Analysis: What can we learn from collapse of constitutional project?

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

Andrew Moravcsik, in an article published in Politische Vierteljahresschrift, argues that the failure of the constitution is paradoxically evidence of the success of the existing Treaties.

The paper begins by asserting that “wholesale constitutional reform had little legal or substantive justification” as many of the proposed changes would have been obtainable by piecemeal implementation over the five years during which the draft constitution was drafted. Moreover, from a purely legal perspective, major constitutional reform was not needed as Moravcsik believes the EU already has a de facto constitution, the oft-amended Treaty of Rome.

According to the author, the constitutional treaty was born from a widespread perception that the EU would need a radical overhaul to avoid gridlock with 25 rather than 15 members which was always more pretext than reasoned motivation. He believes that the draft constitution was, above all, an exercise in public relations to increase trust and support among the European public. However, the effort was doomed to failure because “salient political rhetoric and increased opportunities to participate do not, as a rule, generate more intensive and informed public deliberation or greater public trust, identity and legitimacy”. 

On the positive side, Moravcsik argues that the collapse of the constitutional project, in fact demonstrates the EU’s stability and success and “the pragmatically effective, normatively attractive and politically stable nature of the existing ‘European constitutional settlement,’ embodied in the revised Treaties of Rome”. 

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