This Thursday the EU leaders will sign the EU Reform Treaty in Lisbon. Apart from the Irish, the peoples of Europe will not be allowed to have their say about it in referendums. Here is what our leaders say about the Reform Treaty, comparing it to the EU Constitution which the French and Dutch rejected in referendums two years ago. The quotations, compiled by Prof. Anthony Coughlan, are in chronological order backwards.
France was just ahead of all the other countries in voting No. It would happen in all Member States if they have a referendum. There is a cleavage between people and governments [...] A referendum now would bring Europe into danger. There will be no Treaty if we had a referendum in France, which would again be followed by a referendum in the UK [...] It would be a mistake to think that with the simplified Treaty we have sorted everything, we can sleep easy and that no other issues are pending [...] Now we have got to resolve the political issues and to broach them without fear. We have got to debate them without taboos: budgetary policy, trade policy, monetary policy, industrial policy, taxation, all policies, any policies.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, at a meeting of senior MEPs, EUobserver, Telegraph, 14 November 2007
The difference between the original Constitution and the present Lisbon Treaty is one of approach, rather than content [...] The proposals in the original constitutional treaty are practically unchanged. They have simply been dispersed through the old treaties in the form of amendments. Why this subtle change? Above all, to head off any threat of referenda by avoiding any form of constitutional vocabulary [...] But lift the lid and look in the toolbox: all the same innovative and effective tools are there, just as they were carefully crafted by the European Convention.
Valery Giscard D'Estaing, former French President and Chairman of the Convention which drew up the EU Constitution, The Independent, London, 30 October 2007
"I think it's a bit upsetting [...] to see so many countries running away from giving their people an opportunity", Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern said on Sunday 21 October, according to the Irish Independent. 'If you believe in something [...] why not let your people have a say in it. I think the Irish people should take the opportunity to show the rest of Europe that they believe in the cause, and perhaps others shouldn't be so afraid of it,' he added."
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, EU Observer, Brussels, 22 October 2007
They decided that the document should be unreadable. If it is unreadable, it is not constitutional, that was the sort of perception. Where they got this perception from is a mystery to me. In order to make our citizens happy, to produce a document that they will never understand! But, there is some truth [in it]. Because if this is the kind of document that the IGC will produce, any Prime Minister – imagine the UK Prime Minister – can go to the Commons and say “Look, you see, it's absolutely unreadable, it's the typical Brussels treaty, nothing new, no need for a referendum.” Should you succeed in understanding it at first sight there might be some reason for a referendum, because it would mean that there is something new.
Giuliano Amato, former Italian Prime Minister and Vice-Chairman of the Convention which drew up the EU Constitution, recorded by Open Europe, The Centre for European Reform, London, 12 July 2007
Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly [...] All the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way.
Valery Giscard D'Estaing, Le Monde, 14 June 2007, and Sunday Telegraph, 1 July 2007
The most striking change [between the EU Constitution in its older and newer version] is perhaps that in order to enable some governments to reassure their electorates that the changes will have no constitutional implications, the idea of a new and simpler treaty containing all the provisions governing the Union has now been dropped in favour of a huge series of individual amendments to two existing treaties. Virtual incomprehensibilty has thus replaced simplicity as the key approach to EU reform. As for the changes now proposed to be made to the constitutional treaty, most are presentational changes that have no practical effect. They have simply been designed to enable certain heads of government to sell to their people the idea of ratification by parliamentary action rather than by referendum.
Dr Garret FitzGerald, former Irish Taoiseach, Irish Times, 30 June 2007
The substance of the constitution is preserved.That is a fact.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speech in the European Parliament, 27 June 2007
The good thing is that all the symbolic elements are gone, and that which really matters – the core – is left.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Danish Prime Minister, Jyllands-Posten, 25 June 2007
The substance of what was agreed in 2004 has been retained. What is gone is the term “constitution.”
Dermot Ahern, Irish Foreign Minister, Daily Mail Ireland, 25 June 2007
90 per cent of it is still there [...] These changes haven't made any dramatic change to the substance of what was agreed back in 2004.
Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Irish Independent, 24 June 2007
The aim of the Constitutional Treaty was to be more readable; the aim of this treaty is to be unreadable [...] The Constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear. It is a success.
Karel De Gucht, Belgian Foreign Minister, Flanders Info, 23 June 2007
The good thing about not calling it a Constitution is that no one can ask for a referendum on it.
Giuliano Amato, speech at London School of Econmics, 21 February 2007
Referendums make the process of approval of European treaties much more complicated and less predictable [...] I was in favour of a referendum as a prime minister, but it does make our lives with 27 member states in the EU much more difficult. If a referendum had to be held on the creation of the European Community or the introduction of the euro, do you think these would have passed?
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Irish Times, 8 Feb.2007; quoting remarks in Het Financieele Dagblad and De Volkskrant, Holland; also quoted in EUobserver, 6 February 2007
It is true that we are experiencing an ever greater, inappropriate centralisation of powers away from the Member States and towards the EU. The German Ministry of Justice has compared the legal acts adopted by the Federal Republic of Germany between 1998 and 2004 with those adopted by the European Union in the same period. Results: 84 percent come from Brussels, with only 16 percent coming originally from Berlin [...] Against the fundamental principle of the separation of powers, the essential European legislative functions lie with the members of the executive [...] The figures stated by the German Ministry of Justice make it quite clear. By far the large majority of legislation valid in Germany is adopted by the German Government in the Council of Ministers, and not by the German Parliament [...] And so the question arises whether Germany can still be referred to unconditionally as a parliamentary democracy at all, because the separation of powers as a fundamental constituting principle of the constitutional order in Germany has been cancelled out for large sections of the legislation applying to this country [...] The proposed draft Constitution does not contain the possibility of restoring individual competencies to the national level as a centralisation brake. Instead, it counts on the same one-way street as before, heading towards ever greater centralisation [...] Most people have a fundamentally positive attitude to European integration. But at the same time, they have an ever increasing feeling that something is going wrong, that an untransparent, complex, intricate, mammoth institution has evolved, divorced from the factual problems and national traditions, grabbing ever greater competencies and areas of power; that the democratic control mechanisms are failing: in brief, that it cannot go on like this.
Former German President Roman Herzog and former president of the German Constitutional Court, article on the EU Constitution, Welt Am Sonntag, 14 January 2007
If it's a Yes, we will say “On we go”, and if it's a No we will say “We continue.”
Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxemburg Prime Minister and holder of the EU Presidency, Daily Telegraph, 26 May 2005
The Constitution is the capstone of a European Federal State.
Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian Prime Minister, Financial Times, 21 June 2004
Are we all clear that we want to build something that can aspire to be a world power? In other words, not just a trading bloc but a political entity. Do we realise that our nation states, taken individually, would find it far more difficult to assert their existence and their identity on the world stage.
Commission President Romano Prodi, European Parliament, 13 February 2001