Andrew Duff’s Constitution Plus

With a name borrowed from the Spanish Constitutional campaign “Referendum Plus” run by the Youth Council there, Andrew Duff launches today his “Constitution Plus” – how to and what to renegotiate (about the European Constitution). I will paste here the synopsis of what this super-productive British Liberal Member of the European Parliament will present in full today (28th) in Brussels.

The general point he makes is:

“he proposes to ring-fence Parts I and II of the 2004 treaty from being opened up”

So, keeping parts I and II intact. This is a big chunk already for many of the governments – institutional changes (which are indeed good) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights would thus be best left untouched according to Mr Duff.

He then suggests:

“small number of highly significant improvements” to Parts III and IV”

It is true that the Convention was basically left with no time to properly work on the Part III (the policies part) during its proceedings. The policies have been thus basically copy-pasted from previous Treaties and amended only slightly, linking them also to new institutional changes in the Part I and II.

But there is more:

• Simplified revision procedure to Part III (Article IV-445) normal amendments to the common policies and to the operational details of the EU should enter into force once they have been ratified by four fifths of member states.

Good!

• The Charter of Fundamental Rights should be published separately as an annex to the constitution, and enjoy a unique revision procedure (Article IV-443 bis new).

Would need some more explanation, I think it weakens the role of the Charter by excluding it from the main body of the Constitution. But fair enough, if this would solve Blair’s problems with its acceptance. I doubt it.

• The internal consistency of the treaty would be improved by referring to full employment (rather than a ‘high level’ of employment) throughout (Article III-117).

A Liberal wants to refer to full employment. Interesting.

• The description of the general economic policy of the EU needs to be modernised to reflect contemporary reality in an era of globalisation (Article III-177).

Needs more explanation.

• The Union’s detailed economic policies should be updated and expanded to include the priorities of the Lisbon agenda (Article III-178).

Lisbon everywhere.

• With respect to economic and monetary union, the contra-cyclical intention of the excessive deficit procedure should be emphasised and the Commission’s powers to propose changes in national budgetary policy increased (Article III-184).

Another revision of the Stability and Growth Pact?

• The Euro Group should be formalised in order to increase the leadership potential of the euro area states and to boost the drive towards structural reform (Article III-195).

Agree, but Euro is still enhanced cooperation

• The social dimension of the single market and the objectives of an integrated European economic society should be laid down, complemented by a declaration and/or protocol of enhanced cooperation in social policy (Article III-209).

Again, we know this is to please the French, but…This again comes from a Liberal whose country would be the first to have problems with anything called “social dimension of the single market” if it was to go beyond mere words.

• Environmental policy should be upgraded and modified to include climate change and bio-diversity, and the goal of a resource efficient economy established (Articles III-119 and III-233).

Fair enough.

• Reform and modernisation of the common agricultural policy (Article III-227).

Dear Mr Duff, here we might speak of decades, you want the Constitution by 2009?

• Reform of the common fisheries policy and its separation from the CAP (Article III-227 bis new).

Same as above…

• Reform of the common energy policy to emphasise the need for safe supply, to boost the demand for conservation and renewable energy, and to promote solidarity between member states (Article III-256).

Good.

• Installation of a new chapter on enlargement policy, including the Copenhagen criteria, the accession process, a new category of associate membership, and a stronger neighbourhood policy (Articles III-xxx-xyx).

Note “associate membership” 🙂 I wonder to whom this would go…

• Addition of a new clause on communications policy between the EU and the citizen (Article III-122 bis new).

OH, leave communications policy out for once…

Andrew Duff also proposes that the IGC should embrace as part of its negotiations the review of the financial system of the Union scheduled for 2008-09 and, in particular, attempt as part of the negotiation to reform the own resources system.

Good point, this is quite essential.

With regard to the process, Duff proposes a new form of constitutional co-decision between the IGC and the European Parliament, and the establishment of a joint ‘conciliation committee’ to achieve cross-party as well as trans-national consensus.

Good, although I would prefer to leave the IGC out alltogether and only task the Convention of writing/amending the Constitution. We can debate the composition of the Convention again.

I’ve always shared the same opinion that dividing the Constitution into an “institutional part” and a “policy part” with a specific revision procedure makes absolute sense. If you consider it for a minute, it is strange to call something a “Constitutional Treaty” and then include more than 200 pages of policies…This was clearly a flaw with the Convention.

But Duff, at least in this summary, fails to explain how any of the parts could enter into force realistically before 2009. If we have to wait for the CAP revision in order to start the “institutional part” ratification, we can forget to see it in place before 2015. So taking the “institutional part” separately would be the way to go. But what do we do with those countries that have ratified already? Do we simply take for granted that Part I and Part II are ratified by those countries, or we re-start completely the process? Sadly, both make sense to a certain extent.

Also, Duff seems to try to offer his view of the complete revision of the EU, which is odd. It’s odd because his suggestions are questionably Liberal and it’s odd, because this is not the point. No one really gave the Convention the task to revise the EU politically. If it would be me, I would simply keep the eye on the institutions and suggest possible ways out of the deadlock, not present my political vision of the EU. Hardly useful I would say.
Anyway, let’s wait for Duff to present his ideas and then read more…

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2 thoughts on “Andrew Duff’s Constitution Plus

  1. Hey Marko!

    let me first say that it’s a really nice blog! well done!

    You are mentioning in this entry that Duff didn’t touch the issue how we ratify this Constitution.. well, I could only anticipate a small excerpt of his answer that he has given to us for the next TNF edition. Basically, he is totally against of having an European wide referendum because as he says, it will divide Europe (?), which is the last thing we need today and also this method will be in breach with the Treaty. So, he’s not an adept of an European referendum but at the same time he’s not coming up with an alternative.

    To be honest, so far, I find Onesta’s proposal bold enough to move on with the Constitution, even though some of Duff’s suggestions seem very appealing at this point.

    Cheers, Kate

  2. Hi Kate, nice that you popped by.

    Well, this is precisely the weakest point of his paper. He argues for a greater involvement of the European Parliament as he has done before several times. Duff is a firm beliver that only political parties mediate the voice of the people.

    He says, in the closing of his pamphlet that a constitution co-decision system should be put in place whereby the EP should agree on all the changes together with the IGC. Then he leaves it open: either national ratifications via the parliaments or via referendums.

    As to dividing Europe. I have also written elsewhere (for the http://www.thenewfederalist.eu) that I would favour a Euro-wide referendum on something else than a Constitution. To put in place such a strong and divisive tool for the first time on something as basic as the constitution, seems to me innapropriate. But well, we do not really have better alternatives…

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