Here's an interesting article about the EU that caught my eye.

  1. Here's an article I found in the 6/15/2003 New York Times.

    I know very little about the politics and issues surrounding the European Union (EU). I hope people from both sides of the Atlantic will post comments/opinions on this article. . . and the general state of affairs of the EU.

    Seeking Unity, Europe Drafts A Constitution

    June 15, 2003

    BRUSSELS, June 12 - It will be much less than a United
    States of Europe. But it will be more than the distillation
    of five decades of treaties into one document.

    For 16 months, Europe's most important and exclusive club
    has struggled to draft its first constitution. The process
    has been awkward and unpredictable, ambitious and timid, as
    delegates from the 15 member nations of the European Union
    and the 10 that are to join next year fight to protect
    their countries' national interests even as they agree to
    cede bits of sovereignty.

    Philadelphia it ain't.

    The founding fathers came together in 1787 for a
    Constitutional Convention to forge a document that created
    a national identity and institutionalized the sovereignty
    of the American people in one nation-state. The 105
    delegates who made up the Convention on the Future of
    Europe tried to do something much more modest: codifying
    common ground among long-established states that will give
    their union more of a logical structure - and perhaps more
    power - as they expand eastward.

    "Until now, Europe was mainly associated with a common
    market," Ana Palacio, Spain's foreign minister and a
    delegate representing her government, said in an interview.
    "Now Europe will be more and more a place of citizenship.
    Now people will associate Europe with a constitution."

    Indeed, one article in the draft constitution states,
    "Every national of a member state shall be a citizen of the
    union." When the union expands, that means a mega-Europe of
    450 million citizens, larger than any population mass
    except for China and India, and an economy of more than $9
    trillion, close to that of the United States.

    The proposed constitution also states that European Union
    law will have primacy over that of member states. It
    simplifies voting rules and spells out areas like trade
    policy in which the union will have full authority and
    other areas to be shared with the member states, including
    justice, transportation and economic and social policy.

    It will also set up a new structure for an organization
    that was created for only 6 states and will soon have 25,
    with two permanent presidents, one foreign minister, a
    stronger administrative arm and a Parliament with expanded
    power to pass more legislation.

    But for many participants in the process, including
    Giuliano Amato, a former Italian prime minister and a
    constitutional law expert who is one of two vice presidents
    of the convention, the proposed constitution is lacking
    because it fails to create a common foreign and security

    "I'm not entirely satisfied," he said in an interview. "Too
    many member states are defending themselves instead of
    sharing power at the European level to make things better.
    It's each state beyond the constitution. That's why I'm not
    even sure we are entitled to call it a constitution."

    [On Friday, despite deep disagreements within the
    delegation, Valiry Giscard d'Estaing, the former French
    president who is the convention's president, told the final
    plenary session in Brussels that the convention had adopted
    a historic first draft. The forum rose for the union's
    anthem, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," and toasted their
    endeavor with Champagne.]

    With over 400 articles, the constitution is very much a
    work in progress. Mr. Giscard d'Estaing will present it to
    a summit meeting of the member heads of state in Greece
    next week. Then, in October, it will go into
    intergovernmental review, in which each member state has
    the right to demand changes. Each parliament - including
    those of next year's 10 newcomers - must ratify the
    document before it comes into force. Some countries, like
    Ireland and Denmark, will have national referendums - as
    required by their constitutions.

    Even the pope has weighed in, lobbying - thus far
    successfully - for a specific reference in the text to God
    and Europe's Christian heritage. After all, the union's
    debt to the "civilizations of Greece and Rome" and later
    "by the philosophical currents of the Enlightenment" are

    One of the main challenges to forming a more perfect
    European Union is one that the American founding fathers
    confronted: how to find a way for big states and small
    states to share power. France and other big states would
    like a strong president from a large country who would
    reflect their views, an idea that is anathema to the
    smaller states. Spain has vowed to fight to retain complex
    voting rules that give it power disproportionate to its
    population. (Spain has 27 votes in the union, only 2 fewer
    than Germany, which has more than twice its population.)

    Britain, which is skeptical about creating anything that
    looks like a European state, is demanding the absolute
    right for any member nation to veto decisions on foreign
    policy and taxation. Sometimes the big-small divide is
    trumped by history. Germany, for example, is more inclined
    to create a federal structure that would more closely
    resemble a United States of Europe.

    Another issue yet to be resolved is how to make the union
    more accountable to its citizens by opening the
    decision-making process to public scrutiny. "Right now, if
    my prime minister goes to Brussels and makes decisions
    behind closed doors, I as a parliamentarian cannot hold him
    to account because I only know the outcome, I don't know
    the process," said Gisela Stuart, a member of the British
    delegation and of the European Parliament. "It's the same
    with the ministers. They can tell me anything."

