Why Does Europe Need a Constitution ?
Why Does Europe Need a
Michel Barnier, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Vilnius
Lithuania, February 10, 2005.
Quai d'Orsay, Paris.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fifty-four years ago, on May 9th
1950, my illustrious and distant predecessor, Robert Schuman, suggested a method
for Europe to heal its wounds and its divisions. Here it is, in a few famous
words: "Europe will not
be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through
concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity".
This de facto solidarity, as we
know, was not established rapidly, and certainly not spontaneously. It has
experienced crises; it has slowed down and then restarted, and moved ahead.
But today, Europe has more than
progress ahead of it. It has a Constitution. This is therefore another step in
an already long history. But what a step!
Let us be aware of the message we
are conveying to the world - a message of unity and of action. Here, in
Lithuania, where the outside world is so close, you can measure better than
others the impact of the constitutional message on the new neighbours of the
Union. And note that this message echoes just as strongly wherever I go, in the
Balkans, the Middle East, and in Africa.
It resonates as far as the United
States, which needs a strong Europe. With which it can fight terrorism. With
which, in harmony with NATO, it can share the responsibility for peace and
security in this part of the world. With which it can manage the politics of our
ever-increasing economic, commercial and environmental
This is why the constitutional
issue is important to all of us, but not just to us. It is not a matter for
European domestic policy that each country - mine, or any other - can handle in
a narrow, egotistical and egocentric fashion. The whole world was riveted on the
US elections. Let us not doubt for one moment that, above all if the European
Constitution fails, our collective image is in the balance.
The first is whether, yes or no, we
want to adopt the instrument of this new Constitution.
The second, however, is to
demonstrate whether yes or no, we have the determination to use this instrument
to serve an ambitious project for Europe. And this project, over and above the
deadline for ratification, must be given substance as of today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Though I am not a venerable
diplomat, I have taken part in the preparation of three different European
treaties, three negotiations and three intergovernmental conferences. This
constitutional treaty is the fourth European treaty project in twelve years –
1992, 1997, 2001, 2004, one every four years, or almost.
We need a Constitution that is a
long-lasting treaty. For a decade, the European Union has experienced permanent
negotiations, intermittent IGCs and, in practice, a certain institutional
insecurity. This situation must be remedied permanently.
The Constitution enables this. It
even does more than this – it enables us to re-found the original pact, put it
back into perspective, by re-validating all of the existing provisions. This is
far-removed from the Nice treaty. This treaty has been of service, since it
enabled you to join us.
But it is already behind us - today
we must commit ourselves via a new Treaty of Rome. A new era is dawning, marked
by a constitutional break. And on the starting blocks, there are no longer new
members or founding States. We are all becoming, Lithuania and France, Germany
and Poland, and all the others, re-founding States.
Above and beyond this, thanks to
the work of the Convention, which prepared 95% of the final text, thanks to
certain improvements contributed during the intergovernmental conference, this
instrument has many advantages. I will cite four of them.
The content of the text itself
enhances the democratic nature of European integration: consolidation of the
prerogatives of the European Parliament; recourse to the double majority for
qualified majority votes at the Council; creation of the right of citizens’
initiative; increased control by national parliaments and the Committee of the
Regions over the legislative activity of the Commission.
To enter into and remain in the
Union, a State must adhere to certain values, such as non-discrimination,
respect for minority rights, solidarity, and gender equality. Full employment
and social cohesion are found among the aims of the Union, on which its policies
Integration of the Charter of
Fundamental Rights in the Constitution places the respect of certain social
entitlements under the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice. These include, for
example, protection in case of unwarranted redundancies, the right to strike and
to belong to trade unions, the obligation to inform and consult employees, and
even access to public services, which will be able to be protected and
recognised by European law.
It reduces the scope of the right
to veto. Not enough? Probably not. But the text provides bridges that we can use
to go further.
carries out an unprecedented overhaul of our instruments, procedures and above
all the jurisdiction of the Union, which is currently unclear for its citizens.
Finally, the Constitution supports
and facilitates the implementation of enhanced co-operation. This point is one I
believe is crucial for the future - I will come back to it.
It provides a legal status with
which to conclude international commitments. It provides high-level political
representation with a stable President of the European Council and a Foreign
Affairs Minister supported by a European External Action
Service, carrying out tasks that are currently artificially separated between
the Council and the Commission. Our global counterparts should finally know who
to talk to to talk to Europe.
And, last but not least, after
decades of maturation, European defence policy is finally acknowledged. This
policy is no longer an idea or a theory. With the creation of the armament
agency, it becomes real. It proposes a solidarity clause for all members of the
Union, in the case of a terrorist attack, for example.
