German Disappointment over the Draft EU Constitution

To round out our survey of initial national press reactions to the draft EU constitution unveiled for the public this past week, today we examine selections from out of the German press.

Quite unlike Britain (but we knew it would be this way), there are no concerns expressed about the theft of German sovereignty; like France, the country is also preoccupied with more pressing affairs, namely the upcoming SPD party conference where Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is trying to push through drastic economic reform proposals. Similarly, in Germany the predominant tone is also that of worry that the Convention will fail, but that is supplemented here with disappointment over the lack of ambition displayed by the Convention delegates in their work. In der Wirtschafts- und Währungspolitik wird vieles beim alten bleiben complains the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in the headline of one article – “In economic and currency policy much will remain the same.” Here, the very retention of national vetoes in the area of economic and tax policy that Tony Blair’s government cites to reassure its constituents that the new constitution poses no fundamental threat to British sovereignty is described as something that will “substantially cripple” the EU’s capability to make decisions and act on them in these crucial areas of policy.

But otherwise for the FAZ it’s crisis-as-usual. The unveiling of the draft propsal has unleashed Heftiger Streit (“vehement conflict”). Among other things, one of the Conventions leading German delegates, CDU MEP Elmar Brok, accuses its leadership of going with what the Praesidium wants (you’ll recall that that’s the elite sub-grouping of Convention delegates that Giscard d’Estaing picked out for those times when he doesn’t want to have to make progress with “Plenum” of all 105 delegates) and ignoring what the Plenum wants. The effect, according to Brok, has been a draft much too favorable to large-country interests, and “[t]here’s the danger that the Constitutional Convention could even blow up in the air.”

It’s a bit curious how Brok complains that, as it now seems, the Convention’s draft constitution favors the EU’s large countries overmuch – for of course Germany is the largest of them all! But it does seem that German observers can easily make this sort of even-handed analysis which would seem to go against their own interests – Die Zeit’s commentary article quotes in its headline prominent German politician Kurt Biedenkopf’s observation that “Das Schlimmste wäre ein Kartell der Großen – das darf nicht passieren.” Or “the worst thing would be a cartel of the large [states] – that can’t be allowed to happen.”

Die Welt actually takes the trouble to report on Giscard d’Estaing’s appearance in Aachen to collect his Charlemagne Prize. (It was not reported in the French on-line press, that I could find; I guess the key variable was where it took place.) It seems that he didn’t have much to say there. The article starts off by recalling European Commission President Romano Prodi’s sharp criticism this week of the draft constitution, according to which it lacks “vision and ambition” and therefore is not much better as a blueprint for running the enlarged 25-member EU than the present acquic communautaire – and indeed, may even be worse. Apparently Giscard could only ask in Aachen for greater sympathy for the Convention’s effort to “unite Europe by the pen,” after so many attempts in history to unite it by the sword, and point out that they still had some time to work on the text further before they were supposed to present it officially at the EU June summit in Thessaloniki.

Otherwise, Die Welt also weighs in with its own commentary on what the EU Constitution should include, in Das Europe der vielen Stimmen – “The Europe of many voices.” It’s a complicated article, which considers the necessity on the one hand for a capable EU able to act in emergencies of war or economic crisis, and on the other hand an EU where every state has its say and powers are clearly allocated and controlled – which is supposed to be the function of any constitution. Although the current world situation favors the former, Die Welt favors the latter, and so offers some suggestions in this vein: among others, that a European Senate be established (along the lines of the German Bundesrat, i.e. to represent the individual states in the European legislature) and – crucially – that the right for a state to withdraw from the EU be established and carefully defined.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.