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Dead and alive: the EU Constitution

Dead and alive: the EU Constitution


A variety of opinions about the future of the EU Constitution were presented in January. Below is an overview.

Dutch MP: "Which part of the ‘no’ you did not understand?"

Dutch Minister: “Constitution is dead.

Carsten Berg noticed a remarkable reaction from the Netherlands during the seminar Connecting with the citizens of Europe - How to close the communication gap? in the European Parliament on 10 January 2006.

EU Commissioner Margot Wallström suggested that it is up to the Dutch and the French to say what the further ratification of the Constitution should look like and she posed this question explicitly to Lousewies van der Laan, a member of the Dutch Parliament. Van der Laan’s liberal party (D66) campaigned for a yes vote in her country’s recent referendum. Her answer was clear: “Which part of the ‘no’ you did not understand?” She continued by saying that a current proposal presented by the German Chancelor Merkel would be “deeply offensive to the Dutch people. The Dutch people will not ratify this constitution. They have said no. Ignoring this means you are not taking seriously the citizens”.

After meeting his Austrian counterpart Dutch Foreign Minister stated on Wednesday (11 January) "we have discussed the constitution, which for the Netherlands is dead." (Sources: German, English).

German Chancellor: non-binding declaration

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, wants to save the Constitution. She has proposed attaching a non-binding declaration on the "social dimension of Europe", which would call upon the EU institutions to better consider the social implications of EU internal market legislation. According to Merkel’s proposal, the remaining text of the constitution would remain unchanged.

French President: Cherry Picking

The EUobserver reports about a speech before diplomats held by French president Jacques Chirac. In contrast to the position of the German Government, Chirac has proposed implementing only select parts of the Constitution, an idea that some have derided as cherry picking. Chirac singled out "internal security and justice, external action and better involvement of national parliaments in the European decision-making process" as the three areas where he wishes to see closer co-operation.

(Chirac speech, French)

Austrian Government: Constitution in the middle of the ratification process

The Austrian government, which took over the EU presidency on January 1, disagrees with Chirac’s position. Chancellor Schüssel wants to ratify the constitution unchanged, saying that it is still “in the middle of the ratification process”.

Finnish President: recess still valid

The Austrian statement came as a surprise to the Finnish government, which will take over the EU presidency from Austria on 30 June 2006. The EUobserver quotes the Finnish president Halonen as saying, "To us, the recess declared after the referendums in France and Holland is still valid." She added that the Austrian and Finnish governments were working “shoulder to shoulder” to plan the 2006 EU agenda.

Slovenia: Constitution is still alive

The Slovenian government is convinced that the constitution is still alive. This declared foreign minister Dimitrij reacting to the statement of his Dutch counterpart.


There is no consensus among the leaders of Europe regarding how to deal with the EU Constitution in the future. Everything seems to be possible as proposals vary from burying the existing text to reviving it.

For ongoing coverage of this process, please check the European Constitution site of the EUobserver.

Democracy International proposes that a new, elected convention should rework the constitution. Please join our call.

 Ronald Pabst / Andrew Tompkins

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