29th Jun 2022

Convention: a turtle with a dragon's head?

Political symbols abound. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, chairman of the Convention on EU future, inaugurated the present session of the Convention with a statue of turtle with dragon's head. It sits on his table. With this metaphor, the Convention’s chairman aims at answering repeated criticisms that the Convention is too slow, it drags its feet on general discussions and risks failing to deliver a concrete strong project for the future of Europe.

Symbol of longevity and prudence

Asked by French member of the European Parliament Olivier Duhamel whether the turtle was the symbol for the Convention, Mr Giscard explained that the statue on his table was a turtle with a dragon head, from China. “It is the symbol of longevity, and of prudence,” he said, “its significance is that it gets you there.” The Convention’s chairman acknowledged the dragon-headed turtle should be the symbol for the Convention’s approach.

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  • With his new emblem, a dragon-headed turtle, Mr Giscard sends his critics the message that the Convention should not be underestimated, and that he strongly favours a successful result rather than quick but fragile progress. (Photo: EUobserver)

British minister for Europe Peter Hain hoped that the symbol of the Convention would change: “if the turtle is the symbol for the first part of the Convention’s work, I hope the hare will be its symbol soon,” Mr Hain said.

Lengthy listening phase necessary

A massive group of members of the Convention, national politicians and the press have heavily criticised the Convention for dragging its feet on general discussions and for failing to tackle essential questions linked to the institutional structure of the Union in parallel with debates on EU’s powers. Mr Giscard has resisted criticism and many calls for speeding up the tempo by skipping the general discussions. He argues that the listening phase, whereby civil society, youths groups and convention members brainstorm on broad subjects was necessary for setting the basis for solid work for drafting the future EU constitutional Treaty.

With his new emblem, the dragon-headed turtle, Mr Giscard sends his critics the message that the Convention should not be underestimated, and he strongly favours a successful result rather than a quick but fragile progress. He also made it clear to the EU heads of state, at the Seville summit last June, that he does not want to sacrifice the content of the future Treaty the Convention will draft for the sake of respecting a deadline.

The EU leaders urged the Convention to deliver its result on time. But Mr Giscard, who compares himself with Benjamin Franklin and dreams of entering the European history as the father of the European constitution, would not run the risk of presenting a too weak or an unacceptable strong text which would be “martyrised” by the EU states during the intergovernmental conference in 2004.

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