A Citizens Compact: Reaching out to the Citizens of Europe
An initiative proposed by members of the European Policy Institutes Network (EPIN), with the participation of Gaëtane Ricard-Nihoul
The French and Dutch “no” votes have cast doubt on the future direction of the European integration process. The Constitutional Treaty laid out a prospect, but after the double rejection of the text, it is difficult to predict whether it will ever come into force. Indeed, by adding a special declaration addressing the possibility that member states would encounter difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the Heads of State attempted to ensure that rejection by one country would not automatically lead to the immediate “death” of the Constitution.
Events have proved that leaders showed a good sense of foresight when they took non-ratification into account.
Nevertheless, the wording does not allow for a legal interpretation in which ratification by the “countries encountering difficulties” would not eventually be required. Ultimately, the Constitution takes the form of an international treaty, which needs the consent of every state. Also, from a political perspective, the negative results of the two referenda cannot be ignored. Any attempt to disregard the results would provoke the opposite effect of what the process had initially intended: to make the EU more democratic and to “reconnect” it with the citizens. In the French case, the referendum was legally binding: to ignore its results would cause not only a political, but also a constitutional crisis. In the Netherlands, the referendum was merely “consultative”, but the government promised to respect the results because the turnout of 63.3% was more than twice as high as the government’s initial requirement of 30%.