Now that the Dutch have voted no the European Constitution can definitively
be considered dead and buried. It is, therefore, time for the European leaders
to assess the reasons of its failure and the lessons to be learned. There
are, I think, at least five lessons.
* First Lesson:
Call a treaty a treaty and a constitution a constitution. Calling the treaty
a constitution was a big mistake. It suggested that the changes in the treaty
were a big leap forward towards a federal unity, while, in fact, they were
symbolic and rather small and had almost all an intergovernmental character
(EU President, EU Foreign Minister, voting procedures in the Council).
* Second Lesson:
Avoid symbolism. The Convention and the Constitution were meant to celebrate
the entrance of the ten new member states. This celebration was unnecessary.
The first enlargement in 1973 with the UK, Ireland and Denmark, brought
in about 70 million people, which is approximately the same number as last
year. This first enlargement, however, was not an occasion for big words
and impressive gestures, but a pragmatic event.
* Third Lesson
Remain pragmatic. European integration has always been a process of small
steps. Let us continue to do so. The energy put into the Constitution would
have been better spent in implementing the Lisbon Agenda (after having scrapped
its bombastic aim of the EU becoming the first knowledge economy of the
world by 2010).
* Fourth Lesson:
Do not make big projects in a time of economic recession. It was, for instance,
no accident that the 1970s - a time of an economic downturn and two oil
crises, was on the European level a time of institutional stagnation and
'eurosclerosis'. The European Single Act and the Treaty of Maastricht that
gave new oxygen to the European Community were the result of an improving
economy in the second half of the 1980s.
* Fifth Lesson:
If ever the EU wants to make a Constitution, it must not only be a real
leap forward to a federal unity, but it must also use a carrot and stick
approach. A EU-wide vote should be organised on the same day in all EU member
states and the constitution should be declared accepted if 80 percent of
the member states, containing 80 percent of the total population, have accepted
it. Countries that reject the Constitution should remain outside and not
be able to block its implementation.
Paris, 1 June 2005