At the European Union’s coming EU summit, debate will center on whether to go forward with a “mini” EU Constitutional Treaty. That debate is the result of the rejection of the draft treaty by French and Dutch voters in 2005. But those “no” votes have obscured the fact that 18 of the EU’s 27 member states have ratified the treaty. Luxembourg’s voters, for example, approved it by a 56.5% majority immediately after the Dutch and French no votes. Indeed, with two-thirds of member states and a majority of European citizens supporting the Treaty, it cannot simply be abandoned.
At the same time, French and Dutch citizens’ voices cannot be ignored – all the more so because it is unimaginable that an identical text could be submitted to a second referendum in either country. Because all 27 states must ratify the Treaty, it therefore seems obvious that it cannot enter into force in its current form, and that the “yes” countries cannot push ahead with it unchanged.
But it is equally impossible to start from scratch. So we must try to reconcile the “yes” and “no” countries if we are to overcome the crisis into which Europe has been plunged. And we need to do so quickly if the EU is to deliver on its citizens’ expectations.
This is because Europe faces many complex challenges in a globalized world. In areas as diverse as employment and social inclusion, environmental protection and climate change, health, external and internal security, and the fight against illegal migration and poverty in the Third World, European citizens are demanding effective policies. It is also obvious that member states cannot solve these problems alone, but only through coordinated EU action and common policies. But to achieve these results, and thereby convince our citizens of the EU’s value, Europe’s decision-making capacity must be strengthened and democratized.