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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une course de vitesse contre la democratie

by Rosa Moussaoui

A Race to the Finish — Against Democracy

Translated Monday 5 November 2007, by Henry Crapo

They want to finish the job in complete secrecy. The European leaders construct their project behind closed doors, to be ready for mid-October. It recycles the text rejected in 2005, and has nothing whatever to do with the sort of "simplified treaty" promised by Nicolas Sarkozy. We must demand transparency on this question.

European Union. The ministers of foreign affairs of the European Union meeting this weekend in Portugal want to avoid, at any price, any popular debate on the European treaty. [1]

The Portuguese presidency of the European Union wants to make tracks. The objective: in preparation for the European Council meeting to take place on 18-19 October, to finish work on a new European treaty that will recycle in substance the constitutional project rejected in 2005 by the French and Netherlands electorats. This is a calendar that the European foreign ministers, convoked Friday by Viana Do Castello for an informal meeting in Portugal, wish to maintain despite the announced anticipated elections in Poland.

"It’s like that in democratic life: there are elections — they don’t particularly worry me", commented Bernard Kouchner, chief of French diplomacy. "We’re holding our course", likewise insisted the Portuguese minister of foreign affairs, Luis Amado, all the while recognizing that there are "a few problems". He continued, "Up until now, everything we’ve heard tends to reinforce our conviction that it will be possible".

The promoters of the new treaty fear that the political crisis in Poland, following the breakup of the conservative majority upon which the Kaczynski brothers depended, may encourage the latter to renege once again on their promises, obtained in June, where they may demand a mechanism for blocking votes taken by qualified majority, and exemption of Poland (as is the case for the UK) from application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

An inextricable puzzle of amendments

But in reality, the uncertainty concerns rather the delays imposed on the final objective, and the drafting of the text that the 27 nations will eventually be called upon to ratify. It is not a question, warned the Portuguese presidency and the Commission, of envisaging, for now, even the slightest delay that could make room for the beginning of a public debate.

After the presentation, July 23, at the opening of the intergovernmental Conference, of a first draft of the document, the groups of "judicial experts" set to work behind closed doors for the remainder of the summer. On Friday, the ministers of foreign affairs were supposed to inspect the present state of preparation of the document, work described as "technical adjustments" of the "modified treaty".

This was presented in the form of an inextricable tangle of amendments extracted from the abortive constitution, which would be appended to the treaties already enacted. The document, in many hundreds of pages, not counting the innumerable declarations and protocols, has nothing to do with the "simplified’ form promised by Nicolas Sarkozy, and will almost make the text rejected in 2005 a paragon of clarity, by comparison.

As for its content, the modified treaty consecrates, as did the constitutional treaty, the holy principle of "free and unfettered competition" as the foundation stone of the European neo-liberal orientation, with a European Central Bank all-powerful in monetary policy, and with all those slogans of "budgetary discipline" that dictate the reduction in spending for measures of social and developmental utility. See article.

The member states feel pressured to act fast

If an agreement is reached at the European Council in October [2], the heads of state will be able formally to sign the document in December, thus opening the road to ratification by the member states. These governments are anxious to act quickly, and above all to avoid any recourse to popular consultations (such as referenda), which are considered to be too risky. Even if the promises of the French president Nicolas Sarkozy to proceed to a parliamentary ratification reassures the European leaders, pressures are still mounting for the the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, who does not exclude a referendum if the text crosses the "red lines" traced by London. Negotiations are lively, aimed at avoiding this perspective, which would place in question the objective of having a new treaty in operation prior to the European elections in 2009.

[1Translator’s note: This important article was published in l’Humanité on the 10th of September. My apologies for the delay.

[2Translator’s note: It was!

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