Will Convention Draft New EU Treaty?

According to Der Spiegel report Angela Merkel wants convention to draw up new EU treaty. German Chancellor denied the report, but she still emphasized the need for EU member states to think about how to move forward.

Question:

Would you say this approach will add something positive to current debate about the future of the EU or there is a danger that it could open the Pandora’s box when everybody will try to use this to win something?

Answers:

Cristian GhineaDirector, Romanian Center for European Policies

I think that Merkel has a problem with the German Constitutional Court, which puts more and more conditions to transfer powers to Brussels without a change in the treaty.

So, she tries to solve her problem but creates a problem to other countries, where the public is against the ‘system’ and it will punish the EU for the ‘system”s faults. I mean Spain, Greece and especially Ireland (which needs a referendum).

In conclusion, I think this is like opening the Pandora’s box and finding a grenade inside it.

John O’ Brennan, Director of European Studies, National University of Ireland, Maynooth,  Director of the Centre for the Study of Wider Europe

If anybody had said to me in January of 2012 that the solution to the ongoing financial and economic crises would be a new EU Treaty (drawn up by a convention), I would have looked at them in astonishment and been rendered speechless!

Merkel’s plan may make sense in an abstract kind of way. The Fiscal Treaty must be accompanied by a new set of rules which are constitutionally watertight in order to avoid the dreadful instances of rule infringement of the old Stability Pact. Oh, and guess which countries broke these rules more than any other? France and Germany.

In the real world of politics this does not make sense. Irish voters were assured when the Lisbon Treaty was approved in 2009 that this was the ‘big kahuna’, the constitutional settlement which would underpin all EU activity for two decades. Then came the Fiscal Treaty. And now the prospect of yet another Treaty change. It may make sense for German-designed fiscal rules to be accompanied by a beefed up and more German looking political rulebook. But the chances of such a Treaty passing in a number of countries are slim indeed. How on earth are the Germans going to persuade the UK Coalition? The only referendum many British people want is a definitive ‘in or out’ one for themselves. In Finland there is a new ‘muscular’ EU policy which will make it very difficult to pass. There the so-called True Finns represent a menacing presence in parliament. They are just one of many more Eurosceptic type parties which are now housed in parliament buildings all over Europe. The old ‘permissive consensus’ on the EU has definitively broken down and thus it would be difficult to get even parliamentary ratifications (as opposed to referendums) passed.

And the idea of a convention as the solution to the European Union’s problems is really nonsensical in respect of timing. Can you imagine how this would be represented? ‘Europe may be weeks away from a Euro implosion and these people are discussing changes in qualified majority voting for the common agriculture policy’! And more of the same.

Actualy the previous Convention process was a very open and democratic one (despite the authoritarian leanings of chair Giscard). But it is not what is needed now. What is needed is a pact around mutualization of debt accompanied by Keynesian measures to relieve unemployment and social stresses in the peripheral countries.

We should remember that there are two important dates coming up. First the 12 Sep ruling by the German Constitutional Court at Karlshrue on the ESM and second, the 14 SEP parliamentary elections in the Netherlands. The latter will demonstrate the extent of Eurosceptic support in a very pro European country (Wilders party may reach 25%). The Karlshrue ruling may well tie Merkel’s hand somewhat on handing more power to the EU.

Benjamin Leruth, Ph.D. candidate , Politics and International Relations, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

In my opinion, this approach is the right one to have. Euroscepticism is growing in several Member States of the European Union and knowing that referenda will be held on the ratification of a new EU treaty, setting up a convention might help reducing national opposition to an ever closer political union. The management of the recent Greek crisis under the patronage of Germany was strongly criticised by smaller Member States, and her willingness to have a convention to draw up a new EU treaty might be linked to this growing opposition.

However, organising a convention on a new EU treaty is a double-edged sword. Indeed, during this convention, strong divisions between Member States might appear and a good compromise on a EU treaty might be impossible to reach. If this is the case, the willingness to have a closer political union would fall apart, and some eurosceptic States such as Britain might call for a referendum on withdrawal from the EU. Nevertheless, due to the current delicate context surrounding the European Union, Angela Merkel did not seem to have the choice and the call for a convention, leading to a compromise on a new EU treaty, is a step in the right direction. Time will tell if it will effectively reduce popular opposition to more European integration.

Christian SchweigerLecturer in Government, Department of Politics, Durham University

I think that the reports of Merkel thinking about a new EU convention is an interesting development. It is definitely the result of growing criticism from within her own party of her European policy course. She is facing new calls from her sister party, the Bavarian CSU, for a swift exit of Greece from the Eurozone and last week the head of the CDU federation for small- and medium-sized businesses, Josef Schlarmann, criticised her leadership style for being not inclusive and not listening to any criticism. Schlarmann attacked the ‘system Merkel’ where critics are pushed to the sidelines. The German media has hence increasingly questioned what her long-term political vision for the EU is.

Although Merkel denied in an interview with the German TV station ARD (‘Berlin Direkt’) yesterday that she would be calling for a new EU convention, she still emphasised the need for EU member states to think about how to move forward. From my own perspective the idea of an EU convention is certainly something which may help EU members to determine an new direction for the Union and to think about if and in which areas they want to deepen integration. On the other hand there is of course a danger that a new convention would be either boycotted by sceptical member states like the UK or be used as a means to set final limits to the integration process and to focus on the liberalisation of the EU Single Market instead (something which the British prime minister David Cameron has repeatedly called for). In this respect you are probably right when you mention that it may open up Pandora’s Box but then there is also the question if EU leaders can continue to proceed with micro crisis management without offering a broader vision for the future of the EU.

The latter process risks undermining public support for the EU which has already rock bottom anyway.

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