Merkel’s Sherpas to save the European Constitution

Wilhelm Schönfelder Now it is finally out. Germany’s ambassador to the EU Wilhelm Schönfelder made public in a breakfast address this week how Merkel foresees the fixing of the European Constitution. You can find articles about it in Financial Times, Financial Times Deutschland and EUobserver.

In contrast to previous in-house plans of having Sherpa’s on the sides of all three EU institutions (with a particular view on Merkel and Barroso – who get along well), Merkel has now appointed two Sherpas only from the German government’s bureaucracy. The Commission – let alone Parliament – seem to be out of the game. Sometimes I really wonder how committed the oh-so-European governments really are towards the European institutions!
Having two people doing this job is not necessarily a bad idea as it involves a lot of travelling and talking. – However, my gut feeling is more that this is just another reflection of Germany’s incompetence in building up a streamlined EU policy. – With Mr Silberberg coming out of the CDU’s chancellory and Mr Corsepius out of the SPD’s foreign office, the classical balance of the power houses is saved – for the take of the coalition’s well-being. Great. Grand-coalition at its best.

Current plans are very ambitious with a mini-IGC to take place only during the Portugese presidency (the second half of 2007). If all goes well a slightly fixed text based on parts 1 and 2, spiced up with the institutional necessities of parts 3 (and 4) will then go down the traditional way of national ratficiation in the months to follow. By March 2009 the new Basic Treaty will get into force so as to be fully applyable to the newly elected Parliament and Commission.
Our all-knowledgebale diplomats even think to come to a text that does not need to be ratified (again) by those 18 countries that have already done so with the Constitutional Treaty because the legal substance remains the same. – I wonder however how certain French people will feel if the same product with a different name and format will be forwarded to them again – while they see that other countries do not even need another ratification. Not quite the most honest way.

My main concern however is the complete lack of understanding what went wrong in the first place – in France and the Netherlands. – A process you can even stretch down to Denmark and France over Maastricht, Ireland over Nice etc. – The underlying problem is that any intergovernmental fixing lets the people and parliamentarians aside. Secondly, why should we not have another government (or indeed people) that rejects the next proposal in 2008 on whatever nationalist or even European concern?! Why can these national diplomats simply not understand that we need to move beyond a ratification procedure that breaks with unanimity? Any polity is only supported as much as people can identify with it. Backroom-deal-Treaties are not what the Europeans are currently longing for after the wide-spread feeling of arrogance has caught them in the follow-up of recent troubles.
I still see a consultative European ballot on the day of the European elections as the only a) legitimate and b) realistic way. It will ensure a) the involvement of citizens in the process leading up to it as well as b) the chance to move on if one country or people decides not to take part in this. – And any realist has to acknowledge that this is simply a real-life threat in our European Union of 27.

Picture from German PermRep.

6 thoughts on “Merkel’s Sherpas to save the European Constitution

  1. Josep Verde

    I agree. A referendum is not the best way to approve a Cosntitution or a new Treaty for Europe. Did Scchuman and Monnet succeed in creating the first comunity treaty if they had summited it to a referendum? A great majority of frenech people would have not admited to cooperate with germans that were their ennemies six years ago

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