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Criticism to European Constituent Process
November, 2002

Demand from the Convention on the Future of Europe

Demopunk Net's pages, inspired by radical conception about Democracy, demand from the Convention on the Future of Europe:

I.- Introduction

II.- Demand from the Convention on the Future of Europe

III.- Analysis of European Constituent Process

Appendix.- Workgroups of the Convention on the Future of Europe

I.- Introduction

“... But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last. “Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, “Now I must bear up to the end.” And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist.(Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark, 1837)

Seemingly, the constituent process of new Europe has already started. Hardly anybody know it, but it seem having already begun. The last EU Inter-Governmental Conference culminate in December of 2002 in the so-called Declaration of Laeken.

On that occasion, several sections of democratic activism emphasized self-criticism of the own european elites. They stated to recognize lack democracy within european decision-making centres (empty self-criticism by repeating it so much but not lifting a finger to solve it). But european politicians seemed to step forward and instituted the so-called Convention on the Future of Europe.

The Convention is an assembly with 105 members (each of the 15 EU state-members and the 13 candidate countries are represented by one member from its government and two members from its parliament). At first it is in charge to state recommendations, to study courses of action, to search procedures related to political reforms in order to achieve several grades of political unity within the EU. Its works should last until the next Inter-Governmental Conference.

But to our surprise, the Convention begins assuming constituent functions which have not been set for it -it is worth to verify it within the Declaration of Laeken (perhaps old political scientists who analyzed sovietic documents could find out something concealed for everybody). Nobody seem to be surprised by constituent functions of the Convention, even not the European Parliament!.

Drafts of hypothetical european constitutions has just raised, european politicias has just begun to declare themself for or against simple media news, national politicians seems strange for so important activity, and of course 99% of people unknow there already is a de facto constituent assembly. A real example of constituent process.

We wonder if the "constituent" Convention is divided up by commissions of constitucional chapters or headings, or maybe everybody help to everything? Quite the opposite, we know well the organizative structure of the Convention; it is worth to enter website of the
Convention on the Future of Europe to check it has not got neither legitimacy nor structure of a constituent assembly. In this document a short description of its workgroups can be found.

Well...that's enough fruitless irony. Any way, such a constituent speeding-up has sparked natural concerns among collectives of democratic activism, who see how terms are quickly wasted; they perceive an official draft of an european constitution could spring up within less than a year, including the procedure and scheduling for its ratification.

If there were not an european chauvinism -plaged by colonial "tics"-, and feverish activity of propaganda media, the recent venezolan constituent process should be a real example of the events, terms and openness what must manage a constituent process. Elements typifying a process supported by Constituent Power of people are not a mysterious secret -rather they are dictated by common sense from a clear political goodwill- and could be summed up as following:

  1. Initiative. Initiative for constituent process has to be exercised, or directly by people or by that institution whose direct election maximizes expression of Constituent Power. Clearly, European Parliament is the institution which should cause the beginning of constituent power.

  2. Ratification of the initiative. An initiative exhibiting such a significance, if it is not excersized by people then it should be ratificated by referendum. European Parliament should take on responsability of starting initiative, but also it should politically be bound by mentioned popular referendum.

  3. Constituent Assembly. People have to elect directly the representatives of the constituent assembly, in charge of drafting the constitution. There are many records of legislative houses taking on constituent functions; therefore a suitable procedure would be European Parliament assume this role and self-dissolve calling for elections of constituent assembly.

  4. Ratification of the Constitution. The constitution drafted by the constituent assembly has to be ratified by people on referendum, and of course, the constitution must leave free Constituent Power allowing the future constitutional amendment by means of popular initiative.
For those ones who block such a process with legal excuses, it is worth to remember pre-eminence of Constituent Power, being above every legal regulation. Because it is perceived that behind such legal excuses, actually absence of democratic will is hidden. Or at the best and most compassionate case, merely the EU is not ripe to cope with a democratic constituent process.

II.- Demand from Convention on the Future of Europe

Therefore -now- Demopunk Net pages,
inspired by radical conception about Democracy, demand from the Convention on the Future of Europe:

III.- Analysis of European Constituent Process

The European Constituent Process exists, it is a reality. It was started irregularly, with chaotic procedure, with irregular way, with undefined goals, but it exists. Democratic community -used to the european autocrats and warned by emptying reached by our sickly predemocracies- feels the duty of taking up a stance before a constituent process which threats to institutionalize the actual "European Regime". Therefore -now- we have to cope with analysis of the future european constitution.

European process of integration, as well as its reached maturing, has overcome historical challenges without records. For years, innovative nature of the process has been evident, and sometimes it has justified doubts, the long-term strategy of negotiation and even some minor errors. European integration will be reference -positive or negative- for future integration processes which will be seen by generations non-born yet; today we have a feeling sudamerican countries or asian Southeast converge slowly on such processes.

The future constitutional text has to cope with troubles that keep fossilized Democracy today. The same innovative nature of the process should impregnate the constitutional design. The hegemonic political system (liberal democracy, which within our radical democrat context is named pejoratively as the "Regime") have become stabilized -taken hold- in self-complacency, broadcasting from its propaganda media a triumphant image which does not fit with growing remoteness of people. This is not trouble of public image, it is not a Regime unable to explain its virtues and achievements to people. It is rather the accumulation of a series of political troubles which solution would upset status or consensus among elites. And we are talking about political problems that within every country show their own specificities and localisms, but in the case of European Union the additional grade of indirection provokes mentioned troubles cast the grotesque image of caricature of democratic system.

