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The future of the EU constitutional project: Analysis of the converging capacity among the various institutional players

Abstract GEAB N°2
16/02/2006

The internal difficulties of the member-states in continuing the European constitutional project were detailed in GEAB Nr1. This month, LEAP/E2020 undertakes to analyse the converging capacity on this subject of the various institutional players. It was indeed one of the three requirements defined in this field.

Within the EU Council, it is illusory to envisage the least agreement to be made on the future of the constitutional project until 2009, when the next European elections take place. Indeed, the hopes certain people may have that a « French solution » will emerge after the next presidential election of this country in 2007, are of the same kind as the hopes of the same people during Spring 2005 that poll opinions would head towards the “Yes”. As described in GEAB Nr1, LEAP/E2020 does not see how the future French president, whoever that is, would be able to obtain the slightest majority (including parliamentary) in favour of a ratification of a constitutional project similar to the one rejected last May. In the case of The Netherlands, things are even more obvious. It is therefore impossible for the years to come to find an agreement within the EU Council since each member State will depend on very different domestic conditions, often incompatible with compromises on this aspect. Countries which have already ratified the treaty will not retract, countries which already rejected it have the same constraint, and countries which haven’t yet done so will remain in the expectative. “Per se” the Council is therefore incapable of defining a common position on that aspect. This situation describes the general framework of the convergence of institutional players on the future of the Constitution: in fact, beyond declarations of intention and symbolic postures, such a convergence is made impossible by the very division within the Council.

As to the other two EU institutions, the Commission and the European Parliament, none of them will have a significant political influence until 2009 on this aspect. The European Commission is no longer (since a decade already) an influential political decision-maker on the big European issues. It is facing great difficulties, a very negative image among the public opinion, and a structural incapacity to implement an efficient communication policy. For LEAP/E2020 therefore, whatever will be the Commission’s declarations, and those of its communication relays (Brussels think-tanks or pro-European movements), they will have no effect on the progress of the « European Constitution” file, unless it proposed the suppression of Title III. But Title III reviews precisely the powers and competences that the Commission wishes to constitutionalise. It is therefore extremely unlikely that such proposition could be expressed by this institution in the years to come; or that the Commission would converge with the Council in case the latter would propose it.

As regards the European Parliament, it is in a paradoxical situation as it is deprived from any political or judicial means enabling it to have an influence on the re-launch of the constitutional process. Euro MPs voted some projects in this sense which had no political impact on where it was required to have some, that is on the public opinion or on the leadership of big national parties. So as to play a leading role (and potentially it could play this role as theoretically it results [1] from the only available European election), the European Parliament should incarnate a real popular legitimacy and build a capacity to act independently from member-States (and therefore from national parties) and from the Commission. Such development is of course impossible until at least the next European election.

Until 2009, LEAP/E2020 sees no converging capacity whatsoever for the EU institutions to re-launch the European Constitution project.

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