22nd Oct 2018

Slovenia joins constitution revival camp

Slovenia has joined the camp of member states aiming at a revival of the EU constitution, while Denmark has backed Austria in its criticism on the European Court of Justice.

"In Slovenia, we are convinced that the EU constitution is very much alive," Slovenian foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel told foreign diplomats on Wednesday (11 January), according to Austrian daily Der Standard.

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  • Ljubljana - Slovenia will be the first new member state to hold the presidency in 2008 (Photo: European Commission)

The comment came after a contrasting statement by Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot, who earlier the same day declared that the charter was "dead" as far as The Hague is concerned.

The constitution was put on ice by EU leaders after French and Dutch voters rejected it in referendums last May and June.

Slovenia was one of the first countries to ratify the constitution in February last year, and has now joined the camp of states seeking to resuscitate the charter.

Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency, leads the revival camp, with leader Wolfgang Schussel declaring on Monday "the constitution is not dead. It is in the middle of a ratification process."

Ljubljana will be the first new member state to hold the EU presidency in the early half of 2008, which means that the bloc now faces a series of presidencies that intend to breathe new life into the text.

Germany, which will be at the helm of the bloc in the first half of 2007, has already said the revival of the constitution is a key priority for its presidency, with chancellor Angela Merkel proposing to attach a declaration on the "social dimension of Europe" in a bid to save the charter.

Portugal, which takes over from the Germans in the second half of 2007, has said it will continue Berlin’s bid during its stint at the EU helm.

But Finland, which takes over from Austria in July this year, has indicated it is reluctant to join the constitution revival campaign.

Finnish president Tarja Halonen earlier this week expressed surprise over the Austrian stance, with both countries having drawn up a common 2007 working programme.

"To us, the recess declared after the referendums in France and Holland is still valid," Ms Halonen told El Pais, referring to the so-called "reflection period" on the constitution agreed by EU leaders last June after the French and Dutch votes.

The European Commission also wants an extended reflection period until 2009, with communication commissioner Margot Wallstrom saying that attempts at "constitutional engineering" are "dangerous," arguing that Europe should take more time to listen to its citizens first.

Denmark criticises EU court

Meanwhile, the Austrian presidency received backing on Wednesday on another issue related to the future of Europe – its critical stance towards the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday according to Der Standard "We all easily have the feeling that there [at the ECJ], decisions are being taken of which the basis of the judgements do not fully correspond with what we have agreed as the political basis of the development of the EU."

Without mentioning concrete examples, Mr Rasmussen indicated "I keep a critical eye on the court."

The statements from Copenhagen echo remarks made by Mr Schussel last week, who said that "the ECJ…has in the last couple of years systematically expanded European competencies, even in areas, where there is decidedly no [European] community law."

The Austrian leader called for the debate on the future of the EU to focus not only on the fate of the EU constitution but also on the role of the EU’s top court.

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