This essay is intended to have an in-depth appraisal of the implication of the adoption of a constitution by the European Union (EU), with a view of looking at the various issues contained in the constitution that are contentious among the Member States (MS) and how these would benefit the EU either through the simplification of the union institutions functions to make them more efficient.
Also, it would attempt to draw an overview of the historical existence of the EU, how it has progressed through the years, the various changes that it had undergone, how the various treaties it has adopted have helped in tackling problems encountered while growing. On the other hand, emphasise would be placed in discussing the issues enshrined in the constitution, what it is expected to achieve, why MS have found them unacceptable, and whether the constitution would really fulfil the Union’s objective by enhancing its closer integration zealously by the EU and MS.
Finally, it would attempt to look into the future, whether there is any hope of implementing the wonderful ideas in this draft constitution. The EU is gradually metamorphosing hopefully to actualise this status with the ratification of the draft constitution by the inter-governmental convention (IGC). There has been general calls that the draft constitution be adopted as it by some MS while in certain issues there has been disagreement amongst MS refusing to be drawn into a system that would encroach on their reserved competence.
This disagreement has lead to the call to seek out ways of accommodating the various redlines put forward by MS through dialogue and trading off among states. Though the constitution convention committee have been generally praised for preparing a thorough document that addressed the various issues raise during the Nice convention and presented a constitution that would foster the development of the EU as a formidable organisation of nation states having united propose, which is the actualisation of the European state.
Brief history This organisation which started as a convenient arrangement entered into to prevent the frequency of war between France and Germany. That had been at war four times during the three decades, and was just coming out of the Second World War. Therefore to prevent the frequency at which the Franco-Germane war was occurring, it was thought appropriate to develop a system that rivalry between the both countries. This idea was left to Jean Monet a French administrator and Robert Schuman the French foreign minister.
They thought it best that the only way at the reoccurrence of war was through integration of the coal and steel industries of both countries since this was seen as the war making industries1 of both states. However, it has been noted that other factors did contribute toward the formation of the organisation, one of which was the success recorded by the three countries within the BENELUX arrangement2, which greatly improved their economy was noted by observes as the main motivating factor that necessitated the integration of the economy of the countries that founded the first institution of the union.
In 1951 the treaty of Paris3 was signed by France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg, which brought about the European coal and steel community (ECSC). Through this community the signatory countries agreed to transfer the administrative and legislative procedures relating to their coal and steel industries to an independent institution. Thereby bring about the transfer of legislative procedure and limitation of their (sovereignty) of these states in matters related to such field4.
The success recorded under this arrangement led to the negotiation to establish more institution to administer key sectors of their economy. In 1957 the treaty of Rome was signed establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)5 as independent institution administering and legislating in matters of commercial, economic sector and atomic energy sector respectively.
While the legislative competence of the later was limited to the scope at which states have limited their rights the former held a broader scope of influence covering areas such as trade, tariffs and works right6. These institutions were however merged in 1967, when the merger treaty of 1965 came into effect putting all these institutions under one administration since most of their activities were more or less preformed by the same persons under different institution thus rationalising the administrative process of these institutions.
The organisation which started with six members however attracted more countries desirous to benefit from the common market free of restriction. In 1973 the organisation was enlarged through the ascension of Britain, Denmark and Ireland, while Greece joined in 1981, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986 and the Austria, Sweden and Finland followed suit bring the total current number of MS to fifteen.
However the enlargement process is still going on hopefully to include all the countries within Europe. Presently, there are ten candidate countries7 expected to ascend to the EU by May2004. In 1986 the single European act came into effect to speed up integration of the union internal market by removing the use of unanimity in decision process related to common market and replaced it with the introduction of qualified majority vote system thus creating a closer union8.
After this came the treaty of European Union in 1993 also known as the Maastricht treaty, which brought about a major change in the union through the introduction of monetary union, union citizenship and the creation of the other two pillars of the EU; which were a cooperation initiative aimed at promoting joint action between MS in areas of foreign and security policy and common policy in justice and home affairs9.
However, because of problems encountered with the ratification of the treaty an IGC was convened in Amsterdam, where the 1997 treaty of Amsterdam was signed to simplify the core decision of the TEU that most MS had failed to agree on. In 2000 IGC was held in Nice, this brought into being the treaty of Nice which came into force in 2003 and focused on preparing the union for the largest enlargement ever and the need to reform the union’s institution by simplifying the decision procedure10.
Also, in view of the fact that the union was going to increase in size if was felt that citizens of MS ought to feel the impact of the union. Therefore at the convention of Nice there was deliberation on the need for greater integration and simplification of the EU as well as the unification of the other two pillars to the competence of the institution. These observations lead to the Laeken declaration of 2001, when the European council met and adopted the declaration on the future of the European Union.
The questions raised were how to make the union more democratic, transparent, efficient and closer to its citizens11. Based on this a convention was convened in 2002 to put forward a constitution for the union addressing these key questions. The convention was headed by former French president Mr. Valery Giscard d’Estaing; it was composed of 150 members drawn for MS, candidate countries (CC), representatives of the institution, and other observers divided into working groups to tackle the various issues that would bring about an ever closer union, an integrated EU marching towards statehood.
After sixteen months of deliberation and compromise the draft constitution completed and handed over to the European council in Thessalonika for ratification and adoption by the IGC in 2004. However, there are still debates and disagreement amongst MS on certain issues in the constitution of which they consider as redlines and are not ready to accept such terms.
Thus bring the union at a cross road, while those that believe in the vertical integration of the union have praised the constitution as a step in the right direction and want it adopted as it is, the horizontalist sees it unacceptable and unworkable ideas. The constitution issues The idea of a constitution for the union was necessitated because of the complexity of implementing and enforcing the various treaties of EU. Therefore, the constitution was expected to simplify the laws of the union through the incorporation of all the laws (acquis communautaire) of the union in a single document.
Thus delineating the powers and function expected of the union, the functions of the various organs with the union, what its members hope to achieve by signing up to such a supranational organisation and the extent to which they have accepted to limit their sovereignty. All these were supposed to be addressed by the constitution. However, there has been divided opinion about the essence of a constitution for the union since the union have been function effectively under its treaty, thus questioning the necessity of such a document.
This was put forward by Gangi concurring the opinion of Weiler that the EU has a functional institution that there was no need for a constitutional reform but that all that was necessary was the balancing of its economic and social policies by ensuring that they are effective12. He went further to justify the efficiency of the treaties of the union which he believes is working and needed not to be fixed by the introduction of a redundant document that could create only confusion13.
This argument might be right if viewed for the perspective of the EU being only a pure economic organisation, but that however is not the case, since the closer integration of the union has gradually and almost covering every sector of MS polity from citizenship to defence. Therefore, in order for legitimacy to be maintained and the efficient legislating and administrating of its growing areas of competences there was need for a constitution to harmonise the various disjointed documents that had been a source of conflict and confusion.
Though the constitution would simplify the legal structure of the union, it is however stated that unanimity was required to amend the constitution once it is rectified. This would seriously slow down the development of the union as need for charges are likely to occur and the union is expected to adapt to these changes though a quick reviewing of its working document in order to move with the trend. This has been the beauty of the treaties of the union which have been changing as the situations required.
However with a constitution operated in an enlarged union, requiring unanimity to amend would be very difficult because arriving at a consensus decision by the various MS with diverse interest and expectation would be tough. Not withstanding the need of a constitution is essential for the union to achieve legitimacy, also has a specific document that details the duties, powers and limitation of the union.