We are not describing a catastrophic outlook without any foundation. Problems of liberal democracy are known, quite deep, and they should not be inherited by the european giant. They are multidimensional troubles, which leads people to apathy and disappointment before what is seemingly an achievement of our civilization: Democracy. The multidimensional nature implies there is not a sole front where working (for instance swiss system enjoys the political freedoms of Direct Democracy with the most depth and seniority, but mere existence of so significative freedoms cannot avoid a disproportionate levels of abstention).

Liberal democracy has become fossilized by as a result of many agents. Study of its problems implies to cope with freeing Constituent Power, equipment of political freedoms of Direct Democracy, relationship between political parties and the Regime, the representative eficiency of electoral systems, some problems as european as those ones derived from nationalities, control of the empire and war, and of course the political role of communication media.

Europe has headed some -only some- of the main human and social milestones of world history. May be political establishment is prisoner of spurious interests, but european society is also repository of a collective subconscious -of humanist tradition- from which could wait a democratic revolution that gets Regime out its stagnation. We are talking about of a constitution of new generation, less worried about turning Europe into a new imperial power than sparking off a revolutionary change of relationship between people and power.

Invocation to Revolution is not gratuitous. From our point of view, the best achievements and virtues of actual Regime come from its (distant) revolutionary sources; and since then democratic progression has been slow, null or reactionary. Sufragism is an example of non-revolutionary process which was consolidating along 20th century, but only as elites tried out mechanisms of people control which made sure its harmessless. But Revolution has got a desproportinate human cost; a revolution -triumphant ot not- is a bloody god who demands human sacrifice of a whole generation, sacrifice which is written off quickly in a few years. Criticism of classic concept of Revolution has produced quite few intellectual alternatives, such as Autonomous Zones (TAZ) from Hakim Bey. But Radical Democracy is the main political thought offering a complete alternative to classic concept of Revolution.

We are aware of realities of politics nowadays, and we know asking European Union for a democratic revolution, if it is not an utopia else it is quite distant dream. Actual democratic shortage of European Union is not unexpected, transitory, it is not an immature stage of a vegetative development. It is an amplifying mirror of the own shortages as national scope of every member-state, it is result of political will to not create a democratic system.

The new constitution should be a new agreement between people and power. The keyword is the word "new". If the european constitution ends up instituting a liberal democracy, it might not be waited bigger popular emotion than actual one raised by Regimen in every member-state.

The new constitutional agreement does not lack guidelines. Suffice it to analyze honestly the political troubles that a century of liberal democracy has brought up clearly. Following points deal with them, which in turn define radical democrat position before european constituent process:

Workgroups of the Convention on the Future of Europe

Following, motivated reader may find a description of workgroups, just as described in the own website of the Convention. Hardly it could be accepted them as structure of a constituent assembly. Even there is no group seemingly in charge to suggest a constituent process to the next Inter-Governmental Conference.

Well, ... in every european gossip shops is maintained not only that the Convetion will draw a constituent process, even it will generate an "official" draft of constitution. Even more, many european politicians are already discussing if this unknown constitution will be or not ratified by a paneuropean referendum.

(Source: Convention on the Future of Europe)

Group I, Subsidiarity.The principle of subsidiarity is that - except in areas where it has exclusive competence - the Union should only act when its action is more effective than action at national, regional or local level. This is a basic principle of the Union's operations. How can verification of compliance with the principle of subsidiarity best be ensured? Should a verification mechanism or procedure be introduced? Should such a procedure be political and/or judicial in character?

Group II, Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which was drawn up by a convention, was adopted on 18 December 2000. It establishes the moral and ethical values which are common to all the Member States of the Union. If it is decided to include the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the Treaty: how should this be done, and what would be the consequences thereof? What would the consequences be of accession by the Community/Union to the European Convention on Human Rights?

Group III, Legal personality.The European Union came into being through the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. It is presented in the Treaty as a "a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe". It rests on three "pillars", the first covers the Community dimension (common agricultural policy, transport, internal market etc), the second covers the common foreign and security policy, and the third covers police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. Nonetheless, the Union does not have an explicit legal personality. What would the consequences be of explicit recognition of the legal personality of the EU, and of a fusion of the legal personalities of the EU and the European Community? Might they contribute to simplification of the Treaties?

Group IV, National parliaments.As stated by the Laeken Declaration, "the European project also derives its legitimacy from democratic, transparent and efficient institutions. The national parliaments also contribute towards the legitimacy of the European project". The declaration on the future of the Union annexed to the Treaty of Nice had already stressed the need to address the role of national parliaments in the European architecture. How is the role of national Parliaments carried out in the present architecture of the European Union? What are the national arrangements which function best? Should new mechanisms/procedures be envisaged at national or European level?

Group V, Complementary competences.Complementary competences cover those areas in which the Union is limited to complementing and supporting the activities of the Member States, or to adopting measures to encourage cooperation and coordination. How should "complementary" competence be treated in future? Should Member States be accorded full competence for matters in which the Union at present has complementary competence, or should the limits of the Union's complementary competence be spelled out?

Group VI, Economic governance.The new term of governance brings together several concepts: good management, efficient organisation, transparency and responsibility. These four concepts, united in one word, are of course essential for the future of Europe. The introduction of the single currency implies closer economic and financial cooperation. What forms might such cooperation take?