It is now unlikely that there will be a new European constitution, but a revisionary document to amend existing treaties as suggested by the Netherlands, according to Dutch foreign minister Maxime Verhagen.While this may look like a victory of sorts, on closer inspection it may turn out to be a clever ploy to get around the referendum that a large portion of the Dutch population want (1). A bit too clever, maybe. The report linked to above continues:
Speaking after a meeting in Luxembourg on Sunday night, Verhagen said there was a 'realistic chance' that 'every symbol which points towards a super state, such as a European flag, will also be binned'.
However, the Volkskrant reported that Verhagen had failed to gain support for the Netherlands' other proposals, such as a stronger role for national parliaments. The Netherlands wants to be able to block Commission proposals if a majority is opposed.So, basically the substance of the constitution stays intact. We just got rid of the form. If a king sees his crown and ermine taken away, but not his powers, ceases he to be an autocrat?
What we're seeing here is the outline of the shape in which the discussion will be framed: The anthem and flag are off the table. Thus, the government claims victory to the people back home and will maouber to get the 'amending treaty' ratified in parliament, without the nuisance of a referendum. 'We averted the danger of the EU becoming a super-state', they'll claim, pointing at the flag and the anthem that are not to be, hoping the population at large will not notice when the permanent EU president and the EU foreign minister are still in the 'amending treaty'.
And let's not forget the link to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. In an excellent piece in the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard promises to join the fight for the UK leaving the EU if the 'constitution' is rammed down our throats in the disguise of an 'amending treaty'. Of the Charter of Fundamental Rights he observes:
Why does this matter? Because the Charter gives the European Court (ECJ) jurisdiction over a raft of social and economic rights that are alien to our Common Law. It empowers Euro-judges to chip away at Britain's economic model, imposing Rheinland corporatism by the back door. We might as well turn the lights off in the City if the ECJ ever gets its claws into that.And Maxime Verhagen? Does he really think he can get away with this ploy? It may not have the flag or the anthem. It may not be called a constitution. But it would still mean the end of the Netherlands as a national state. We have voted 'No' to this monster already. It is time for the Dutch political elite to finally recognize this turnip for what it is: a turnip. Call it a lemon as much as you want, it still tastes like sh.t. And we're not having any of it.
Beware of Europe's court, the unseen engine of EU federalism. For now it is confined to "community" matters: the single market, competition rules, and so on. It has no say on the wider fields of foreign affairs, defence, justice, and criminal matters, and little say on economic management.
The text smashes the old structure. Everything becomes fair game, unless specifically exempted.
(1) According to a TNS NIPO poll (reported by Elsevier), 67% of the Dutch want a referendum. And even in a scenario where the treaty would not be a 'constitution', would reduce the EU in numbers, influence and budget, only about a third of the population would vote 'Yes'. resentment towards the EU runs deep in the Netherlands, it seems.
(2) The title of the post is a literaltranslation of a Dutch saying, meaning to outrageously oversell something