    The new constitution will introduce a single foreign
    minister to give the union a single actor on the
    international stage. It will also create a permanent
    president, elected by member heads of state, who will serve
    up to a five-year term to replace an unwieldy system in
    which the presidency rotates among member states every six

    Already there is intense speculation that Joschka Fischer,
    the German foreign minister as well as a convention
    delegate, is eager for the job of European foreign
    minister, even though it will probably not be created
    before 2006. In recent weeks, he suddenly began to talk to
    Anglophone journalists in English, and friends in Brussels
    said that he had asked them where one might want to live

    But there will continue to be two presidents indefinitely -
    one for the Council of the European Union, which consists
    of the heads of state of each member country, another for
    the European Commission, a kind of executive body that is
    more federal in nature and tends to take the smaller states
    more seriously.

    "You have an animal with two heads," said Mr. Amato, who
    favored a proposal to merge the two presidencies in 2015.
    "Can an animal with two heads survive for long?"

    Mr. Giscard d'Estaing answered yes. "We still have seven
    monarchies in the system," he said in an interview. "Some
    went through violent revolutionary uprisings, like France.
    Some were under the Communist rule for 50 years, 70 years.
    So if we try for an oversimplified system it cannot work."

    The draft constitution clearly states that "member states
    shall actively and unreservedly support the union's common
    foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and
    mutual solidarity" and shall "refrain from action contrary
    to the union's interests or likely to impair its
    effectiveness." But that was language picked up from
    previous treaties and did not prevent the union's deeply
    painful split on Iraq, which pitted countries like France
    and Germany against Spain and Britain.

    In a setback to those who wanted a more powerful union to
    help counterbalance the United States when it comes to
    issues like foreign policy, defense and taxation, each
    country - even Luxembourg, with a population of 440,000 -
    has the right to veto any decision on foreign policy and

    In one of the most ambitious expansions of the union's
    authority, the draft constitution also would create a
    European public prosecutor to combat terrorism and
    cross-border crimes like corruption, fraud and
    people-trafficking. It simplifies legislative and legal
    procedures and extends decision-making by majority vote,
    particularly in areas like justice, law enforcement,
    immigration, asylum, energy and the annual European Union

    The draft document also gives the union a "legal
    personality" that would allow it to sign international
    treaties. A solidarity clause will require member states to
    provide mutual assistance in case of terrorist attack. The
    constitution also explicitly bans slavery (which the
    original United States Constitution did not) and the death
    penalty (which was never banned in the American
    Constitution). There is even an exit clause so that a
    member state can secede from the union if it chooses.

    On defense matters, the constitution pledges enhanced
    "structured cooperation" for "more demanding tasks," but
    does not pledge military resources for common purposes. Not
    surprisingly, no effort was made to coax France and Britain
    to give up their seats as permanent members of the United
    Nations Security Council.

    Underscoring just how important national differences
    remain, the constitution will be published in the union's
    11 current official languages - 21 when the 10 new members
    are admitted next year. There was no agreement on what to
    call the new union once it has a constitution, so delegates
    deleted the space in the draft's preamble where a new name
    would have appeared.

    Even the inclusion of the dreaded word "federal" as a
    description of way the union would function was found to be
    objectionable, particularly by Britain. It was replaced by
    anodyne phrases like "united in an ever closer fashion."

    "The reality is that you have different visions for
    Europe," Jean-Luc Dehaene, the former Belgian prime
    minister who is a convention vice president, said in an
    interview. "So never fight for words. Just because someone
    doesn't want to name the baby, you don't throw out the

    Even in the best of circumstances, the constitution will
    not come into effect for years. So it will not solve the
    immediate problem of how to absorb the 10 new countries
    next year. With the expansion, the population of the
    European club will increase by 20 percent, but the average
    wealth per person will fall by about 13 percent because
    most of the newcomers are relatively poor.

    That means that the new union, which started out as a club
    for the rich, will have to find ways to balance the
    interests of a country like Luxembourg, which has a per
    capita gross domestic product of nearly $43,000, with a
    country like Lithuania, which has a per capita G.D.P. of

    The constitution also will not do away with the 80,000
    pages of European Union laws and regulations that dictate
    what members can and cannot do in some of the biggest and
    smallest areas of life. The rules govern such things as how
    to make cars and cigarettes, how corporations carry out
    acquisitions, how high a budget deficit a country is
    allowed to have, who is a dentist, what preservatives can
    be used to make beer, how many hours a week people can work
    and when hunters can shoot small birds.
  2. 1 Comments

  3. by   P_RN
    Hmmm 2 permanant presidents?
    "You have an animal with two heads," said Mr. Amato, who
    favored a proposal to merge the two presidencies in 2015.
    "Can an animal with two heads survive for long?"