EU’s visionaries must look to Nice for sunshine

Sir, The Irish have said a clear and resounding No to the Lisbon treaty. But the solution to the European Union’s problems is now so close that far-sighted and visionary statesmen may not even see it. In about a week a new document can be in place, making the EU simpler and more efficient; one that can be accepted in Ireland without a new referendum. This is not to bypass the Irish, because they have already accepted it in a referendum.

The solution is quite simply to take the fundamental law describing the checks and balances of the EU from the Nice treaty and turn it into a single document, no more than two or three pages long. It will be the constitution as it actually is today and will finally make it clear and readable to all. That is, in itself, important in a democracy.

If you wish, you can add the post of an elected president or a minister of foreign affairs, but you can give them no more power than the EU already possesses. A stronger relationship between the EU and national parliaments can also be included in this constitution, and still you will not have moved any power to Brussels and no new referendums will be necessary. Of course, you must still have a Commission as large as an average school class – as the electorate seems to demand that every country has a commissioner present at the table when the big decisions are to be taken – even if that means some commissioners will have rather petty tasks in their DG or «ministry». Likewise, there will be no more majority voting than today.

But the EU seems to be capable of taking important decisions and putting itself at the forefront of the world stage even with Nice and after the enlargement, as we have seen with the new drive in environmental policies. The task of our generation is to take care of the planet at the same time as we give all citizens a good standard of living and their fair share of the world’s wealth. Pushing Ireland out of the EU and wreaking havoc to the European dream in order to push through a new treaty will not help us make our visions come true.

All politicians lose some elections and must then see their manifestos put aside by a new majority in the parliament, despite all the good ideas their parties have campaigned for. Defeat is painful, but by learning to tackle it, today’s leaders will enrich European democracy. All treaties must be ratified by all countries. Changing the rules or forcing the minority voting against the treaty out of the political institutions is worthy of a banana republic, not of a continent that champions democracy and peaceful co-operation. Political leaders have surmounted bigger difficulties and brought Europe forward in more hostile situations than today. It should be unimaginable that today’s leaders fail the task they have been given.

Lars Mediaas,
President,
European Movement Oslo,
NO 60177 Oslo, Norway

(Financial Times, 17. juni 2008)

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