With this policy, the Union finally
shows a unified face, and asserts its vocation to carry out all the duties
entrusted to it, with no taboos. We can now explain to citizens that Europe is
also watching over the security of Europe - which I believe is the least it can
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With my experience of several
treaties, I have no hesitation in saying that this is the best European text
devised for a long time, perhaps since the Treaty of Rome.
It places better tools, new tools
to build Europe, in the hands of Europeans. Lithuania is well aware of this, as
the first country that chose to approve the Constitution. I would like France to
follow suit very soon.
I do however know of a proverb that
says: "a bad workman blames his tools". The Constitution is a quality tool. Let’s be quality
As a citizen and politician, I have bitter memories of the first years of the
common foreign and security policy. It had only just been defined by the
Maastricht Treaty, when it was revealed to be powerless in the Balkans. Was this
because it was imperfect, still badly organised? That is a possibility, but I am
not one of those workmen who blame their tools. It was not the CFSP that failed
in the Balkans up until 1995 but the will to use and to impose it. Without this
will, nothing could be done.
If, tomorrow, the will to bring the
European project to life is not there, the same will happen, and the
Constitution will become a false hope for Europe's citizens.
Let us ask ourselves frankly, right
now, above and beyond the constitutional issues, the central question of the
European project. Let us listen, during the ratification campaigns, to what
citizens expect from Europe. Let us assess what we have done, and what remains
to be done in the future, with the help of the Constitution.
My first observation is a simple
one - the European Union is not yet a reality in human terms, a society.
At present it remains an area, in
which European action attempts to close divides and remove disparities. The role
of the major solidarity policies – cohesion, rural development – is to support
the development of Lithuania and other countries. The only thing I can wish for,
for you and for Europe, is that you cease to be beneficiaries as rapidly as
possible, following the example of the remarkable growth of Ireland.
For the rest, and despite this
concrete funding, the Union is not an area that is familiar to all citizens. Few
Europeans choose to live elsewhere in Europe than their native country. This
remains an adventure fraught with difficulties. One had to be a little demagogic
at heart to assert, as many in fact did, that the accession of new members to
the Union would see, in the space of a few months or a few years, their
populations taking the route West.
It is legitimate for each society,
each nation to intend to keep its identity. Indeed, this is a right, and the
Constitution recognises it as such. It is not to you, who have fought for it for
centuries, that I will teach the importance of identity. Indeed, I appreciate
the fact that you accepted that I speak in French today. It is in a way my
contribution to linguistic plurality in the European Union…
But let us be honest! Our diverse
and scattered societies face the same challenges - the challenge of migration,
the challenge of demographics, the social challenge, the
environmental challenge, the challenge of security. For the outside
world, even if this does not please us, we form a single, relatively homogeneous
We can control and choose our
immigration, rather than being subjected to it by selecting common criteria, by
guaranteeing rights, by controlling access jointly to the European territory -
the qualified majority vote could help us in this.
We can define, by pushing the
Lisbon strategy further, a development model that takes into account
demographics and social balances, and lay the foundations for a more homogeneous
European society displaying greater solidarity.
We can accelerate the
synchronisation of our police forces and legal and judicial systems to guarantee
greater security for European citizens. The European Council of 5
November 2004 made real progress in this area, such as the European criminal
And yet, one of the major
challenges of the years to come still has to be faced - that of controlling the
Union's external borders. This is mainly an issue for the States. But this could
be an ideal opportunity for them to work more closely together and pool their
efforts. We must be aware that, in this area, what happens at the Union's
borders concerns all members.
In any case, this is a first
project for the future - organise the awakening of a European society in which
citizens have true common reference points available to them.
In passing, this raises a difficult
question - how can European citizens identify with or at least feel familiar
with an entity that is constantly expanding, with the risk of appearing
limitless? This question, with that of the possible accession of Turkey, has
become an "existential" one for the Union.
In reality, the question of Turkey
is that of our definitive border in the Southeast - do we want this border to be
internal or external? What is the best choice for us? That is the question.
This question also applies, under
different conditions, to the new Ukraine. I think it is extremely important that
Lithuania and France, along with Poland and Germany, have wished to voice
together far-reaching and common ideas vis-à-vis Ukraine. As from today, Europe
is proposing to Ukraine a plan of action aimed at bringing it closer to Europe.
Europe understands Ukraine’s hopes. This action plan forms the basis for a
genuine partnership, with genuine rights and genuine duties. It is Ukraine’s
challenge to implement this partnership.
second project is to provide the Union with an economic policy that matches its
economic and commercial activity and its currency.
