On the barricades for the Reform Treaty!

, by Philippe Adriaenssens

On the barricades for the Reform Treaty!

Can you imagine what would happen if the hard-fought compromise of the Reform Treaty did not get through the ratification procedure?? The degree of Euro-pessimism would be far more destructive than the one we have suffered since the French and Dutch referenda in 2005. After that both the Convention and Sherpa method would have failed, the entire EU institutional set-up would be judged overly complex in a way that the Union might even endure some disintegration. We have literally arrived at a pivotal point in EU history…

Can you imagine genuine federalists acting against the Rome Treaties 50 years ago, just because they had not been established in a participative democratic process?? Let alone the fact that they gave birth to a not so democratic system deprived of a directly elected European Parliament? Would this have been a sufficient reason for Ministers and MPs to resist the development of the EU? Amidst the inertia caused by the failure of the European Defence Community, the 1955 Conference of Messina re-launched negotiations behind closed doors. A small group of government representatives and legal experts gathered under the leadership of Paul-Henri Spaak at Val Duchesse. They were the Sherpa engineers of the 1950s who brokered a deal that led to the most impressive regional integration effort ever…

The Reform Treaty negotiations have been conducted in a completely legitimate way. None of the institutional proceedings, which were democratically agreed upon by all 27 national parliaments, have been violated. Moreover, it is widely recognised that governments have done their utmost to preserve many innovations of the Constitution. And this is just the way it works in a representative system: the citizens, through the European Convention, prepared the bulk of the texts and the governments through the Council cut the Gordian knots. It is thus only if one cherishes direct democracy principles that one could possibly attack the current state of affairs. The point is, however, that JEF is above all a pro-European organisation and only in the second place a pro-democratic movement. More democratic structures are of great concern to us, but there is, in the statutes of JEF-Europe, simply no reference to specifically direct democracy objectives.

JEF’s top priority is to vigorously support the EU’s gradual evolution towards a federal political system. Above all, we now want to be able to accommodate the Eastern enlargements and reinforce our European institutions. Let me therefore summarise which vital improvements are at stake:

  EU gets a single legal personality & reference to Fundamental Rights Charter make the document legally binding

 European Council President for a two and a half year term & High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy with diplomatic corps

  Smaller Commission & simplified “double majority” voting system in the Council (55% QMV and 65% population)

  One million citizens’ initiative
  More co-decision for the European Parliament in justice and home affairs

  Increased cooperation for security, immigration, climate change and energy sector

As always, there are shortcomings, delays and opt-outs due to the fact that all countries need to ratify the Reform Treaty in the end, but these are by far outweighed by the advantages. Whether we like it or not, the EU is still being managed and shaped by governments, too. They are fundamental building blocks and this is unlikely to change drastically in the near future. Less utopianism and more pragmatism would therefore demonstrate the seriousness of our organisation and our capability to understand how the EU actually operates.


Sure, we want to continue attacking the veto rights in the Council. Sure, we want to continue issuing critical press releases on the way Treaty negotiations are conducted and push for a real Constitution. And sure, we want JEF to put the citizen in the centre and advance more transparency and democracy in the decision-making system.

But we do NOT want JEF to fight against a Reform Treaty that allows the EU to progress, increase its efficiency and improve the democratic rules of the game step by step. On the contrary, we will need to summon up all our federalist campaigning strength for promoting the ratification of this highly important new Treaty, especially in the countries where a positive outcome cannot be taken for granted…


*Reform Treaty – In place of the EU Constitution, a Reform Treaty, to be drafted from this 16-page mandate agreed upon during the June 2007 EU summit, amends existing EU Treaties, source: Wikimedia Commons

Your comments
  • On 12 October 2007 at 11:24, by valery Replying to: On the barricades for the Reform Treaty!

    “Can you imagine genuine federalists acting against the Rome Treaties 50 years ago, just because they had not been established in a participative democratic process??”

