Friday, 2 November 2007

Giscard says new treaty same as old constitution

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the former French President who chaired the European Convention which drew up the European constitution, has written a long article explaining why the new treaty, known as ‘the Lisbon treaty’, is essentially the same as the old constitution, which was rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

Entitled “European treaty: the tools are exactly the same, only their order in the toolbox has been changed” – a sentence which appears in the text itself - the article opens by saying that many French people are wondering what difference there is between the Lisbon treaty and the constitutional treaty. “The difference concerns the method more than the content,” writes Giscard. Whereas the constitution had been drawn up in public, by the European Convention, and with the aim of simplifying the existing EU treaties, the Lisbon treaty has been drawn up by jurists. “They followed the classic method of the Brussels institutions, which consists in modifying the previous treaties by a series of amendments.” In this respect, says Giscard, the Lisbon treaty is just like the Nice and Amsterdam treaties, “ignored by the public”. “The jurists have not proposed any innovations,” Giscard writes. “They started with the text of the constitution, took its elements apart one by one, and made them correspond by means of amendments to the two existing treaties, Rome (1957) and Maastricht (1992).” The result is that the Lisbon treaty itself is “illegible for citizens” since it can be understood only by also reading the treaties which it amends. “So much for the form. As far as the content is concerned,” Giscard goes on, “the result is that the institutional proposals of the constitutional treaty – the only things which mattered for the members of the European Convention – are in the Lisbon treaty in their entirety but in a different order and inserted into previous treaties.”

For example, the appointment of a President of the European Union for a two and a half year term, which was the centrepiece of the old constitution (Article 22) has simply been transferred to the Lisbon treaty as Amendment 16 to Title III of the Maastricht treaty, where a new article 9b is inserted providing for the presidency using exactly the same words, over eleven lines, used in the constitution.

Giscard says the content of the toolbox is the same but that the box has been re-decorated according to the old style. Now one has to rummage around in three different pigeonholes to find what one needs – but it is all still there.

Giscard says that the main differences lie in the fact that the word ‘constitution’ has been withdrawn, as have the symbols including the flag “which flies everywhere”. He says that this is “a strong sign that the European ambition has ebbed”. Giscard says, though, that the changes made by France, which demanded the removal of a phrase about “free competition” from Article 2, are insignificant because that same phrase has been re-inserted into an annex. “The same goes for the principle of the superiority of EU law over national law, for which the definitive text remains unchanged in the treaty.” Giscard does say that the concessions made to the United Kingdom on the charter of fundamental rights are more important.

“What is the purpose of this subtle manoeuvre?” Giscard asks. “First and above all to escape from the constraint of having to hold a referendum by dispersing the articles and by renouncing the constitutional vocabulary.” The former President also said that the purpose was to allow the Brussels institutions to regain the initiative which had been taken from them by the parliamentarians and politicians who composed the European Convention. The new text, Giscard says, is worse than the old because the language is impenetrable and Europe will thus be distanced even further from the citizens. Giscard concludes by saying that although the text is now so complicated that it is unlikely to be rejected, except in Britain, it contains all the tools necessary for the day when “men and women, animated by great European ambitions, decided to use them”. Then they will be able “to rekindle, beneath the ash which is covering it today, the ardent dream of a united Europe.” [Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Le Monde, 26 October 2007]

---- An excerpt from Dr. John Laughland's Intelligence Digest. For a free e-mail subscription to the Intelligence Digest, please click here ----

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