By this I do not mean economic
governance - which also remains essential. The issue is that of agreeing on a
common vision of our economy.
Is the stability and growth pact
sufficient to achieve this? It is undoubtedly a necessary element of the
solution, but probably not sufficient on its own. It will need to be adapted, as
the European Commission has understood.
think about new fields for European economic policy. Can we, sustainably,
conceive of the European economy without a certain tax convergence, without a
certain homogeneity of social rules, when these are clearly extremely important
factors for economic activity? We need to assert, as the people demand, that the
Union is not simply a large market that is indifferent to their rights and their
problems. We need to show that Europe can support its economic development with
the right dose of regulations, political will and redistribution of wealth so
that development benefits the greatest number.
Part two: provide ourselves with
the means to build a common vision, not limited to the sole issue of the
Community budget. In the coming months, we will have heated debate to establish
whether this budget should represent 1% or more of the gross national income of
the Union. We shall see.
But I am convinced that with
control over expenditure, we can make the Community budget more effective in
areas that are important for growth. And in parallel, in some areas such as
education and research, we must co-ordinate much more closely and concretely the
power of our national budgets.
Part three: the content of our
common policies must not be set in stone, but evolve with our needs. The
question is not whether we need "more" or "less Europe". But is it not time, for
example, for competition policy to take into account new criteria, such as the
requirements of a European industrial strategy? Is it not time to support this
policy, which is insufficient on its own, with new regulatory elements? For
industry and for the services sector, the central issue is that of our
collective capacity to improve our competitiveness and maintain employment in
the face of the economic emergence of the major Asian countries.
Over twenty years, we have
successfully made the European Union into a true single market. But have we
really built a European economy that is not simply a juxtaposition of our
national economies? Not yet. More than harmonisation, we will need a true
determination to ensure the convergence of our economies above and beyond purely
financial criteria. This determination is objectively the antithesis of the
belief that tax or social competition encourages European integration.
Finally, the third project –
perhaps the most fundamental one – is to enable the Union to become a true
global and political player.
Probably subconsciously, the Union
has already crossed a decisive threshold towards this, in a short space of time.
It proposed and enabled the creation of the Quartet in the Middle East. It has
successfully led civilian and military operations in the Balkans. It has played
a peacekeeping role in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In reality, Europe's security is
currently experiencing a strategic parenthesis. NATO can be the framework for
joint action. But first, among Europeans, we have to define our own security
The Union can be the framework for
this vision. European security strategy asserts this ambition, as does
co-ordination within the SITCEN or around Mr. de Vries.
Let us not lose sight of the aim,
which is to decide what we, as Europeans, want. The sole area in which we are
approximately sure of this at present is trade. The comparison stops there.
Europe's foreign and security and defence policies will be the fruit of our
diversity or they will not exist. The Union's diversity is seen in the
ambitions, capacities and history of its members.
This is why we have much to
contribute to one another. France knows Africa and the Middle-East well. We need
you to better understand Belarus and Ukraine, and to improve dialogue with
Russia. Together, we possess all the elements of a common vision, in order to
With a few clear principles in
mind: compatibility with NATO; the action of the Union potentially available to
serve NATO or the UN; a system where participation means weighing up this
participation; and where the weight corresponds to the participation.
And finally on one condition, which
does not depend on us alone - that of a re-launched and rebalanced Transatlantic
dialogue. Americans and Europeans must trust one another. And Europeans must be
confident in themselves.
There is a long list of issues of
insecurity and instability that concern us all - conflicts or countries frozen
close to us, in Europe and the Caucasus; destabilisation of the Near and Middle
East; African countries in conflict; proliferation; terrorism; not to mention the number one world threat, global
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It has been rightly said that this
Constitution is the last chance for a united Europe.
Yes, it is a great opportunity - to
enable all those who want to and who can to light the way to the common path.
I have always believed that
precursors are needed. They have always existed: Schengen, the single currency!
It is truly better that they be within, rather than outside the framework of the
I am convinced that with a
methodical effort to explain and inform, that the people, after the States, will
unanimously decide to bring this Constitution to life.
This will be my conclusion - the
European cause remains, and will for some time yet, the responsibility of the
States that compose Europe. They cannot pretend to believe that, with or without
a Constitution, European integration will happen spontaneously. It is their
responsibility to co-ordinate, to imagine and to ensure that progress is made.
There is nothing pre-destined about Europe. All the States can lead our common
Never before in history, nowhere in
the world, has a project similar to the European project, built on peace and not
on force, seen the light of day. No other continent has assembled to become,
voluntarily, not an empire, but a community of nations. The European project
must continue to be an example for its time. Let us be unanimous in giving
Europe its constitutional chance.