité Dimanche. However, among French people in general the President of the Republic has been able to pass off the idea that he has obtained a "major reorientation". You have to offer reassurance...

Well, no: you have to speak the truth about the future treaty! You have to state in concrete terms that what we are getting in this text are the matters which most preoccupied people about the planned European constitution: the neoliberal economic structures; the charter of fundamental rights; European security and defence policy... It is with these that I will be dealing in future articles, with the aim of contributing to and establishing the importance of holding a true, fundamental debate before any definitive decision is taken, concluding in a referendum. Till next week...

Francis Wurtz is President of the Group of the United European Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament and a member of the French Communist Party. This article, which was translated by Steve McGiffen, first appeared on the English language website of French left daily L'Humanité is the first of a series on the Reform Treaty.

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