Saturday, August 11, 2007

Now it's "housekeeping"!

First, they were just words on paper and then they were effectively meaningless as British government lawyers had declared that the new treaty "leaves the status of the European Council unchanged."

Now, according to the Economist blog, Article 9 of the new constitution reform treaty - which turns the European Council into a fully-fledged institution of the European Union - is merely "a piece of legal housekeeping".

From that source, we are told that "people knowledgeable about the drafting of the original constitution", the European Council "had to become an EU institution once the decision was taken to have a permanent, elected president of the European Council."

Once more, quite why that is the case is not explained. There is nothing at all offered to suggest that why the European Council could function perfectly adequately under the chairmanship of the member holding the EU's rotating presidency but, suddenly and dramatically, it could not longer function under a permanent chairman, unless it became an institution of the Union.

Nor is there any explanation as to why, in order now to function under its new, permanent president, the European Council must be bound by treaty obligations to promote its values of the Union, advance its objectives and serve its interests. What is so very different between being chaired by a rotating president and a permanent president that this must happen?

The claim that this change is simply "housekeeping" also seems at odds with the extent to which the roles, duties and procedures of the European Council are embedded in the new treaty. From being mentioned a mere 27 times in the existing consolidated treaties, there are no less than 131 mentions in the "reform" treaty. If that really is housekeeping, then it is extremely energetic housekeeping - more like spring cleaning, in fact.

On the other hand, it could be that - incredible though it might seem - the "people knowledgeable about the drafting of the original constitution" are not telling the truth.

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