    => actually I can because it is precisely what happened : a significant part of the federalist movement at the time was opposed or reluctant towards the communities.

  • On 13 October 2007 at 03:56, by Damien RM Replying to: On the barricades for the Reform Treaty!

    I cannot agree more with Philippe. The lofty, disdaining criticism made of the Reform and Harmonisation Treaty by certain members of certain continental JEF - Sections frightens me.

    This treaty, while it has its shortcomings, is vital for the functionning of the EU, and more importantly, we cannot afford for it to fail. That setback would sweep away all of the dynamics painstakingly engaged in the 80’s and 90’s since the SEA, and would bring us back to the stagnation of the 60’s and 70’s, to the empty chair policy (imagine Poland and the UK not attending council meetings?). And while during the 60’s and 70’s, the ECJ did the work where the governments did not, it will not be able to do anything now. The second and third pillars are still out of its reach, and the Member-States do not have the same naiveté that they had back then, and know exactly what to expect from the ECJ.

    So we cannot afford the RT to fail. So we need to do all we can for it to be ratified ASAP. Whining and whingeing about its shortcomings and the sherpa method will not advance any of this. It is already creating problems here in the UK, with Eurosceptics seizing the comments to their advantage to campaign against the RT (The Guardian, Comments&Debate, Thursday October 11).

    Regardless of how frustrating it is not to be able to battle for Europe in the open, we need to avoid a referendum in the UK at all costs. And federalists on the other side of the channel do not seem to understand that all the criticism they make of the RT gives the Daily mail and the Sun more to chew on to call for a referendum.

    We need to know what we really want: complete stagnation or a first step towards another treaty in less than a decade. And then we need to act accordingly.

  • On 15 October 2007 at 20:50, by ? Replying to: On the barricades for the Reform Treaty!

    Yes indeed, it is very true that the issue divided the federalist movement in the 1950s, but I do not believe that they really acted against the new Treaty, as was cautiously suggested to do right after the Presidency conclusions were made public back in June. Furthermore, I strongly believe that not acting in favour of the Reform Treaty equals acting against it, considering that we would be giving free play to anti-European feelings to gain ground without providing any counterbalance. If JEF as the European vanguard does not even support the Reform Treaty with all its energy, what reasons would others still have left to stand up for the EU.

    And even regardless of the question whether you prefer the pragmatic gradual option à la Spaak & Monnet or the utopian all-in-one option à la Spinelli, it would be very sad when federalists stay apathetic towards the development of the EU and don’t do anything to grab this occasion to go explaining the (reformed) EU to the citizen.

  • On 15 October 2007 at 21:29, by Olivier Replying to: On the barricades for the Reform Treaty!

    “The degree of Euro-pessimism would be far more destructive than the one we have suffered since the French and Dutch referenda in 2005”

    Although I welcome the few important improvements that this Reform Treaty would bring about, I’m afraid I don’t fully agree: It seems to me that the current EU method is already something of the past, and that we have gone back to a smaller, tighter West European Union structured alongside the Franco-German axis.

    I am appalled at hearing a so-called Europhile like M.Joseph Daul say that the European People’s Party supports the Reform Treaty because it will not lead to the building of a ’European superstate’ (a phrase which means nothing, ’European state’ would make much more sense). We can carry on with a weak, watered-down EU but simply as a secondary international organisation, not as a main European structure. The main structure must be the hard core of the EU, even if - unfortunately - it is quite smaller than the current European Union.

  • On 16 October 2007 at 16:27, by Dominique Replying to: On the barricades for the Reform Treaty!

    The talking points you list are fairly interesting, but unseless in debate if you do not provide a clear link or reference to the treaty part which enunciates each of them.

    The treaty’s form is a maddeningly complex, cross-referenced lawyer’s paradise, and it makes it easy for opponents to sell a blanket rejection, since it is assumed that nobody can really get inside the text.

    May I suggest you elaborate on these talking points with the provision of suitable references.

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