What Prospects for the European Constitutional Treaty? – Monitoring the Ratification Debates

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

One of the conclusions this EPIN Working Paper reaches is
that 22 out of 25 Member States will ratify the EU
Constitution. The paper rates ratification in the Czech Republic
and Poland as ‘unsure’ and the United Kingdom as ‘rather
unlikely’.

Executive Summary (taken directly from the
paper)

Following the success of the EPIN survey on the European
elections 2004 (EPIN Working Paper No. 11), the authors decided to
use a similar approach for monitoring the current ratification
process of the European Constitutional Treaty. Accordingly, the
findings presented in this paper are based on the results of a
survey conducted among national experts associated with the
European Policy Institutes Network (EPIN). As such, they are
inherently subjective, but nevertheless wellinformed. The report
draws on survey data collected in 20 EU member states, supplemented
by additional sources of information on the remaining countries
where available. While the actual outcomes may prove our findings
wrong in one respect or another, they do indicate interesting
developments and differences in the respective member states. The
added value of this EPIN survey lies in its broad comparative scope
and analysis rather than its offering an in-depth assessment of
each national debate. (For the latter, special country reports are
envisaged at a later point in time.) The EPIN Ratification Monitor
project plans to publish regular updates on the rapidly changing
situation. 

The main findings of this report are: 

  • At the present time, it looks likely that the
    Constitution will be ratified in 22 of the 25
    member states
    , with only the Czech Republic and Poland
    rated as ‘unsure’ and the United Kingdom as ‘rather unlikely’. All
    countries applying the parliamentary procedure only are rated
    ‘highly likely’ to ratify. In the Czech Republic and Poland, the
    referenda will actually make ratification more likely, because the
    qualified majorities needed in parliament would be difficult to
    obtain. 
  • Concerning political parties, there exists a broad
    political mainstream in favour
    of the
    Constitution in almost all member states.
    However, there are rather clear divisions at the centre of the
    political spectrum in the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic,
    Poland and Malta. Even in France, the positions of the mainstream
    political parties are not as clear cut as observers usually
    assume. 
  • Procedures, timetables and political
    conditions
    for parliamentary ratification and
    referenda vary widely among the member
    states, making a ‘European’ debate difficult and giving little
    incentive for an exchange of views across national borders.
    Consequently, at this point in time, the focus of the
    debates is (still) predominantly national
    in all member
    states. 
  • The key players in the debate are set to be
    national politicians
    . This holds out the promise of lively
    national debates on a European issue in particular in those
    countries where referenda will be held. Yet it also carries the
    risk that debates may be ‘hijacked’ by national actors pursuing a
    domestic agenda. European actors and transnational involvement of
    key players are still largely absent from the debates. 
  • There seems to be a certain set of core issues
    that is recurring throughout the ratification debate
    in
    most of the member states. Nevertheless, these issues are looked at
    through national lenses and there appears to be limited scope for
    transnational influences. 
  • Moreover, it is often the issues directly related to the
    Treaty, which are more technical in nature and thus inherently less
    interesting for the general public, that are used by
    proponents in their attempt to generate support for
    ratification, whereas political issues tend to be brought up more
    frequently in arguments put forth by opponents to the
    Treaty. 
  • Two issues are overwhelmingly used as an argument in favour of
    ratification of the Treaty: the provisions on CFSP and the enhanced
    role of the EU on the global stage that is perceived to derive from
    them. This seems to confirm that citizens want the EU to become
    more active in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy.
    Indeed, the creation of the post of EU Foreign Minister is also
    expected to be used largely as a pro-ratification
    factor. 

Click here  to access the EPIN Working Paper written
by Sebastian Kurpas, Marco Incerti and Justus
Schönlau
.

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