Monday, March 06, 2006

European Constitution

This posting was transferred from my original blog

Well, that would be a good idea, wouldn't it?

Having one, that is.

What does a constitution (of a federal body) do?


Defines the institutions of the federal government.

Defines the powers of the member governments and the federal government.

Enumerates the rights of the people.

and does the basic things that all constitutions must do, that is technicalities like how to amend the constitution and how to resolve disputes on interpretation.

It also should be short and simple enough that you can hold the basic structure in your head and so find the bit you're looking for quickly. Indeed serious constitutional scholars should pretty much know the whole thing verbatim.

Just compare the Constitution of the United States of America:


It's not well laid out, in that it could really do with Articles I.8, I.9 and I.10 separating out into their own Article covering the powers of the federal government as a whole.

It also does not make clear that interpretation of the Constitution is reserved to the Federal Courts and so ulitmately to the Supreme Court of the United States.

But the whole thing is short enough that you can flick through it and find the bit you're fishing for in no time at all.


First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Article II-10: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. The right to conscientious objection is recognised, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of this right.
Article II-11: Freedom of expression and information
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.
Article II-12: Freedom of assembly and of association
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association at all levels, in particular in political, trade union and civic matters, which implies the right of everyone to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his or her interests.
2. Political parties at Union level contribute to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union.

And the right to petition is somewhere in Title I

Now that Constitution is a bit unwieldy, and seems to be mostly descriptive rather than prescriptive (that is, it describes the institutions that we already have, rather than creating new ones) but it's still a Constitution. But it has the problem that the EU always has. It's souless. It's OK, but who's going to fight for the right of conscientious objection to be constrained by national law? You're asleep already.

Put the soul back in. Make the language sing. Give me the European Idea. And I'll win you a referendum. But don't ask me to fight for a fudge. I might fight for fudge, especially Thornton's fudge, but not for this political fudge. Give me something magnificent!

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