Taking the cons out of the constitution: A pro-european case against the Eu constitution

Download the Press Release

by Caroline Lucas MEP,Green Party- based on research by Colin Hines.


The debate over the EU constitution is all too often presented as a sterile dichotomy between those who want greater integration with the EU and those who want less: an argument about whether we want 'more Europe?' or 'less Europe?'. Rarely is the crucial prior question 'what kind of Europe?' asked.

The process of drafting the proposed EU Constitution began from an attempt to answer that very question. The 2001 summit in Laeken, which established the Convention on the future of Europe, envisaged an 'audit' of the EU's role in the 21 st Century, a debate about what the EU was for, which EU competencies (or areas of responsibility) should be 'returned' to member states, and which enshrined in a constitution - in short, a project to reconnect the EU with the people it claims to represent.

Politics got in the way, of course - and these objectives were soon forgotten. The process became embroiled in the nitty-gritty of drafting a single document, that was acceptable to everyone involved, and the 'big idea' at the heart of the union was simply never considered.

This represents a hugely missed opportunity. As a Member of the European Parliament, I am confronted almost daily with the fact that the original 'big idea' - to bring peace to post-war Europe by binding its nations together in an ambitious free trade project - is no longer enough to sustain public support for the EU. Indeed, some have argued that it increases opposition to it.

A new big idea, based on placing sustainability, social justice and peace at the heart of the EU, could revitalise the EU institutions and re-inspire the public enthusiasm that has been eroded by the EU's moves towards 'economism'; the idea that the overriding goals of European integration are economic, and its progress should be measured in terms of economic growth and the removal of internal trade barriers alone. The EU could be a leader in renewable energies, it could be a leader in learning to live more lightly on the planet, it could be a leader in pioneering different economic models which improve our quality of life without being at the expense of the environment, future generations, and the poor of both rich and developing world; but it will have to resolve its internal contradictions first (1).

But the Constitution on offer proposes no such thing. It takes the means by which the EU's founding fathers sought the goal of peace in Europe - economic growth and removing barriers to trade - and places them at the heart of the union, as ends in themselves. Worse, it enshrines this neo-liberal economic model as a constitutional principle rather than, as is currently the case, in elements of a treaty. Since re-writing a constitution is considerably more difficult than revising a treaty, this will make it much more problematic to change those aspects in the future.

Any new constitution should be judged on its ability to move us towards the kind of EU that we want to see - one which puts sustainability and social justice at its heart, one that is based on peace, democracy and subsidiarity. And judged by that criterion, the current draft clearly fails.

This report examines some of the Constitution's shortcomings - and sets out the key elements of an alternative Constitution for a Sustainable Europe. Our appeal to reject the Constitution is neither negative nor Eurosceptic, but rather a positive campaign based on our belief that the peoples of Europe deserve something better.

No items found.