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[31/05/2005] Rejecting the French?


by Jens-Peter Bonde MEP

Author of the "Reader-Friendly Edition of the European Constitution" and
President of the Independence and Democracy Group in the European Parliament

*   *   *

The French have rejected the proposed Constitution by 56% No-votes with a
surprisingly high 70% turnout. Therefore the proposed Constitution is no
longer a formal proposal.

It has been proposed under the rules of Nice demanding unanimity for EU
treaty change. The only possibility to revive the document is a new
proposal from a new Intergovernmental Conference, deciding by unanimity -
including the support of the French Government. That could happen on 16/17
June when the Heads of State and Goverment meet for their next fixed summit
in Brussels.


But it is up to the French to decide if they will respect their referendum or
ignore it. On 2 June 1992 the Danish voters rejected the Maastricht Treaty.
Two days afterwards the Foreign Ministers met in Oslo in the fringe of a
NATO meeting and decided formally to continue the ratification process in
spite of the Danish people's No.

It was legally possible because the Danish government ignored the Danish
referendum result and promised that they would come back with a
ratification at a later date. And they did, after a new referendum  on 18
May 1993 in which the
Danes were offered some permanent opt-outs from the Treaty,  which was then
formally ratified by the Danish Government.

When Ireland voted No to the Treaty of Nice the Irish Government also
ignored the No vote and came back at a later date with a new referendum.
The Nice Treaty continued to exist as a formal proposal because the Irish
Government revived it formally.

It is not an obligation on other governments to decide if the  position of
a country is fair or not on this matter. But they need the formal go-ahead
from the French President before proceeding.

The ratification process cannot continue in good faith if it is not revived
by the French.


The Netherlands will vote on tomorrow, Wednesday 1 June. The Dutch
referendum is a voluntary referendum. It has no legal value - but it
certainly has a political.  The Dutch can therefore hold the referendum or
cancel it according to their own choice.

The Danish referendum envisaged for 27 September is different because it is
a legally binding referendum. There has to be a referendum in Denmark if
the EU Constitution is not adopted by 150 of the 179 members of the Danish

The majority in the Danish Parliament must decide to hold the referendum in
a law proposing the ratification of the EU Constitution. Since this
is now rejected there is no possibility of a binding referendum being held
in Denmark unless the French President informs the Danish Government that
France intends to ratify the proposed Constitution at a later date.

The Danish Government envisages the adoption of a law on 7 September that
would pave the way  for a 27 September referendum.

The draft Constitution has attached to it a non-binding declaration, No.30,
about a possible summit to discuss the consequences if 20 of the 25 EU
have ratified the Constitution after 2 years and one or more countries have
run into difficulties.

This Declaration does not alter the fact that the European Treaties as
amended by the Treaty of Nice demand unanimity for new EU treaty
ratification. There is a new article in the proposed EU Constitution with a
similar content. But this is not law, yet.

The ratification process  has to respect the requirement for unanimity
amongst the 25 States as set out in the Treaty of Nice. After the French
referendum the EU Constitution is therefore dead - unless the French
authorities decide to revive it.


Politically the proposed Constitution does not unite Europe. Instead it
splits it.

Politically the idea of a state constitution is dead.

A better way forward could be in establishing a working-group with an equal
number of members in favour of the Constitution and against it and then
seeing if they could agree on proposing ideas for common playing rules
instead of the existing European Treaties as amended by Nice and the
proposed EU Constitution.

We need a simple basic treaty of 50 articles or so in some 20 pages
covering the necessary aspects of European cooperation. We do not need a
Constitution so
complex that even the French President does not know its precise contents.

President Chirac proved his lack of knowledge of the Constitution's
contents on French television for everyone who can read to see. Now he has
the chance to respect the French vote or reject it. Or perhaps elect a new
French people!


Consult  EUABC.com for the "Reader-Friendly Edition of the Proposed
European Constitution", with its 3000-item index and a glossary and
symbol-system that shows the changes the Constitution would make to the
existing  European Treaties.


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