On 29 May, the French will vote in a referendum on the ratification of the EU Constitution, which needs the agreement of all 25 member states. A poll was conducted and more than two-thirds of respondents (from France and Spain), were ignorant of what the Constitution says.
I will be voting “YES” on the 29th of May. Of the EU’s history and its proposed Constitution, I have made a very brief summary here:
In 1943, a Frenchman named Jean Monnet, a member of the French government in exile in Algiers, stated in a Committee meeting that: “There will be no peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on the basis of national sovereignty… The countries of Europe are too small to guarantee their peoples the necessary prosperity and social development. The European states must constitute themselves into a federation…”
After WWII, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed the idea of European integration in a speech in 1950. And from the ideas and the efforts of these two men, the European Union was born.
The European Union is now made up of 25 member states whose goal is to work together for peace and prosperity. Each member state is sovereign, but where they have common objectives which is better achieved on a union level, the EU becomes responsible for meeting these objectives.
The EU is comprised of three major institutions: the Commission, the Council and the Parliament. The Commission is composed of the heads of state or government of the member states. It proposes legislation, the approval of which has to be jointly decided by the Council and the Parliament.
The Council is composed of ministers of the member states (thus representing their governments). The Parliament is an assembly of the representatives of the 435 million EU citizens (thus representing their peoples). There are 732 representatives, distributed among member states in conjunction with their population.
Through the years, numerous Treaties and Agreements have been decided and legislated. The new EU Constitution will bring all these together to form the foundation of the European Union.
The major responsibility of the European Union is to legislate on trade, customs policy, monetary policy, fisheries and agriculture, laws on environment, health and the internal market. The Constitution defines this responsibility, and also proposes defining a justice policy with regards to asylum and immigration.
The Union, through this new Constitution, will also define a common foreign and security policy, but will not impose this on the member states. They will try to agree as much as possible on a framework for a common defense policy. The decision on this policy is to be decided by unanimous vote.
Aside from unanimous vote, the decision-making process is based on Qualified Majority: (a) 55% of the members of the Council comprising at least 15 members, and additionally, (b) the member states represented should comprise at least 65% of the population of the Union. In other words, a legislation can be passed if fewer than four countries oppose it.
The Constitution also defines a citizen’s fundamental rights. The Charter of Fundamental Rights is based on a number of Treaties, Conventions and Declarations. It not only covers the basic civil and political rights, but also covers workers’ social rights, data protection, bioethics and the right to good administration. The rulings of the European Court of Justice shall also define these and other Rights.
Where the European Union does not legislate, then national laws of the member states prevail. But the European Union has legal supremacy over international agreements.