Thursday, February 17, 2005

Constitutional debates and justice

Via The Transatlantic Assembly, a link to an interesting new blog, The Fundamental Principles of the European constitution. Don't know how this one kept below the radar, but it looks to be trying to provide an overview of the various debates over ratification throughout the EU. The danger for us UK-based EU-watchers is that it is very easy to assume everyone else will approve the thing. Not necessarily so. This new blog could be a very handy resource.

Elsewhere, Publius takes a look at justice and the EU constitution, which follows on nicely from my last post, and actually gives both pause for thought about some of my (entirely theoretical) claims and something approaching confirmation about some of my contentions of the legal protection against the state that the constitution may provide:

"depuis le traité de Maastricht, c'est-à-dire depuis que des objectifs politiques ont été assignés à l'Union européenne, la collaboration en matière judiciaire est un des objectifs de l'Union.... [mais] Tout cela n'est pas changé avec la constitution européenne, qui respecte donc la liberté interne des Etats-membres...

"Il y a toutefois une nouveauté importante : la deuxième partie de la Constitution prévoit une "charte des droits fondamentaux de l'Union". Les articles II-107 et suivants viennent élever au niveau européen des droits qui existaient déjà dans un autre ordre juridique, celui de la cour européenne des droits de l'Homme : présomption d'innocence, tribunal impartial, règle non bis in idem... Rien de très innovateur, mais l'existence de ces droits dans la Constitution est évidemment un plus, parce que progressivement, ils pourront être sanctionnés au niveau européen : on s'approche (à tout petit pas) de l'unification entre cour européenne des droits de l'Homme et cour de justice des communautés européennes.

"Le texte est porteur de promesses, et non de décisions. De nombreuses choses seront constitutionnellement possibles, mais cela ne suffira pas à vaincre les réticences des Etats, qui disposeront de moyens légaux importants pour différer ou empêcher l'adoption d'une loi d'harmonisation... néanmoins, il y a des choses très intéressantes, et la possibilité, à long terme (à mon avis, au moins 20 ans) de voir se constituer quelques bases, en procédure civile, en droit et en procédure pénale, d'un "droit européen" commun à toute l'union."
Roughly translated:
"since the treaty of Maastricht, i.e. since political objectives were brought within the EU's remit, collaboration on issues of law is one of the objectives of the Union... [but] each State maintains its own rights and its own legal organisation. None of that is altered by the European constitution, which thus respects the internal freedom of the Member States...

"There is however an important innovation: the second part of the Constitution envisages a "charter of the basic rights of the Union". Articles II-107 and following raise to a European level the rights which existed already in another legal order, that of the European Court of Human Rights: presumption of innocence, fair trials, the concept of double jeopardy... Nothing very innovative, but the existence of these rights in the Constitution is obviously one more step, because gradually they could be sanctioned at the European level: one approaches (very gradually) the unification of the European Court of Humans Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Communities...

"The text is full of promises... Many things will be constitutionally possible, but that will not be enough to overcome the reservations of the member states, which will have important legal means to diverge from or prevent the adoption of harmonised, EU-wide legal rights... nevertheless, there are some very interesting possibilities, and the chance, in the long run (in my opinion, at least 20 years) to see the basis of some foundation - in civil litigation, civil rights and penal procedure - of 'European rights' common to the whole union."
Let's hope so, eh?

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