Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Referendum rejected - reform required

Reading through the full text of Jack Straw's speech announcing the (temporary) suspension of Britain's plans for a referendum on the constitutional treaty, its fairly tricky to find anything major to disagree with. And I'm no fan of Jack Straw.

Yep, his summary of what the constitution would have changed is excessively simplistic and other interpretations are easily possible, but the basic points he makes explaining why a referendum is currently a silly idea (pay attention, Ireland) are sound:

"like any other EU treaty, it requires ratification by every one of the EU's member states - now 25 - before it can come into force... until the consequences of France and the Netherlands being unable to ratify the treaty are clarified, it would not in our judgement now be sensible to set a date for second reading [of the European Union bill setting out the proceedures for a referendum]... it is not for the UK alone to decide the future of the treaty... We reserve completely the right to bring back for consideration the bill providing for a UK referendum should circumstances change. But we see no point in doing so at this moment... these referendum results raise profound questions about the future direction of Europe."
Simon Hoggart is on his usual good form with his parliamentary sketch:
"Mr Straw continued in his diffident way, making the greatest crisis in EU history sound like the date of the next choir practice."
Of course, the real crisis is that without the referendum going ahead and giving Blair a convenient point to step down, we're likely to be stuck with the bugger for at least another two years...

Well, that and the impact this period of EU introspection could have on the international scene:
"Europe's future international relations hinge on the outcome of the debate about what to do with the rejected constitution. During the upcoming 16-17 June EU summit, a start will be made tackling the most pressing issues. Should Europe's landscape change from a combined vast geographical area to individually portioned up countries again, this likely will overthow established international relations globally too."
Berlin Sprouts also notes the fears of EU-hopefuls Bulgaria and Romania of the delays to future enlargement the current confusion could bring, while the likes of Turkey and Ukraine are in an even more precarious position which could cause major problems for the drives for reform on their respective domestic scenes.

The EU has been a major force for good in the former Soviet satellite states and other less developed countries to the east. The potential of eventual membership has sped through economic and social reforms which have already started to produce tangible benefits to the various populations.

While our leaders squabble, they should bear this in mind. The point of the EU is basically utilitarian, bringing the greatest benefit to the greatest number. They need to make sure that they don't lose sight of this broader view while focussing on their individual nations' needs.

(By the way, if anyone can come up with a better translation of this Habermas article than Babelfish can manage, I'd be grateful...)

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