An ideological EU constitution

by National Platform EU Research and Information Centre

THE PROPOSED EU constitution emerged from the Convention on the Future of Europe, presided over by former French president V Giscard d'Estaing. This was mandated by the 2001 Laeken Declaration of EU presidents and prime Ministers to make proposals to tackle the EU's acknowledged lack of democracy, to consider restoring powers from Brussels to member states and to consider "the possibility in the long run" of a constitutional text.

Instead the Convention, which was dominated by Euro-federalists, rushed headlong into drafting this constitution that centralises the EU further. It gives the EU all the legal constitutional features of a state except the ability to impose taxes and force its individual members to go to war. It turns neo-liberal economics into fundamental constitutional principles of this new European Union, removes important remaining powers from national parliaments and citizens, and does not propose to repatriate a single power from Brussels to the member states.


If the proposed constitution is rejected, the EU will continue on the basis of the Treaty of Nice, with the voting arangements that treaty laid down for an EU of 27 states. By standing firm and saying No to it, the labour movement and the left can force a proper debate on the kind of Europe we really want - a social Europe, a more democratic EU.

The Convention should be recalled, put on a more democratic basis and told to make proposals for an EU of this kind. It would be a Europe with national parliaments and citizens in the lead, not the tiny but powerful bureaucratic and political elites who back this constitution because it gives them personally more power.


The constitution of any normal state lays down the rules and institutional framework for political decision-making. It does not seek to pre-empt the ideological content of those decisions. That is left to political debate between the parties of left and right, abiding by the constitution's decision-making rules.

  • The EU constitution is different. It lays down rules but it also embodies an ideology: neo-liberal rightwing economics. It turns the fundamental principles of classical laissez-faire, free competition across national and state boundaries on the basis of free movement of goods, services, capital and labour, into constitutional imperatives, implemented by the rules and institutions it establishes and enforced by the EU Court of Justice.
  • It encourages the privatisation of public services and permits the imposition of such policies on countries outside the EU through the trade and investment agreements the EU concludes under its Common Commercial Policy.
  • It militarizes the EU further by setting up a European Defence Agency which will encourage member states to increase military spending.
  • It makes membership of the eurozone a constitutional obligation, regarding the opt-outs of countries like Denmark and Britain as temporary in principle. It then enshrines as constitutional law the monetarist economic policy of the European Central Bank, whose sole brief in setting interest rates and controlling the money supply of the eurozone is to ensure stability of prices. This contributes to high unemployment in the core eurozone economies.
  • In response to pressure from the European Round-Table of Industrialists and others the Constitution has gutted the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the capacity to strengthen workers' rights and bargaining power at EU level. Article II-88 says workers have these rights "in acordance with national law and practices" only. That is no improvement.
  • The Constitution gives more power to the EU by abolishing the national veto on some 40 areas or issues, for example harmonising crime and justice matters, border controls, asylum and immigration policy, energy.
  • As if this wholesale abandonment of national vetoes were not enough, the Constitution has an "escalator clause" which enables the presidents and prime ministers to replace unanimity by majority voting in the few areas where a veto still remains, as long as there is a consensus amongst themselves. That could include indirect taxes(Art.III-171). This enables the EU's top politicians to amend the constitution without the inconvenience of further treaties or referendums. A national parliament may block this by objecting, but their explicit approval is not required and these days governments can easly enough bend parliaments to their will.
  • It lays down as one of the objectives of the EU "a highly competitive social market economy", but there is no definition of the term "social market", which is taken from the German constitution, or anything to indicate that something other than maximising competition is implied.

These ideological objectives and values of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe seek to pre-empt society's fundamental political choices into the indefinite future, as no other modern constitution seeks to do.

By standing firm and saying No, the labour movement and the left can help save our own country and Europe from taking a fundamentally wrong course.

Tfhe final text of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe'can be consulted at:

A Reader-Friendly Edition of the EU Constitution by Danish MEP Pieter Bonde is available at or

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2005-05-17 12:11:13.
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