The European Union’s Trap of Constitutional Politics: From the Convention Towards the Failure of the Treaty of Lisbon

Arthur Benz

Abstract


In a national referendum held on 12 June 2008, 53.4 percent of Irish citizens voted “no” to the Treaty of Lisbon. As its provisions require ratification by all member states, the Irish vote marks a further setback for attempts at consti- tutional reform of the European Union (EU). The Lisbon reform treaty, officially entitled the Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on Euro- pean Union and the Treaty establishing the Eu- ropean Community,1 was signed by the prime ministers and presidents of EU member states in December 2007. It was the result of a pro- cess set in motion by the European Council in a meeting held in Laeken, Belgium in December 2001. Intended to make the “ever closer union” more democratic, and to facilitate the adjust- ment of European institutions to the new po- litical situation brought on by the accession to the EU of Central and Eastern European states, the “Laeken Council” issued a declaration trig- gering efforts to constitutionalize the European Union. To this end, a reform process was ini- tiated involving a body called the Convention on the Future of Europe (Convention), made up of European and member state government representatives and parliamentarians.2 This re- form process resulted in the recommendation in 2003 of a draft Treaty Establishing a Constitu- tion for Europe (Constitutional Treaty),3 which was subsequently approved by the Intergovern- mental Conference and the European Council in Rome in October 2004. Despite several mem- ber states ratifying the Constitutional Treaty, it was rejected by popular referenda in France and the Netherlands in the spring of 2005. At that time, and in view of the obvious risks to ratifi- cation in some other member states, the process of constitutionalization ground to a halt.


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