Wednesday

8th Dec 2021

France and Germany at odds over constitution

Fresh proposals by French president Jacques Chirac to ratify only single aspects of the EU constitution have put him at odds with German chancellor Angela Merkel, who has reiterated that constitutional cherry-picking "does not work."

In a speech before diplomats on Tuesday (10 January), Mr Chirac presented his view on how to break the EU’s constitutional deadlock, a topic which has been placed firmly back on the agenda by the new Austrian presidency of the EU.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Ms Merkel's proposal to save the constitution was not mentioned by Mr Chirac (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The French leader proposed to "improve the functioning of the [EU] institutions, starting from the framework of the existing treaties", according to press reports.

Mr Chirac singled out three areas where he wishes to see closer co-operation, "internal security and justice, external action and better involvement of national parliaments in the European decision-making process."

The French leader's demand for closer integration only in single policy areas covered by the EU constitution conflicts sharply with the line taken by German leader Angela Merkel, who seeks to relaunch the text in its entirety.

Ms Merkel in an interview with Der Spiegel reiterated her resistance against cherry-picking individual aspects of the text, saying that this would "seriously damage the overall balance," FAZ reports.

"To put single parts of this constitution into force, and leave others aside, without knowing where you want to go, that does not work," she was quoted as saying.

Social declaration

The German chancellor has instead proposed to attach a declaration on the "social dimension of Europe" to the failed EU constitution, in a bid to save the charter as a whole.

The proposal is seen as having been designed to soothe French voter's fears of job losses and the undermining of western European welfare standards by the bloc’s 2004 eastern enlargement, which played a large role in the French "no" to the constitution in last year’s referendum.

But Ms Merkel’s proposal was not mentioned by Mr Chirac in his speech on Tuesday, further highlighting the cleavage over the issue between Paris and Berlin.

Pioneer eurozone group

Instead, Mr Chirac tabled another proposal which is contrary to the Merkel government’s interests – the formation of a "pioneer group" of eurozone states.

"The member states of the eurozone have a natural vocation to deepen their political, economic, fiscal and social integration," the president stated.

Although politicians of Ms Merkel’s CDU party have championed similar "core Europe" ideas in the past, the idea runs contrary to the German chancellor’s ambition to improve relations with Britain and the new EU member states, which fall outside the eurozone.

Chirac and Fabius

Possibilities for the traditional French-German axis to overcome its differences over the constitution are limited, as Mr Chirac is bound to the French electorate's "no" to the charter.

Mr Chirac, who is seen as likely to seek re-election as a president in the 2007 elections, said he would "respect" the referendum outcome.

Pressure on the French leader not to alienate himself from his voters is likely to increase with the presidential candidature of Laurent Fabius, a socialist and former prime minister who succesfully campaigned on the "no" side.

Mr Fabius announced his bid for the French presidency on Tuesday, challenging other socialist candidates such as current socialist party leader Francois Hollande and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former finance minister.

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

EU parliament snubs anti-corruption researchers

Transparency International carried out three separate studies on integrity, of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council (representing member states). The European Parliament refused to cooperate.

Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office

The new European Public Prosecutor's office will become operational in March. It is tasked to carry out criminal fraud investigations of the EU budget. But of the 140 required European delegated prosecutors, only nine have so far set up office.

News in Brief

  1. EU agrees to sanction Russian mercenaries
  2. Germany asks Iran for realistic nuclear proposals
  3. US to send troops to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine
  4. Will EU follow US on China Olympics boycott?
  5. EU flight passengers dropped 73% in 2020
  6. EU 'biggest vaccine-donor in world', von der Leyen announces
  7. Majority of EU citizens worried about internet's impact
  8. Redesigned euro banknotes coming from 2024

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Latest News

  1. Denmark and Hungary oppose EU rules on minimum wages
  2. Slovenian corruption estimated at 13.5% of GDP
  3. Lithuania seeks EU protection from Chinese bullying
  4. Using Istanbul Convention to stop online abuse of women
  5. EU spends record €198bn on defence in 2020
  6. EU Parliament demands justice after 'anti-vax' attack on MEP
  7. Kaczyński and Le Pen make friends at anti-EU 'summit'
  8. Croat police kept handwritten logbook of likely pushbacks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us