EU Treaty Blues

Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

EU Treaty Blues

The European Union is facing a deadline on concluding its latest treaty. However, significant divisions continue among its members as issues impinging on national sovereignty raise their heads.

At the beginning of Germany’s six-month term in the chair as European Union president, Angela Merkel appealed to the leaders of the 27-nation combine not to reject the opportunity to revive the European Union’s constitution, a prime goal of her presidency.

Merkel’s appeal failed to gain majority support.

Her term as EU president ended with continuing division on any agreement as to the existing constitution. All the German chancellor could manage was a consensus to take the constitution back to the drawing board and redraft a treaty acceptable to all EU member nations. The EU proceeded to do this via an intergovernmental conference convened under the Portuguese presidency of the EU that commenced in July.

That process is now almost complete. Almost—but not quite.

A number of issues stand in the way of concluding a treaty acceptable to all EU national leaders by the deadline, September 6, set for its unveiling in advance of a meeting of EU foreign ministers, to take place in Portugal on September 7 and 8, to review progress to date.

The initial plan of the current Portuguese presidency of the EU was to have the revised constitution … oops, treaty … approved in an informal meeting slated for EU heads of state on October 18 and 19. Yet, once again, these plans, like so many in the past, appear shaky.

Britain, Poland, France and the Netherlands are all embroiled in resistance on contentious issues contained in the EU’s latest draft of the constitution/treaty. The feeling among the most astute of EU observers is that the revised treaty is but the original constitution in form, with some key elements being reworded in an effort to force through certain reforms rejected by the French and Dutch constituencies during referenda conducted in 2005. In addition, Poland is resisting changes proposed for the EU voting system; it sees the system as giving it a lesser say in European affairs than larger nations, especially Germany.

On top of all this is a rising voice of concern in Britain, where it appears that euroskeptic lobby groups are finally making real headway in countering EU propaganda geared to deceiving the British public into thinking that the revised treaty will not further erode British national sovereignty. This was the initial lie foisted off on the British population by the Heath government when Britain originally gained entry into the European Common Market, which has since morphed into its present imperial phase as the European Union.

Certain leaders freely admit to EU imperial ambitions. Consider statements made by the two leaders who have overseen constitution/treaty developments this year.

Chancellor Merkel, early on in her term in the first half of this year’s EU presidency, appealed for the EU to “make its influence felt from the Balkans to the Middle East and Africa.” To aid in this process, she “said it was time the EU had its own foreign minister—a key provision of the constitution” (Reuters, January 17).

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has been even more specific. “Mr. Barroso made his remarks at a press conference held to announce the Commission’s approval of the recent proposals for a new constitutional treaty. A journalist had asked him how he would characterise the EU. After explaining that the EU was unique, he continued: ‘Sometimes I like to compare the EU … to the organization of an empire. We have a dimension of empire’” (EUobserver, July 13; emphasis mine).

Barroso recently added to this impression of the EU’s imperial ambitions. Referring to President of France Nicolas Sarkozy’s seeking further dialogue on EU borders within the context of discussions on the revised treaty, Barroso “commented on Sarkozy’s call for a ‘fundamental reflection’ on the future of the EU, saying that such a debate should not focus on the geographical borders of Europe. ‘Such a discussion would lead to the limits of the EU being fixed,’ he said” (, August 30).

Obviously, in Manuel Barroso’s mind, the EU has potential to continue to stretch beyond its current borders. That sure smacks of imperialism to me!

The very fact of Chancellor Merkel calling for the EU to have its own foreign minister, supported by an EU diplomatic service, raises questions that may finally reveal the true nature of the European Union, and the main power behind its evolution from a simple Iron and Steel Community 50 years ago to the monolithic imperial institution that it has now become.

The very prospect of an EU diplomatic service, superceding the individual national diplomatic corps of EU member nations, raises, as the EUobserver put it, a “‘balance-of-power’ question, it raises all sorts of political hot potatoes about who should control it, where it should be situated, who is part of it and what its scope should be” (August 29).

The EU is in for a rough ride on these issues.

History witnesses to one nation in particular that has the tendency to ride roughshod over all others on any balance-of-power question in Europe. We need go back just 60 years to predict the likely outcome of today’s rising balance-of-power question. The cycles of history do have an uncanny tendency to repeat themselves.