Monday

20th May 2019

EU leaders abandon constitution deadline

  • "We reaffirmed that there is no alternative to this constitution", said the commission president (Photo: European Commission)

EU leaders meeting in Brussels have agreed a "period of reflection" on the constitution amid fears that a knock-on effect would mean the document would be rejected in countries still planning to have referendums.

Governments are to come together in one year, under the Austrian EU presidency, to take stock of the situation.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

However, they stressed that the constitution itself will not be renegotiated and that ratification will continue.

Announcing the decision, Luxembourg prime minister and current head of the EU Jean-Claude Juncker said "we all believe that the constitution is the right answer to the many questions of the European people.

"We believe ratification must continue".

But it will be up to national governments when to ratify and how - with the process not likely to be ended before mid-2007, according to Mr Juncker.

The current deadline of end of October 2006 "is no longer tenable" said the prime minister who stressed that countries that want to ratify the document via their parliaments may do so while member states planning to have referendums "will decide autonomously when those referendums are to be organised".

Luxembourg under the spotlight

As the next country to have a referendum, on 10 July, Luxembourg comes under the immediate spotlight.

But it is not up to Mr Juncker to postpone the planned referendum - with recent polls showing the No side gaining ground - as this has to be decided by the country's parliament.

Luxembourg MPs must "decide if further debate is required" said Mr Juncker adding that he cannot "prejudge" their decision.

Other countries have already indicated that they will postpone their decision - effectively putting ratification on ice.

Denmark's Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that his country's referendum, planned for 27 September, will be postponed until there is more "clarity" but did not set a new date.

Meanwhile, an Irish government spokesperson indicated that Dublin is also considering postponing its referendum, which had been set to take place in the autumn.

The UK had put it referendum plans on ice already while the Czech Republic and Portugal are planning to.

Only Poland has committed itself to pressing ahead with a referendum on 9 October.

So far, ten countries have ratified the constitution, two have rejected it - France and the Netherlands - and 13 still have yet to ratify it.

Referring to the French and Dutch No, Mr Juncker said "I really believe neither the French nor the Dutch rejected the constitutional treaty", adding that "unfortunately, the electorate did not realise that the constitutional treaty was specifically aimed at meeting their concerns and that's why we need to have a period of explanation to explain this to our citizens".

Europe will not stop

Legally, the constitution can only come into force if all 25 member states have ratified it - meaning that Paris and The Hague would have to put the document to their people once more.

While the rejections in both countries are still too fresh, there could be a possibility to put it to another referendum in France after the 2007 elections, when there may be a new French leader.

But Mr Juncker denied that this thought had figured when he mentioned that ratification wil take at least until mid-2007.

European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said "Europe's not going to stop" adding that "the EU has to meet citizens' expectations in Europe".

Analysis

Sibiu: EU leaders prepare post-Brexit show of unity

With the European elections just three weeks away, the EU-27 will try to set the agenda for the next years for the EU institutions. But with persisting divisions on key issues, unity will be an achievement in itself.

Exclusive

Ombudsman backs EUobserver on MEP expenses

The European Parliament should have granted access to documents on a decision about how transparent MEPs should be in future with their office expenses, says EU Ombudsman.

EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

EU institutions want Facebook to relax its rules, to allow pan-European political groups to carry out EU-wide campaigns. Facebook has yet to implement the demands - posing questions on the extent to which Europe relies on the US tech firm.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden Democrat MEP ousted for revealing sex harassment
  2. 80% of Erasmus students find job within three months
  3. September elections in Austria after Strache scandal
  4. Swiss voters approve tighter gun controls in line with EU
  5. Report: May's fourth Brexit vote a 'retread' of old ideas
  6. Turkey insists on right to drill for oil off Cyprus coast
  7. Anti-Salvini banners become new trend in Italy
  8. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us