Does Europe need a new treaty?

Andrew Duff MEP (speaking), Brendan Donnelly in the chair

Andrew Duff MEP (speaking), Brendan Donnelly in the chair

A talk last night by Andrew Duff MEP, president of the UEF and author of a recent paper, “On governing Europe”, in which he outlined the need for and route towards a new European treaty. (Read the paper here.)  The present EU institutions are incapable of managing the current crisis in the eurozone; without reform, the euro will not survive, and without the euro, the EU will not survive.

Pro-Europeans should not be complacent that enough has been done to ensure the survival of the euro, he argued.  We cannot be content with policies that leave more than 50 per cent of young people in Spain unemployed.  It is surprising that the requirements of austerity have produced so little opposition so far.  The current position cannot last.

Andrew Duff described the process whereby a new treaty could be drafted by a convention in the spring of 2015, after the next European elections.  In the absence of a preparatory committee established by the European Council, the UEF would present its own first draft.  (It did something similar at the time of the last convention in 2002 – read it here – with regular updates here.)

As far as this blog is concerned, Andrew Duff’s argument for the need for a new treaty is a solid one.  There are gaps and holes in the European Union that the economic crisis has revealed, and there are others that were visible even before then, and we need to get those holes fixed.  The question is not the need, it is the likelihood.

After the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005, an over-riding condition for its successor, the Lisbon treaty, was that ratification should be as smooth as possible.  No referendums except where strictly necessary, i.e. Ireland, and the fact that the first referendum on Lisbon there was a No vote explains why.  Given the fragility of the EU right now, it is easy to imagine the heads of government preferring to do as little as possible that might require new ratification procedures in each member state.  Quite a lot can be done by intergovernmental agreement within the existing treaties.

By this line of thinking, pro-Europeans should be modest in their ambitions in order not to risk things getting worse.  But things risk getting worse anyway.  Europe and Europeans need more than the current treaties offer them.  They need a new treaty, and the difficulties of ratification need to be overcome by leadership.

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One way of getting round the difficulty of ratification in each of the 28 member states (or 29, depending on what happens in Scotland) is to create a category of Associate Member.  Andrew Duff envisages that this might be a useful option for member states that do not accept the federal conclusions supported by all the others.  He made clear that, contrary to the way in which this proposal had been reported in the press recently, e.g. here and here (£), he was not advocating that the UK should seek Associate Member status, only that the option should be included in the new treaty.

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