Politics of the Constitutional Treay: Four Analyses

Politics of the Constitutional Treay: Four Analyses

"The Politics of the Constitutional Treaty: Elements of Four Analyses"

Finn Laursen

[Chapter from Johan From and Nick Sitter (eds.), Europe's Nascent State? Public Policy in the European Union. Essays in Honour of Kjell A. Eliasen. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk, 2006]


The European Union (EU) has gone through a number of treaty reforms in recent years. The EU itself was formed by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 (Laursen and Vanhoonacker, 1992 and 1994). It combined the pre-existing European Communities (EC) in reformed versions, including plans for Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), with two new pillars: Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) cooperation. Further reforms followed through the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 (Laursen 2002) and the Nice Treaty in 2001 (Laursen, 2006). Starting in February 2002 a Convention on the Future of Europe prepared a Draft Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, usually referred to a Constitutional Treaty. The draft was completed in the summer of 2003. An Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) then met from October 2003 until June 2004 finalising a new draft treaty on the basis of the draft from the Convention. The ratification process started afterwards, but on 29 May the French and 1 June 2005 the Dutch voters voted 'No' to ratification in referenda. At the time of writing (December 2005) the future of the treaty is uncertain even if a majority of the member states have ratified it.

Treaty reforms have been major events in the history of European integration (Moravcsik, 1998; Beach, 2005). Usually they have included both policy and institutional changes, although the Nice Treaty as well as the Constitutional Treaty mainly included institutional changes. Many treaty reforms have been linked with enlargements. So were the Nice and the Constitutional Treaties. On 1 May 2004 the EU went through the largest enlargement so far taking the membership to 25. It was deemed necessary to change the institutions to make such a much enlarged union work. In order to increase efficiency the idea was to introduce more qualified majority voting (QMV) in the Council of Ministers. In order to increase the legitimacy of the union it was deemed necessary to enhance the roles of the European and national parliaments. Other considerations entered of course and recent treaty reforms have been very controversial. Especially institutional issues – where questions of future power are decided – tend to become very sensitive politically.

Dr. Finn Laursen