Trick or Treaty?
The Prime Minister insists that the Lisbon Treaty is not the ‘Constitution for Europe’. The latter was abandoned, he argues, or rather its ‘concept’ was abandoned, and the present Treaty therefore requires no referendum. Yet Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the man who was president of the Convention on the Future of Europe which drafted a new constitution, has now stated unequivocally that the Treaty is the same as the rejected constitution, and that only the format has been changed in order to avoid referenda. The difference between the original Constitution and the present Lisbon Treaty is one of approach, rather than content.
In an open letter published in Le Monde, the former French president has sought to clarify the difference between former draft constitution - which was shelved after French and Dutch voters rejected the text in 2005 - and the new Lisbon Treaty which EU leaders agreed earlier this month. He said:
‘Looking at the content, the result is that the institutional proposals of the constitutional treaty … are found complete in the Lisbon Treaty, only in a different order and inserted in former treaties… Above all, it is to avoid having referendum thanks to the fact that the articles are spread out and constitutional vocabulary has been removed.’
This could not be clearer. The Treaty is simply more complex, convoluted, unpenetrable and inaccessible, in order to minimise scrutiny and analysis, and such obfuscation is considered to render the need for a referendum redundant since few will comprehend what they are voting about. And he warns starkly of the consequences of this, when he says: ‘They are therefore imposing a return to the language that they master and to the procedures they favour, and in doing so alienate the citizens further’.
There are, however, some differences. Firstly, the noun ‘constitution’ and the adjective ‘constitutional’ have been banished from the text, as though they describe something inadmissible. At the same time, all mention of the symbols of the EU have been suppressed, including the flag (which already flies everywhere), and the European anthem (which is already played everywhere).
But these concessions are more symbolic than substantial. There remains a permanent
The only difference between the Constitution and the Treaty is that the original proposals of the former have simply been dispersed through old treaties in the form of amendments. And such a subtle change is deemed to be of such significance that referenda are no longer required. This is no Treaty; it is manifestly the Constitution. The trick is in the obscurity of the language, and the constant denial that they are the same. It is a lie, and now that M Giscard d'Estaing has said as much, the Conservative Party should not be afraid to use the word.