Outside Europe, there seems to be little interest in the “constitutional negotiations(link to Deutsche Welle)”:http://www.dw-world.de/english/0,3367,1433_A_985962_1_A,00.html that began in Rome this weekend. But it’s a crucial step: this will be the first time that Europe has had a continent-wide constitution. Up to now, it had treaties (the “Treaty of Rome(BBC Glossary)”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/europe/euro-glossary/1054640.stm) and intergovermental agreements reached at Summit meetings. If agreement is reached, Europe will soon have a new legal personality: not described as the “European Federation” but federal in all but name. * ‘Majority’ voting on almost all issues including e.g. immigration and refugees. A decision would be adopted if supported by at least half the member states representing 60% of the population (double qualification).
* A ‘legal personality’ for Europe: that is, the capacity to sign treaties on its own behalf, committing all 25 member states
* An elected President of Europe in office for up to 5 years (not a ‘rotated’ national ‘Presidency’ as now), an appointed ‘Foreign Minister’ and a public prosecutor
* EU legal supremacy in its areas of ‘competance’ over the laws and parliaments of member states These negotiations are, as usual in modern Europe, a cold-blooded battle pitched between (one one hand) grand continental strategies backed by optimistic economic projections and (on the other hand) narrower national interests defined by economic power, sentimental historicism, external alliances and cutural arrogance. It could be riveting to watch: but, unfortunately, it mostly takes place in back rooms behind a dreadful old damask woven from almost impenetrable euro-chatter (‘subsidiarity’, ‘cohesion’, ‘co-decision’). The BBC provides by far the “best guide(BBC News outline of EU constitution)”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2950276.stm to the main decisions and issues. Meanwhile, France joins Germany in skating the margins of an abominable “zero rate of economic growth”:http://www.lemonde.fr/article/0,5987,3224–336711-,00.html for 2003 and le discours plunges headlong (as is the way in France) into some very “dark reflections”:http://www.iht.com/articles/112118.html on the achievements of French eoncomic, social and foreign policy
Peter Gallagher is a leading Australian consultant on trade and public policy.[bio].
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