Thursday

18th Jul 2019

Just like the constitution, say friends and foes of new EU treaty

  • The changes are purely "cosmetic", according to Mr Giscard d'Estaing (Photo: EUobserver)

Both advocates and critics of the complete draft of the new EU treaty highlight its similarity with the bloc's failed constitution. While advocates consider it the argument for a swift ratification through parliaments, critics maintain it should be decided by public referendum.

Diplomats and legal experts from EU member states are gathering on Tuesday (24 July) to kick off the first round of talks over the bloc's Reform treaty, formally unveiled as a full 277-page version at a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday.

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

According to EU officials, the launch of the "Intergovernmental conference" on the new treaty should be a smooth process of clearing away minor differences over technical details rather than serious political issues.

The draft is based on a detailed outline agreed by the bloc's leaders in late June. It stems from the legal text contained in the draft EU constitution, which was given a red light from French and Dutch citizens in 2005.

Valery Giscard d'Estaing, former chairman of the European Convention which drafted the 2004 constitution, has pointed out that the changes transforming it into 'Reform treaty' are purely "cosmetic".

But while the constitution was supposed to be adopted by referendum in several countries, the new document looks likely to be ratified predominantly by national MPs, with only Ireland openly signalling a popular vote.

For some, the similarity in content between the two documents should be followed by the same ratification method previously envisaged for the constitution.

"I haven't found one single difference in legal obligations," argues a veteran Danish MEP Jens-Peter Bonde, from a eurosceptic Group for Independence and Democracy in the European Parliament.

"The form is different, but the content is the same. That is why I propose a referendum in all EU," he added in a statement.

Heated debate in the UK

The same message is expressed by UK conservative opposition and eurosceptic political activists, such as Open Europe which argues that its analysis has shown 96 percent of the new text is the same as the rejected constitution.

"If Brown now tries to carry on pretending that this is somehow a different document, it will be one of the most audacious political lies in the last couple of decades. It would be simply ludicrous," said the group's director Neil O'Brien.

But while the British prime minister Gordon Brown has not yet openly ruled out a popular vote on the issue, his Europe minister Jim Murphy suggested the calls for a referendum were "frankly absurd," in his speech to the UK's House of Commons on Monday (23 July), according to the UK Daily Telegraph.

Similarly, the British foreign minister David Miliband argued in Brussels, "The concept of a constitution has been abandoned. That is made clear in the new treaty. In that context we don't think there needs to be a constitutional referendum."

The notion that popular votes should be avoided so as to prevent the 2005 French and Dutch scenario became part of the strategy following the decision by German chancellor Angela Merkel to revive the constitutional process, in a bid to save the institutional reforms the charter was to introduce.

Advocates of a parliamentary ratification of the new treaty argue that national deputies are representatives of EU citizens and so their vote should not be played down as less significant to public opinion.

Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency

Appalled over Coca-Cola sponsoring the recent Romanian EU presidency, MEPs have asked Finland, the new holders of the rotating post, to put an end to such practices. But Helsinki, whose presidency is sponsored by BMW, has no such plan.

EU commission has first-ever woman president

Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday obtained a narrow majority of support in the European Parliament to become the first-ever female president of the European Commission.

Von der Leyen's final appeal to secure top EU post

European Commission presidential-hopeful Ursula von Der Leyen delivered her key appeal in the European Parliament to secure the post. Her appeal appeared to appease most of the political groups - but a lack of specifics, and opposition from Greens remain.

Poland's ex-PM loses EU parliament chair again

Poland's former prime minister, Beata Szydlo, has cried foul after failing to get an EP committee chair a second time, in a fiasco which could spell trouble for the European Commission presidency vote on Tuesday.

Anti-separatist Spanish MEPs dominate liberty committee

The European Parliament's powerful civil liberties committee (Libe) has elected anti-separatist Spanish MEPs for its chair and vice-chair positions. The issue risks complicating efforts by pro-Catalan factions to have the debate on independence raised to the EU level.

Orban ally's bid to chair EP committee in trouble

Former communication chief of the Hungary's Fidesz party, Balazs Hidvegi, wants a senior spot on the European Parliament committee working on migration and law. His nomination was delayed following a surprise decision by the centre-right EPP group.

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. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  2. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  3. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  4. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  5. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  6. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?
  7. Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency
  8. MH17 five years on: when will Russia be punished?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us