Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

The costs of no constitution

Adelina Marini, September 29, 2007

The European Commission is considering the idea of preparing a report of the costs of not having a constitution, but you already have prepared such a report. How expensive is the lack of a constitution for the EU?

JO LEINEN: The costs for the citizens and for Europe not having the new treaty – the Constitutional treaty are political costs. And there are real disadvantages that one could see already in the last months. For example fight against terrorism – it is clear that “Al Qaeda” and other terrorists groups can only be countered by European measures but we need unanimity in Brussels with now 27 member states it takes too long. With the Constitution we could have decisions with majority voting – it could go much quicker. So for the security of the citizens this is one element. I could mention energy policy. We know that we have a very fragile and unsecured energy situation and Europe has so far no competence to deal with our partners in the energy sector like Russia or the oil producers in the Middle East. But with the Constitution the EU would be responsible to act together for all the 27 states. I could mention much more examples where we have real disadvantages that we have to work with the old treaty of Nice which is not enough.

- Do you think that European politicians and statesman realize these arguments and the necessity of finally uniting some national policies into one?

JO LEINEN: Yes, I think that the atmosphere got much better in the last months. It was a bad atmosphere in Europe last year, in 2005. But in the mean time we can feel that the Constitution is not about institutions, not about only how the Commission and the Council or the European Parliament is composed. The Constitution is about politics. So what are the challenges that we have to meet in common in Europe? What are the capacities of Europe to defend its interests as well as its values and in last months it gets clearer and clearer that Europe has big challenges for security, for energy provision, for migration even to deal with catastrophes we have to prepare ourselves. Such things can only be done on the European level and I would say awareness gets bigger that we need more Europe and not less Europe.

- How can these arguments presented comprehensively before the European citizens and thus approved so that we can avoid another “no” series in future referenda?

JO LEINEN: I think we have to talk in the language of the citizens – to be very concrete and very direct and tell the citizens the very practical advantages that we will have in our daily life if Europe has better competencies and sufficient capacity to do things in common. And I think it’s possible because there are many practical items that we are confronted with in our lives and politicians and the political class has to be concrete and not abstract. OK, we are in favour of Europe because it means peace, freedom, it means economic development but the citizens want to have more concrete examples and we have to show that these are challenges where only common European approach is the solution. And we have to deliver results, we have to show that we are able to promote and progress together.

- One of the biggest fears around the constitution is the giving up of sovereignty. Is this correct and how can this be solved as a problem?

JO LEINEN: Not at all. The Romanian constitution will stay the Romanian constitution and the European constitution is only adding values where we have competencies together so it is not replacing the national constitution but it is an addition where we have agreed where Europe should act and especially when we call the European treaty a constitution it’s because the Charter of fundamental rights is part of it and in this Charter we have 50 rights and freedoms and liberties which the people of Europe enjoy and that is the very nice thing about Europe. You could enlarge your personal possibilities by traveling across the continent, working across the continent and studying in other countries. And this will work for Romania and Bulgaria very soon. These are the very concrete advantages – to be a citizen of the EU.

- The French interior minister who might become a president candidate next year proposed earlier in the month the EU to act urgently and adopt a mini treaty containing important elements from the Constitution. Do you think this is a good idea and how possible it is this idea to be supported by most European countries?

JO LEINEN: The constitutional treaty was negotiated over 3 years, all governments, all parliaments have participated in this process and we reached a global compromise with balanced result for various interests we have in Europe, so cherry-picking is a very dangerous procedure because you might not have consensus among the 27 what is important and what is not important. But the European Parliament and the upcoming German presidency and other countries they want to save this global compromise of innovations and advantages for a united Europe and not to give up too early and too quickly into a mini treaty as Mr. Sarkozy from France is proposing. The good thing about his speech is that he is showing commitment that France, of course, would have to deal again with the constitution and very soon they have to decide again on hopefully a “yes” to Europe and not like the first referendum an unfortunate “no” that had many motivations and most of them had nothing to do with the real concrete project of the constitution but more with internal bad atmosphere in France about their own government.

- Do you think that European Commission’s report about the costs of no-constitution would have similar conclusions as yours?

JO LEINEN: I think that in our communication policy we have to show the public and the citizens what we win with the constitution. Sometimes there is the feeling that we lose something and the opposite is right neither the member states, nor the citizens are losing something, on the contrary - Europe is winning and the citizens of Europe are winning. And therefore I hope that the Commission gets active in the next weeks, comes up with a publication on the costs of the constitution and the costs, mostly political costs, of not having this new competencies and these new instruments.