Draft EU constitution

 

Madam, - Linda McEvoy (Opinion, August 1st) is right to question the centralising nature of the draft EU constitution.

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and his team of 105 delegates from the current and future EU member states are to be commended for the open manner in which it was prepared. It is also wise to rush it through before the phalanx of new members join, as it will be exponentially more difficult to get 25 members to agree it compared to the current fifteen.

So, top marks for process.

What a pity it's such a dog's breakfast that it hasn't a hope of being ratified.

The original, admirable idea was simply to tidy up all the existing Treaties since the Treaty of Rome in 1957 to produce a single document containing everything that's already been agreed. It would certainly help all EU citizens understand their Union.

But tidying up contributes only three-quarters of the new Constitutional Treaty (which is both and neither a constitution nor a treaty).

For Valéry and his merry men just couldn't resist inventing new stuff, which will be the rock on which the document fails. The new stuff includes these five jewels:

1. A new 2½-year appointed president to replace the rotating six-monthly presidents that currently give each country a turn (with Ireland's turn coming up next January). It will probably fail because it will disappoint nearly every EU prime minister, present and aspirant. Nevertheless, the greater stability this would bring is not a bad idea in principle.

2. A new foreign minister to run the EU's common foreign and security policy.

If only we already had that, France and Britain would have snapped into line and Iraq would have been sorted out long ago. And George Bush would be apologising to Old Europe.

How, in light of recent events, anyone can think that EU members will ever be able to agree on a single common policy to adopt in regard to serious foreign issues is laughable.

3. A charter of human rights, including social things like the right to work, to strike, to be consulted about big company decisions. These are the kind of (non-Ireland) anti-enterprise positions that have contributed so heavily to Old Europe's sclerotic labour markets and as a result have pushed them into the economic doldrums.

No one who cares about the well-being and prosperity of EU citizens is going to accept this provision.

4. The EU raising its own budget. This is just code for the EU collecting taxes from EU citizens, instead of (or more likely as well as) being funded by contributions from national governments. And it's a Trojan horse to get around Ireland's and Britain's steadfast refusal to contemplate harmonising taxes.

The EU would simply calculate EU taxes such that nationals in low-tax countries would contribute more. Tax harmonisation via the back door.

5. Redistribution of EU parliamentary votes and EU commissioners away from the small countries in favour of the big ones. Currently it takes 832,000 voters to elect a German MEP but just 74,000 for a Luxembourg one.

A redistribution makes both democratic and administrative sense. But can anyone see the "smalls" - who outnumber the five "bigs" two-to-one - approving it?

So, in the months that follow, we must expect lots of wrangling and bad temper, with Valéry and Tony, for their own (different) reasons, leading the Yes brigade.

We will watch the increasing desperation as the date approaches that the ten new countries join.

And in this country we will have a ringside seat as the project finally crashes into oblivion at the EU's June 2004 summit in Dublin.

Then, perhaps after a further year to lick wounds, a more modest Constitutional Treaty whose sole purpose is to tidy up, will emerge and be quickly ratified.

Proposed changes to the arrangements between EU states need to be negotiated on their own merits and not smuggled in via the current draft (or should we say daft?) Constitutional Treaty. - Yours etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.