European Patriotism

This blog is about European patriotism and world politics from a European perspective.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

European Constitution

I decided to write a little bit about my thoughts of the new European constitution and its ratification. As you might know, the constitution must be ratified by all EU member states, but some of them decided (because of the citizens' decision) not to ratify them. These countries include France and the Netherlands. Why did the Dutch and the French people say "No" to the EU constitution? Well, the farmers worried about their subsidies and they're powerful in France. But why did the Dutch people reject the EU constitution? I don't know it. I just can't understand it and it makes me angry. It's a great chance and opportunity fur the EU member states to come closer together and to unite. EU citizens should understand the importance of a united European Union. Alone we are a nobody, together we are a world power. The French people are a brake for the whole European unification process. It's important to have a "European" France, because France could make the EU a nuclear power, which would mean a certain military strength. But they are skeptic like the British. But back to topic. What is this EU constitution about? Let's take a colser look into the law text. I'm not a jurist, so don't expect a scientific critique from me. I'm just trying to recite the law text and to think about it and interpret it. To the structure of the constitution: There are four big "parts" + a Final Act. All Articles start with the Roman numerals I, II, III or IV and are then followed by Arabic numerals from 1 to 448. Part I gives the general rules on the values, aims, symbols, fundamental rights and institutions and decision-making processes of the Union. Part II contains the Charter of Fundamental Rights. A special Declaration adds to the understanding of each Article in the Charter. Part III contains the different policies and the concrete decision-making methods for every topic. Here we find the major parts of the founding Treaty of Rome. Part IV gives the final Articles and the rules for future changes to the Constitution.
The Final Act gives an overview of all Protocols and attached Declarations. The Protocols are as legally binding as the main Treaty Articles. The Declarations have no legal value, but can facilitate understanding. Something to the History: The final text of 'The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe' was approved by the Heads of State and Government on Friday 18 June 2004, then tidied up, and formally signed on the Capitol Hill in Rome on Friday 29 October 2004. The Preamble of the European Constitution is a hot topic not only in Germany. Should we mention god or shouldn't we? Are we a nation under god or aren't we? The EU has a strong church history and I would agree: Christianity is part of European culture. But I'm against a mention of god, because I am an atheist and I don't believe in god. Europeans should be free to choose their religion or their non-religion. I have nothing against these Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddihsts or whatever, but it should be their private thing. I don't want to be involved in this crap. I don't want to hear anything about this stupid mystic bullshit. The EU is not a nation under god, it is a nation under reason. A mention of god would have a negative influence of European science policy. Just think of stem cell research, astronomy, physics, evolutionary biology etc... The freedom of science is in danger! Really, I am a strong opponent of a mention of god in the preamble. I zone out all the time, sorry for that, but there is so much to say. The topic of my essay is the constitution of course and I'm zoning out all the time. Back to the law interpretation of the constitution. As I said above, Part II contains the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Of course, the other Parts are also important, but more in a bureaucratic and regulative way. Part II is the Part which describes European anthropology and the dignity of all human beings. Let’s take a closer look. I quote the constitution: “The peoples of Europe, in creating an ever closer union among them, are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values. Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice. The Union contributes to the preservation and to the development of these common values while respecting the diversity of the cultures and traditions of the peoples of Europe as well as the national identities of the Member States and the organisation of their public authorities at national, regional and local levels; it seeks to promote balanced and sustainable development and ensures free movement of persons, services, goods and capital, and the freedom of establishment. To this end, it is necessary to strengthen the protection of fundamental rights in the light of changes in society, social progress and scientific and technological developments by making those rights more visible in a Charter. This Charter reaffirms, with due regard for the powers and tasks of the Union and the principle of subsidiarity, the rights as they result, in particular, from the constitutional traditions and international obligations common to the Member States, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Social Charters adopted by the Union and by the Council of Europe and the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and of the European Court of Human Rights. In this context the Charter will be interpreted by the courts of the Union and the Member States with due regard to the explanations prepared under the authority of the Praesidium of the Convention which drafted the Charter and updated under the responsibility of the Praesidium of the European Convention. Enjoyment of these rights entails responsibilities and duties with regard to other persons, to the human community and to future generations. The Union therefore recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out hereafter.” I totally agree with this. Article II-61 says, that human dignity unviolable is. This is very similar to German Basic law § 1. Article II-62 deals with the right to life for every human being. Everyone has the right to life. No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed. The following text prohibits torture and saves fundamental human rights.
I cannot understand why the Dutch and French voted “no” to the constitution, I think it’s a good and modern one. I hope for a new referendum in 2007.

4 Comments:

Blogger Kirsty said...

The refusal was a tragic blow indeed, but, for me it was no surprise.

Maybe I can offer some insight on this decision, however this is pure speculation on my part.

I will start with my fundamental argument - the EU has failed miserably in establishing a sense of public involvement in EU politics. It is too remote - there is no connection with its citizens.

The best example I can give you is the EU parliament. It is an institution of power, supposedly a representative institution. Since the mid 80's it has experienced significant changes, more so than any other major EU body. The cumulative effect of these changes has been a significant increase concerning the role the EP plays within the Union's structure. MEP's now have much more influence over EU policy (and it is getting broader all the time), more so than the national parliaments of the Member States.

MEP's are elected, yet how efficiently do they represent EU citizens?

Point I:
The elections themselves were not well received - very low levels of turnout. They are perceived as being less important than national elections.

Point 2:
When asked whether they wanted an increase in the EP's powers, only 40% of EU citizens said yes (survey from 2001 - yes its a little dated, but recent data is hard to find), as opposed to 60% in previous years. Why the steep decline? According to scholars, this is due to a phenomenon known as 'non-attitudes' - basically, people are so out of touch with the workings of the EP that they base their answers on their perception of the EU as a whole - not their knowledge of the EP itself.

Thus, while the EP is an important policy-making chamber, it falls short in many respects as a representative one.

Personally, I feel that it is this apathy towards EU politics that needs to be addressed before any move towards a constitution. The constitution is the means to an end - why would people vote for something they know nothing about?

1:06 PM  
Blogger Kirsty said...

I just wanted to add that I think you've chosen a great subject for your blog - I'm always happy to see one of the faithful - it is rare in these times of Euroscepticism :) Keep it up!

PS. Just to let you know, I've linked you from my blog.

Greetz,

Kirsty

1:22 PM  
Blogger AmersfoortTristan said...

Uhmm... sorry fellow patriot but I did vote NO as well.
Why? I don't really like privatisations, the constitution looked like they didn't took much care of it and I believed that our Constitution should be one of the people, instead one of governments.

Europe can do better then this, so "I did send it back to Brussels", if they come up with something better, I'll be happy to give it my approval.

Greetz, Tristan (Can I join your group if you have one)

7:00 PM  
Blogger majorkiller said...

If the constitution is re-written i'll bet you Britain, if knowbody else, will reject it.

6:24 AM  

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