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The 6th of October 2004 : The Day that the European Commission Torpedoes the Future Constitution -Franck Biancheri (2004)

… in fine, we can say on the 6 th  of October that, because of the probable positive report on Turkey, the Commission will be responsible for “killing” the project that was the European Constitution. The ultimate irony being that Turkey will still not enter the European Union for decades to come!

Initially the title of this text written a few weeks before the decision of the European Commission bore a “?“. On October 6, 2004, doubt was no longer allowed, and the “?” could be withdrawn, the European Commission recommended the Union to start negotiations for Turkey’s accession: “The Commission’s response today is that of a YES. A positive response on meeting the criteria, and a positive recommendation on the opening of negotiations.” (Speech by Romano Prodi on the candidacy of Turkey (Brussels, 6 October 2004) – source: CVCE). It had indeed torpedoed the adoption of the future European Constitution, as would prove the results of the referendums organized in 2005 in different member-states.

∴ The 6th of October 2004 : The Day that the European Commission Torpedoes the Future Constitution -Franck Biancheri (21/09/2004)

On  this  coming  6th  of  October,  the  European  Commission  will  announce  its  verdict  as  to  the ability  of  Turkey  to  begin  accession  negotiations  with  the  European  Union.  I  have  already  on several  occasions and in this very column explained that an affirmation to the Turkish question (even  if  accompanied  by  a  “but”  which  in  and  of  itself  would  not  impact  the  outcome  of  the decision  in  a  substantial  manner)  on  behalf  of  the  Commission  would  lead  to  a  quasi-identical “yes,  but”  on  behalf  of  the  European  Council  in  December  which  in  turn  would  translate  into  a “no” vote by the people in the upcoming referenda on the European Constitution.

Only several months ago, it appeared that on the continent optimism was king and that the « yes » vote  for  the  Constitution would win  the  referenda.   However,  this sentiment is rapidly  changing and today, taking France as an example, the “no” vote seems quite able to win the day.

Concurrently,  the  majority  of  those  who  denied  just  recently  that  the  Turkish  question  was important  to  European  citizens  and  that  it  could  indeed  have  an  impact  on  their  votes  in  the referenda have woken up from their dreams and as a result must now acknowledge the following:

  • the Turkish question is a major concern among Europeans
  • a “yes” to Turkey will automatically translate into a landslide victory for the “no” to the Constitution party (where as the “yes” party will not carry any country)

You  probably  would  like  to  ask  why  I  place  the  blame  on  the  Commission?  Isnt’it  once  again, using the Commission as the scapegoat for the political decisions of the EU as a whole. For once, maybe our political leaders should assume the responsibility for their own choices!

Granted, the Commission is, at least in the Turkish case, the instrument of a process launched in an  era  (the  1960’s)  and  in  a  world  (consumed  by  the  Cold  War)  that  no  longer  exist,  but  the Commission  is  nonetheless  in  charge  of  preserving  the  ‘Community’s  interest’.  As  such,  the Commission  has  an  honest  claim  to  the  statement  that  it  is  simply  following  through  with  a decision made some 40 years ago and thus it will adhere to this decision blindly (or maybe with a hidden  political  vision  that  has  neither  historical  nor  popular  support,  i.e.  the  EU  as  a  “bridge between  civilizations”)  and  evoke  the  famous  “Copenhagen  Criteria”  so  as  to  arrive  at  a  “yes, but” for Turkey and thus a “no” to the Constitution.

Either,  the  Commission  assumes  its role  as  the  protector of  the  best interests of  the  community and  it  accepts  the  current  (and  future)  reality  of  European  politics,  as  have  numerous Commissioners  in  the  past  weeks,  that  politically  the  Commissions  decisions  is  limited  by  two outstanding, undeniable facts:

  • Europeans are by and large opposed to the entry of Turkey in the EU even in the distant future
  • The European institutions (notably those proposed within the Constitution) will not work if Turkey becomes the fulcrum of the European political system.

Lastly,  the  Commission,  in  a world in which the communitarian system functions  in  a European reality, and not just in a virtual world of lobbies and an “Ivory Tower,” should recognize that the Council, by  a vast  majority, asks only one  thing,  that the report  on the Turkish  question will be mostly negative.

This  would  then  permit  a  delay  in  negotiations  and  the  beginning  of  talks  on  a  new  type  of partnership with Ankara. If the Commission’s report is heavily positive, and concludes that there are  no  longer  major  obstacles  to  the  opening  of  negotiations,  then  the  Council  will  follow  suit because no Head of State or government can take the risk of being the “evil party” and thus see their economic and bilateral relations with Turkey fractured.

So,  the  Commission  knows  that  if  it  says  “yes”  it  will  force  the  Council  to  follow  in  the  same direction.  In  this manner, out of weakness, the Council  will  share the responsibility for derailing the  Constitutional  referenda  because  none  of  its  members  has  the  stature  of  a  true  “European Head of State”, capable of favouring the European collective interest to national interests.

So, in fine, we can say on the 6 th  of October that, because of the probable positive report on Turkey, the Commission will be responsible for “killing” the project that was the European Constitution. The ultimate irony being that Turkey will still not enter the European Union for decades to come!

Their will  be serious consequences as a  result  of  the  European  executive  forcing  the  loss of the most important political  project of  the  Community. This decision  will lead  to  a major European crisis in 2005/2006 and  cast doubt  as  to all of the most  fundamental  aspects of the Community and its construction.

Franck Biancheri, 21/09/2004

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