1. Abandon institutional reform, and focus on policy delivery instead
The immediate reaction in a number of political quarters to the French and Dutch No votes was to call for the abandonment of the treaty process altogether. For some politicians, that remains the case. Instead, they call for the European Union to focus on policy delivery. Become better at doing the things that Europeans want, they say, rather than thinking about institutional reform.
2. Ask the French and Dutch to think again
The text of the constitutional treaty represents the European political consensus, which should not be abandoned lightly. The text has now been ratified in 15 out of the 25 member states, and the popular vote in referendums where they have been held is 26.7 million Yes votes against 22.7 million No. If France and the Netherlands are the countries out of step, then the onus is on them to come back into line.
3. Rewrite the text of the treaty
The main aspect of this new approach is to look again at the text of the constitutional treaty itself. Several different proposals have been along these lines. Jo Leinen MEP, chair of the European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee, has suggested that the text should be slimmed down by removing all those parts relating to policy areas which are not new.
Andrew Duff MEP, also a member of the constitutional affairs committee, suggests adding new articles on five areas – the economic governance of the union; Europe’s social model; sustainable development and climate change policy; enlargement policy; and the reform of the EU’s finances – to deal with the areas of difficulty and uncertainty that led people to vote No.
Both of these proposals are intended to preserve as far as possible the existing text of the treaty, which embodies a careful balance between the different institutions and also between the different member states.
Nicolas Sarkozy, on the other hand, has suggested a “mini-Treaty”, stripping out quite a lot of the former constitutional treaty text, and other proposals being floated are more restricted still, dealing only with foreign policy, for example.
4. Rethink the methods for ratification and entry into force
Rather than holding a series of national debates, the Union of European Federalists (UEF) has proposed that ratification of the new treaty should be by means of a European referendum, held everywhere in the EU on the same day. This would tackle the problem identified by Nicolas Sarkozy but from the opposite direction. He fears that the existing text cannot be ratified by the current method, and would therefore change the text: the UEF would change the method.
The last consideration in plotting a route to the new Europe is actually the point at which this article started: what happens if a member state votes No. Here again, the UEF has a suggestion. Assuming there is a double majority of member states and citizens voting in favour, the constitution should come into force in those member states that have voted Yes even if there are other member states that have voted No.
Whatever approach is adopted, furthermore, it is necessary for each country to realise that its own participation in the European Union is a matter of importance for all the others. Whatever decisions European countries and European citizens take about the future of Europe, they have to take those decisions together.