From Socialist Voice, July 2007

The much-trumpeted “compromises” are just a smokescreen

Nothing has changed, and the EU constitution remains intact

Dutch concerns

The German presidency offered national parliaments extra time to scrutinise legislative proposals made by the European Commission. This has been extended by two weeks; however, as before, the Commission is obliged only to “consider” submissions from national parliaments, not to act on them.

Voting system

“Compromises” were circulated to the Polish delegation to meet their concerns about the loss of voting weight. They were offered a retention of the existing voting system under the Treaty of Nice until 2014. Poland was also offered extra seats in the European Parliament. So, good for Poland!

Free-market principles

In a sop to France it was agreed to remove a phrase referring to “free and undistorted competition” in the operation of the single European market. However, any attempt to subsidise state companies, for instance, would still be open to referral to and interpretation by the European Court of Justice. Given its penchant for expanding the powers of the Commission in particular, it is unlikely to backtrack on its present policies.

Foreign policy

The title of “EU foreign minister” would be deleted from the New EU Constitution. Instead the EU head of foreign policy would be called “high representative of the European Union.” This person would combine the jobs of the foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, who reports to EU governments, and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who controls the aid budget and external relations staff. They would chair meetings of EU foreign ministers and would head an external action service, drawing on national and EU diplomats.
     So, as Bertie Ahern rightly says, “It’s the original job as proposed, but they just put on this long title—High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and also Vice-President of the Commission. It’s the same job.”

The justice opt-out

A compromise was drafted to meet British concerns that its common law system could be undermined. Britain would be able to opt in to new EU justice proposals that it supported but also to withdraw from those it did not agree with.
     Ireland will also be offered the compromise but will probably not decide to accept it until an intergovernmental conference in the autumn. But of course, given their ardent desire to be “good Europeans,” it is unlikely that the Government will ever invoke the opt-out.

■ The final text of the proposed New EU Constitution will become available on the conclusion of the intergovernmental conference, probably in October.

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