At their June 2004 European Council in Brussels, the newly enlarged European Union of 25 agreed a Constitutional Treaty. This is not a Constitution. States and Federations have constitutions. Supranational Communities are governed by treaties, arrived at by governments and decided democratically in Parliament. Some countries submit such treaties to referendums. Others do not. It all depends on democratic traditions and whether the people have full confidence in their representatives in Parliament.
Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who presided the Convention that produced the Constitutional Treaty, also made this clear. "It is not a Constitution. It is a Treaty. 'Constitutional' is an adjective."
It is not Europe's first constitution. It is not even Europe's first constitutional treaty. What was the first?
The Treaty of Paris, signed in 1951 and coming into effect in 1952 is Europe's first Constitutional Treaty. It changed the shape of European politics. It outlawed war between member states. Schuman's avowed aim was to 'organise Europe.' The whole aspect of national politics changed, gradually but surely, because of this treaty. Five key supranational institutions were created that managed the European economy, at first in only one sector. The coal and steel sector led the way for wholesale changes in all areas of the economy, once confidence and trust between nations was developed. It started an unstoppable process to seek out the common good between states and define common goals.
With the Treaty of Paris the nations of Western Europe decided that they would agree to a common destiny based on democracy in all its rich forms and restricting their inter-relations to be based on peaceful negotiation. They empowered the Commission, aided by other institutions, to seek out impartial solutions to Europe's current problems and safeguard its future. It is not the Commission that decides these solutions. It is the Council of Ministers aided by the Parliament. The nation state has not lost its powers as in a Federation.
The novelty of the supranational Constitutional Treaty is that democratic states now have an impartial servant to help them to make their policies more coherent. And like citizens and groups in the nation state, they have law, European law, to provide a stable basis for relationship. Honest citizens flourish in a state under law. Honest democratic states flourish in a Community governed by the same democratic European law. That is why Constitutional Treaties provide such an attraction to other European states for a peaceful and prosperous future.
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