Insert or cut?
Forging ahead or lagging behind?
On 26th January the 18 countries which have already ratified the European Constitutional Treaty met to give voice to and defend their choice.
There is now little doubt in Europe - including on the part of those who said "no" to the Constitution - about the need for a reform of the Union's institutions. Matters have reached such a pitch that everyone agrees that there can be no further enlargement without the prior reform of the institutions. There is one exception to this however: the United Kingdom is still toying with the idea of withdrawing its signature from the Constitutional Treaty or at least never ratifying it. One thing is certain however: the UK will be not be the avant-garde!
We shall now be awash in an ocean of proposals.
Although a consensus appears to be emerging about improving Europe's decision making abilities and asserting it in the international arena, there are growing differences of opinion with regard to the means of achieving these goals. Some want to cut the treaty down, others want to make additions. Some are more wont to edit and then there are those who would go on writing forever. The latter are not the least dangerous.
Some cannot imagine reform without referenda, others plead in favour of a parliamentary ratification. There are those who follow opinion on the one hand, influenced by the all too pervading atmosphere of populism; the realists on the other hand seem ready to assume their choice.
France and the Netherlands, two founder countries have thrown the European Union into a difficult position and have harmed themselves into the bargain. Angela Merkel's determined professionalism will not suffice to bring them out of this stalemate. It is up to them to show their power of imagination and sense, as well as their courage; their partners will have to show a great amount of understanding. This is not an impossible task but the electoral period will not be the most favourable for this.