Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2008

An Italian Strategy for Relaunching the EU Constitutional Treaty

Gianni Bonvicini, Gian Luigi Tosato

May 2007

Istituto Affari Internazionali


The subject of the European Union’s institutional future is once again at the top of the European agenda – the European Council at the end of June 2007 will be dedicated to it – and a deadline has been set (the 2009 European Parliament elections) for the entry into force of the new rules.

The reopening of the debate on this issue responds to an inescapable need for clarity. Almost seven years have gone by since the Nice Declaration on the Future of Europe, six since the analogous and more detailed Laeken Declaration, five since the opening of the Convention in Brussels, almost three since the solemn signing of the Constitutional Treaty (CT) in Rome by all member states. Now that eighteen of them have ratified it, it’s time to exit from this situation of ambiguity and uncertainty.

That there would be a pause for reflection after the shock of the French and Dutch “nos” was to be expected. But the pause cannot go on forever, blocking all alternatives. Without the reforms that it so urgently needs, the EU cannot live up to the expectations of its citizens and keep apace of contemporary global challenges. Further enlargements are also now far more problematic. And that’s not all. It would be wrong to consider the results achieved up to now irreversible: a prolonged stalemate could trigger a process of involution, if not the actual disintegration of the European construction.

What is needed therefore is an open and loyal discussion on the future of Europe – soon. This is demanded by the basic obligation of good faith and correctness that is imposed on member states, especially those that have not yet ratified the CT. Hopefully, such a discussion will give rise to an agreed blueprint for a common house. The premises for such a general agreement exist; should difficulties prevail however, alternative solutions must realistically be considered.

It is not surprising that there are differences on the future of Europe in a community of 27. But it is in the interests of all to overcome this period of stalemate which can generate dangerous frustrations and tensions. Each country is free to decide whether or not it wants to adhere to the new Treaty. But it must be clear to the dissenting countries that they cannot keep the others from pursuing the objective of an “ever closer union”. Especially if “the others” are a large majority of European governments and peoples. It can only be hoped that, should insurmountable differences nevertheless arise regarding the new Treaty, an agreement can be reached between the two sides that would accommodate their positions towards the EU with reciprocal satisfaction.