Monday, April 04, 2005

THE EU CONSTITUTION

Let me recommend an excellent new website devoted to debates over the EU Constitution. I've just added my two cents to a debate sparked by Raphael Paour's comments on the appropriate "left-wing" perspective on this Constitution.


Your anti-EU Constitution argument rests upon the unwarranted assumption that a more integrated European market is at odds with “social justice” (or some other set of left-wing values). Let’s assume, however, that social justice involves, at a minimum, improving the material well-being of Europe’s poorest citizens—who, for the most part, are now to be found in Eastern and Central Europe. An integrated market will likely benefit these Europeans quite substantially. (This is why "leftists" ought to lend their support to Bolkestein's efforts to open up the market for services in Europe.) It is thus not clear why we “leftists” must reject the EU Constitution, especially since this Constitution, if properly implemented, might help dismantle the many local national monopolies and corporatist rent-seekers (pharmacists, for instance—ever tried buying a bottle of aspirins on the Continent?) that currently prevent Europe from developing a robust, globally competitive economy. Your type of “leftist” makes a great mistake in thinking that Europe’s poorest citizens need redistribution rather than economic growth. Clearly they need both. But they will get neither if people like you have their way.

There is a further problem with your argument: you seem to suggest that the EU Constitution privileges one economic philosophy (market liberalism) over others. But this is clearly false. The EU Constitution reads as if it were written by a fractious committee (I wonder why?). It contains a confused rambling compendium of contradictory economic commitments. Compare the following:

The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security, and justice without internal frontiers, and a single market where competition is free and undistorted. (Article 1-3: 2)

The Union shall work for a Europe of just development based on balanced economic growth, a social market economy, highly competitive and aiming at full employment and social progress.
(Article 1-3: 3)

If the EU Constitution fails in France (as you hope) and in Britain (as it most certainly will), this failure will in large part be due to these confused and contradictory commitments, which allow left and right eurosceptics to present the EU as, well, confused and contradictory.


UPDATE: here is Raphael's very revealing reply:

Thank you for your answer which is very interesting. You say:

“Let’s assume, however, that social justice involves improving the material well-being of Europe’s poorest citizens—who, for the most part, are now to be found in Eastern and Central Europe. An integrated market will likely benefit these Europeans quite substantially.”

Euan was making the same kind of point in explaining that in the UK, the social rights brought by European norms are an improvement.

So, let’s say that the question becomes: should we, in France, accept to lose some rights in order for others to gain some? It’s a difficult question for someone who isn’t nationalist and it’s true that put in those terms I wouldn’t know how to answer it.

Your remarks about the fact that the constitution contains contradictory economic commitments are also very true. But in my view that doesn’t matter too much because no matter what these types of very large provisions say, what counts are really the institutions that have the power to interpret and apply them. The institutions count much more than the general declaration of rights for what we likely happen to social rights. The power of the commission is therefore very problematic; I may be wrong but I don’t see it implementing very social policies.

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