Compromise on European Constitution - June 2004

Read about Why Poland was fighting so fiercely to keep Nice voting system in the previous article.

Governments of almost all countries EU-members were under enormous pressure to show to the world that they can agree on a consensus and restore the confidence in EU institutions. The earlier elections to European Parliament in almost all countries brought a victory for parties of the opposition and Euro-skeptics. The turnover for referendum was very low, almost everywhere less than 50%. In the new country-members voting apathy was even worse, in Slovakia less than 20% of people voted in Poland about 25%. These recent trends suggested that there is a growing trend in Europe against unification rather that for it and the unification euphoria is gone especially since the economic growth is much lower in Europe than in the USA and unemployment is about 10% as a whole in EU countries. Also in Poland the opposition parties won the elections to European Parliament and almost a half of the seats went to euroskeptics. Read about euroskeptics arguments against European Union.

Poland and Spain formed a coalition six months ago to force some changes in EU constitution. Because of a lack of compromise the constitution was not accepted in Brussels summit in December 2003. Read more about it in the article: Fiasko of EU Brussels Summit. The change of the Spanish government after the train bombing in March 2004 broke the Polish-Spanish alliance since the new Spanish government favored strong and unconditional bonds with European Union rather than an alliance with the USA. Spain withdrew military forces from Iraq and gave up some of the demands towards European constitution. In the effect Poland remained alone in its efforts to force any changes, so Poland had to be more flexible not to become isolated in EU. Read more about Polish-Spanish alliance in the article: Polish-American Relations after Terrorist Attack in Spain.

Here are the main points on which the leaders agreed in newly adopted European Constitution

  • European leaders supported establishment of the EU's governing structures with the posts of EU president and foreign minister, they strengthen the role of EU parliament but they could not agree on the person who would be the next president of European Commission immediately in the summit. Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso was chosen as a new EU chief a couple of days later.

  • According to the new voting plan which is going to replace Nice system - the backing of at least 55% of EU states or at least 65% population is needed for every decision to pass. It is so called "double majority" rule. Poland and Spain won review clauses permitting countries with a total population of 26.25% to contest decisions when they are on the losing site. This ability of blocking controversial decisions will be valid until 2014. This new system is quite good for Poland since in the group of blocking countries Polish weight is over 30%. According to Nice treaty Poland had a weight of 7.8% only with 27 seats - two less than Germany.

  • No reference to Christianity in constitution preamble: Poland failed to win a reference to Christianity in the preamble because of the French adamant opposition. France has a long tradition of the separation between the church and the state. France also has a significant Muslim minority. The preamble only refers to ''cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe''. But thanks to Polish efforts there is an annotation in the article 51 of the Constitution about the respect for the rights of churches and religious organizations.

Every country announced a victory after negotiations, but in reality the adoption of the constitution was a compromise for all. Majority of the countries would still hold the referenda about whether to accept or not the European Constitution.
Check several articles about European Union - its benefits and disadvantages for Poland.

by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, June 28, 2004 (article #202)

Check the following books:

Europe : A History, bestseller written by famous British historian Norman Davies

Understanding the European Union: A Concise Introduction, Second Edition
by John McCormick

Marketing in Central and Eastern Europe
by Jan Nowak (Editor)

One of the best one-volume histories of Poland in English is:

Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland (Oxford Paperbacks)

by Norman Davies

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