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The European Constitution: 2007 and the Great Trial of Strength

Translated Tuesday 9 January 2007, by Steve McGiffen

A position statement by Francis Wurtz, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and president of the Confederal Group of the United European Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)

"The year 2007, especially during its first half, weighed heavily in the struggle to determine the direction of a future European treaty. I recall that the European Council of Heads of State and Government assigned to the German EU presidency (which covers the first half of 2007) the task of opening a process of talks around this sensitive subject, and to the future French presidency (second half of 2008) the responsibility of conducting the final negotiations. And so, major manoeuvres have begun.

"I had the opportunity, before Christmas, to meet the presidents of the other European Parliamentary political groups, the German federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, surrounded also by her entire government, half Christian-Democrat, half Social-Democrat. They were unanimous in stating that their ’priority number one’ from now until next June will be to relaunch the constitutional project. It’s essential, for advocates of this policy to "convince the citizens ... that it’s a good treaty’. They are prepared to make some improvements but not to the ’substance’. In this context, the 25th of March, the date on which the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Common Market by the Treaty of Rome will be celebrated, will provide the occasion for a solemn declaration in praise of the ’values’, the ’principles’ and the achievements of the present European construction.

"On the same subject, the Socialist Prime Minister of Spain, José Luis Zapatero, and the Christian-Democrat head of the Luxembourg government, Jean-Claude Juncker, have taken a joint initiative: they have invited to Madrid the heads of those countries, and only those countries, which have ratified the Constitutional project (!) for a meeting on 26 January. Then, a month later, in Luxembourg, all of the twenty-seven member states will meet, as if to point the finger at the naughty students of the European classroom. Must one remind the Prime Minister of Luxembourg of what he wrote two years before the triumph of the ’no’? ’The prospect of the referendum has set in motion in France a praiseworthy debate, the quality of which impresses,’ the then president of the European Council stressed. "Once again, the French people are giving an example to be followed; once again, they are proving their democratic maturity.’ What a shame that they made such poor use of this ’maturity’ when it came to polling day, giving an ’example’ certainly not to be followed!

"For its part, the Barroso Commission, not wanting to be left on the outside looking in, has just published a ’working document’ on ’the costs of not having a constitution’.

"From this we can learn about all we have lost through not having ratified this ’refounding’ text. Everything’s here: fundamental rights; social and health policy; participatory democracy; a common foreign policy; through to the capacity of the Union to ’respond to attacks on citizens’ with regard to the ’struggle against terrorism or organised crime’ or to ’respond in an appropriate fashion’ to ’heavy migratory pressures’! If, after that, you still won’t vote ’yes’, one can only despair at this ’French people’ and its ’praiseworthy debate’.

"All of this agitation has a single objective: to play all the tables (fear of isolation, fatigue, even the illusion that changes have been made) in an attempt to help the future French government which will emerge from this spring’s elections to ’sweeten the pill’ of a European treaty which will no longer perhaps be called a ’constitution’ but which will preserve the ’substance’ of the project rejected in 2005. The German Chancellor is clear about this: it will only be ’after the elections in France’ that the meat of the subject will be revisited. Her Minister of Foreign Affairs, a social democrat, is equally forthright: ’We will attempt to present at the end of the presidency (in June), an outline of the text...which we are sure can be applied’.

"None of these European leaders seems to have been moved by Nicolas Sarkozy’s cry that ’Europe was a project, now it’s become a machine!’, or by the verbal admonishments of Ségolène Royal aimed at the president of the European Central Bank.

"It’s time to open a thoroughgoing debate on the Europe that we want and on the responsibilities that the future leaders of France will commit themselves to assume in the great trial of strength to come. The programme developed by the union of the anti-neoliberal left is, in regard to this subject, extremely topical. I have every confidence in Marie-George Buffet of the French Communist Party to carry all of us along with her in this."

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