Sincere Europeans should strive to make this treaty a reality

Share
Related Topics

The Italian hosts pulled out all the stops to launch the European Union's Constitutional Treaty in style. With a due sense of history, the ceremony was staged in the same splendid hall where the first Treaty of Rome was signed 47 years ago. Could anyone have conceived then that less than half a century later the Common Market would have become the European Union, the Iron Curtain would have fallen, the number of members would have risen to 25 - 12 of them bound by a common currency? By any measure these achievements have to be accounted a success.

The Italian hosts pulled out all the stops to launch the European Union's Constitutional Treaty in style. With a due sense of history, the ceremony was staged in the same splendid hall where the first Treaty of Rome was signed 47 years ago. Could anyone have conceived then that less than half a century later the Common Market would have become the European Union, the Iron Curtain would have fallen, the number of members would have risen to 25 - 12 of them bound by a common currency? By any measure these achievements have to be accounted a success.

Yesterday's lavish ceremony, however, suffered from a strange hollowness at its heart. Nominations for the new Commission, which was supposed to have been confirmed by the European Parliament last week, were withdrawn at the 11th hour. The incoming President, Jose Manuel Barroso, was forced back to the drawing board, after it became clear that the Parliament's objections to the Italian nominee for justice commissioner could scupper the whole executive. The least that will now happen is that the names will be reshuffled; some nominees may be replaced. A new Commission will be in place at best two weeks late.

Compounding the emptiness of yesterday's ceremony were doubts about whether the treaty - negotiated amid such contention - would ever come into force. It requires ratification by all 25 members, nine of which, Britain included, are committed to holding referendums. With popular enthusiasm for the European Union seemingly in decline across the continent, a serious question mark hangs over the new powers, structures and voting procedures that the treaty enshrines. If just one country rejects the treaty, the whole European project will once again be in flux.

Neither the late confirmation of a new Commission nor failure to confirm the new treaty would necessarily be fatal. If a new Commission is formed and confirmed within the month, the immediate crisis will have been defused. There is even a sense in which the Parliament's minor rebellion will have been salutary. If MEPs can continue to flex their muscles, there is a chance that the EU's democratic deficit will not yawn so wide in future. Nor would failure to ratify the constitution automatically consign the EU to oblivion. Institutions might simply be frozen in their present, clumsy state, or a multi-speed union might evolve.

Either eventuality, however, would signify a lamentably wasted opportunity. Silvio Berlusconi's credentials may be suspect in many departments, but his oratory yesterday was right on target. "Never in history," he said, "have we seen an example of nations voluntarily deciding to exercise their sovereign powers jointly in the exclusive interests of their peoples, thus overcoming age-old impulses of rivalry and distrust." That must be the hope. The coming months will show whether the pomp and circumstance in Rome will turn out to be the symbolic high point of a process that is now set for decline or whether, like the first Treaty of Rome, it will usher in a qualitatively new stage in Europe's history. All sincere Europeans must work for the second.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'