Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Giscard d'Estaing Admits EU Draft Constitution Was "Not Possible To Understand" But Sidesteps Blame for its Demise

Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the "architect" of the EU's draft constitution - thrown out by referendum in Holland and France last week - now admits that his document was incomprehensible.

"It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text," he says (with no outward sign of shame) in an interview with the New York Times.

Despite what most people would consider a grave handicap in any constitutional document, let alone one that requires legitimation by the approval of voters, Giscard blames "the present generation of leaders" in Europe - President Chirac foremost amongst them - for the debacle, saying they "never put Europe at the top of their agenda." One of the biggest errors Chirac made, according to Giscard, was letting French voters read the document. "I said, 'Don´t do it, don´t do it,'" he recalls warning Chirac back in March.

Yesterday evening the President of the EU Commission, Barroso, confirmed that there should be a "pause" in "the ratification process" of the rejected document. In saying this he is recognising that getting the "process" back on the road is a far taller order - and so a far lower priority - than getting the European nations to progress on the 2007-2013 budget during this week's summit in Brussels.

In any case, there can be no progress on the constitution until the budget is agreed. Chirac's decision to attack the British rebate this week has seen to that. For it has forced Tony Blair to point out that discussion of the UK rebate cannot be disentangled from a discussion about the overall budget, in particular, its outdated Common Agricultural Policy (which happens to favour the French farmers). And the discussion about the "legitimate scope and competencies of the EU" which Blair is now recommending, as he aims to deflect specific criticism of the UK rebate and broaden it out into criticism of wider budgetary issues - will have a direct effect on any new putative EU consitution.

In light of which, it is obviously right to stall the "ratification process" of a document which has been undermined most radically by the very politicians who were, until last week, presenting it to voters as the only way forward.

In this sense, Giscard's attack on the "present generation of leaders" which has failed to secure the approval of his "impossible to understand" document is fair enough. After all, these politicians have allowed the "ratification process" to be derailed by their own voters, a thing unheard of in Giscard's day...

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