13th December 2001
The Heads of government agreed at the Laeken summit to set-up a Constitutional
Convention on the future of Europe, which includes the possible incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, with its costly social and economic rights, and the direct election of a European President which I oppose. But I do welcome calls for the EU to be more democratic, transparent, and efficient with an enhanced role for national Parliamentarians, and a menu of options from which to chose in 2004.
The European Union already possesses its own anthem, flag, citizenship, army, currency etc and a whole host of quasi-federal institutions. To pretend, as the Labour government in Britain is already doing, that this Convention is simply an opportunity to limit the power of the Union at the expense of the states, is ridiculous, this convention is more reminiscent of the American nation building exercise of 1787 in Philadelphia.
The political elites in Europe are ever more distanced from their electorates. How representative are Valery Giscard d'Estaing, Dehaene and D'Amato of European opinion? If this is the court the jury is a loaded one.
How representative will the Convention be of the peoples of Europe? We should be preparing urgently for enlargement by solving the Amsterdam leftovers and reforming the CAP and Structural Funds which represent 80% of the EU budget, not preparing for grand constitutional reform of little relevance to the concerns and aspirations of electorates. How will extending QMV to delicate areas like social security and taxation help and what has been done to resolve the issue of the much needed European Patent held-back by the Institutions obsession with multilingualism. There is idealism in the EU, born out of a desire to see a Europe of peace and prosperity, an objective we all share. I come from a country with a centuries-old uninterrupted democratic tradition, and I want to say two things to the believers in a superstate. First, that the European Union is not the origin but the expression of peace in postwar Europe, which is underpinned by democracy in the nation states and respect for the rule of law. Second, however idealistic, political changes instituted by political elites which do not have the broad support of the people will be like structures built on sand. Do not run before you can walk. When the peoples of Europe want a single European state will be the time to call for a European Constitution, not before.