Nice or Death - Poland's Fight to keep Nice Voting System in European Constitution

Finally all 25 European Union (EU) countries representing 450 million people adopted the European constitution after the negotiations which took place in Ireland on June 17-18, 2004. As you know from the earlier article Fiasko of EU Brusselss Summit - Position of Poland in Europe the agreement was not easy. During the first EU constitution Brussels summit in December 2003 the countries did not agree on all points of the constitution.

Why Poland was fighting so fiercely to keep Nice voting system?

There were two main reasons. First of all Poland was afraid of too much domination of big countries - like France and Germany. Second of all - the opposition against EU was strong in Poland and Polish politicians wanted to show their people that they would not be afraid to negotiate the best possible conditions for Polish membership in European Union.
  • Nice treaty gave over-representation to smaller countries which otherwise may feel threatened by the domination of European superpowers - France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy, therefore the big countries wanted to change it especially since 10 new countries, majority of them small accessed EU in May 2004.
    • The issue of majority dominance over minority is the same that faced United States in the beginning when the smaller states feared being dominated by the larger ones. In American reality this problem was overcome by creation of a bicameral legislature when every state has equal power in Senate but power is proportional according to population in the House of Representatives.
    • The European constitution was written before the accession of the ten countries mostly from Eastern Europe. It was prepared by politicians of Western European origin - the former French president, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, was a chief architect of the EU constitution. So there is a danger that it may not represent the interests of the countries of Eastern European region.

  • Poland has a very strong and vocal group of anti-skeptics. Polish government is very weak (1993-1994) and does not have popular support, Polish politicians and parties are just learning how a constructive democracy works. Leszek Miller, the prime-minister who signed accession act has to step down already. So, many Poles argue that protecting of Polish privileges in Nice - which gave more voting power to smaller countries and to Poland would help keep strong Polish national identity and honor, according to the motto "Nice or death".

  • Poland has a long tradition of fighting for its independence and against the foreign dominance. It fought against Soviet Union system for forty years. There is some fear that European Union is similar to Soviet Union in its bureaucratic dominance and wants to reign over the nation-countries like a super-country. Read more about it in the article EU as liberal & socialistic supercountry . A tradition of veto has historical roots in Poland. Before partition of Poland there was a law - liberum veto which allowed each noble person to block any decision of the king or any majority in the Polish parliament (sejm).

Read about the details of the consensus on the European constitution in the following article - Compromise on European Constitution - June 2004. Check series of articles about European Union versus Poland and Eastern Europe.

by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, June 28, 2004 (article #200)

Below are links to books explaining European Union to a common person

The European Union: A Very Short Introduction
by John Pinder

The most famous book about Polish history is written by Norman Davies and it is entitled
God's Playground, Volume 1
God's Playground, Volume 2

The SITE MAP contains all articles classified according to the topic.