Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Morning Constitutional

I flatter myself that as a reasonably intelligent and educated individual I have an informed political opinion. I follow the moves and shifts on the political scene, and in a small way even take part. Yet this current confusion on the EU constitution, sorry, treaty, leaves me cold and confused.

Is it a treaty or constitution seems to be the overriding issue. We don’t get past that to really get to the heart of the matter. What are the changes to European and National institutions? Where does ultimate authority lay? Does the EU Parliament really matter and does local politics cease to be able to do anything? Its almost impossible to get into it, the murk and obfuscation leave it difficult for even the more ardent political followers like me to make sense of it.

It struck me, not for the first time, that the real issue is just that. The American constitution is straight forward, a few pages that lay out fundamental principles that make it easy to know what it is to be American. Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, the Pursuit of Happiness, big ideas that are easily identifiable. The Canadian constitution, written only 20 odd years ago, is similar. Its about 20 pages, but again, lays out big ideas, and very Canadian ones I might add.

Yet what is it to be European? The last formal constitution was thousands of pages long. This “treaty” is a similar length. Its overriding purpose seems to be to remove national veto because there are too many countries. Is that what it is to be European? To loose National Authority to some vague appointed body? There is a charter of human rights, but it is bizarre in its structure, defining in detail such microcosms of the right of an individual who is employed. Is that what it is to be European, to have a right to work?

Don’t get me wrong, I ardently believe in the principles for which the Common Market was originally founded. By encouraging trade, and setting basic standards of competition, you reduce if not eliminate the risk of war. That is something whole and worthwhile. Its true, we’ve had what is perhaps the longest period of peace in Western Europe that has ever existed. Yet you can do that without having a European Parliament, without an Appointed Commission making fundamental decisions on life. Something has gone wrong with the core idea. I don’t believe we need a European State, yet that is what we are inevitably heading towards.

I guess I’m just going to have to print that damn thing off and read it. Getting the real truth out of the politicians just isn’t going to happen. Yet I can’t help wish that we just pulled back and debated the fundamentals. What is it we are trying to achieve. Peace through commerce is not a bad thing. You can hang your hat on it. Without that or another idea of what is trying to be achieved, we’re doomed.


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