Tuesday, 19 June 2007

EU citizens want referendum on treaty

An opinion survey in five big EU states show most people want referendums on
the new EU treaty in opposition to the current trend to agree a document
that will be put only to national parliaments for ratification.

According to an FT/Harris Poll published on Monday (18 June), 75 percent of
Spaniards, 71 percent of Germans, 69 percent of Britons, 68 percent of
Italians and 64 percent of French people consider the post-constitution
treaty important enough to warrant a referendum.

The suggestion is against the basic line pushed by several member states and
the German EU presidency - the chief moderator of the talks on the bloc's
institutional settlement following its rejection in France and the

The idea is to agree on key reforms in the decision-making of the 27-strong
club in the form of an "amending treaty" rather than a "constitution" and
see the document passed by national parliaments, except in Ireland and
Denmark which have constitutional referendum obligations.

This scenario has sparked a furious debate in the UK where outgoing prime
minister Tony Blair had in the past promised to organise a popular poll but
has since gone back on the plan, with the opposition Conservative party
making political capital from the u-turn.

Calls for referendums have intensified after it emerged over past weeks that
the new version of the treaty might in essence be the same as the original
draft constitution, but renamed and repackaged to stir less emotion.

British minister for Europe Geoff Hoon has suggested that Gordon Brown - who
is set to succeed Mr Blair shortly after this week's summit - is still ready
to stage a referendum on the revised text.

"I have not said that he has refused [a referendum]. I said it's important
to await the outcome of the negotiations. Clearly a judgment has to be made
in terms of what is in the final package," Mr Hoon told the BBC over the

Asked if that meant Mr Brown was prepared to hold a popular poll if EU
leaders tried to force through a deal opposed by Britain, he replied "I
think that is absolutely the case."

According to UK daily The Telegraph, sources close to Mr Brown confirmed he
is prepared to go for a referendum if the summit deal crosses London's red
lines on foreign policy, social and labour laws.

Source: Lucia Kubosova (Euobserver)

Policy Paper (EUI) on European referendum

Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (EUI of Florence) has just published a Policy Paper on the European referendum.

The full text (77 pages, mainly in French) is available at the link: http://www.eui.eu/RSCAS/ (see the news on the right).

Also a shorter version in English, on the main issues discussed, will be provided for some academic lectures in Autumn.

The Paper is collecting the proceedings of a seminar organized at the EUI, the last 9th of February.

Among the interesting contributions in the Paper, for those who understand French, I suggest the following ones: at pages 14-15, Peter Altmaier (Secretary of State and president of Europa Union Deutschland) and at pp. 56-61 the conclusions of professor Jacques Ziller (main author of the "simplified treaty" presented few days ago as the results of "Amato's Group").

In the last paragraph professor Ziller suggests to the federalists, promoting the campaign for an
European referendum, to support the idea to have a kind of "enhanced cooperation" in the next ratification phase. This is mainly meant to avoid the national procedures of ratification.

This Paper gives more legitimacy to European referendum campaign giving the legal foundations of the European referendum campaign.

The rumours about the decisions which will taken by the European Council, next week, are not positive, not at all. Apparently the governments are not considering a transparent and ambitious procedure for relaunching the Constitution as their priority. All kind of initiatives favouring the citizen's involvement in the constitutional process will be necessary in the next future. An important challenge for all of us.

Source: Samuele Pii

Friday, 20 April 2007

Jürgen Habermas: the only way out is a Euro-wide referendum

In the following interview Jürgen Habermas underlines that the only way out is a Europe-wide referendum. The governments – which control the process after all – have to recognize their own powerlessness and, this one time, "dare to use democracy." They have to rise above themselves and face the political parties of which they themselves are composed with the necessity of engaging in an open, Europe-wide campaign, a struggle for each and every vote in favour of, or in opposition to, an expansion and deepening of the European Union.

What Europe needs now

On the eve of EU's 50th anniversary, German philosopher Jürgen Habermas sets out what he believes are the most pressing items on the European agenda

The weekend of March 24-25 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome and the birth of the European Union. In an interview, philosopher and social scientist Jürgen Habermas looks at Europe's development and speculates about its future. He proposes that, in the Europe-wide elections scheduled for 2009, citizens should vote on a referendum asking whether the European Union should have a directly elected president, its own foreign minister and financial base.

Matthias Hoenig: Herr Habermas, You were just 15 at the end of World War II, but that was old enough to personally experience the devastating effects of blind nationalism. Now that the EU is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, what do you remember as a witness of those postwar years?

Jürgen Habermas: I must confess that, 50 years ago, the domestic question of nuclear arms for the West German army was of more passionate interest to me than the creation of the European Economic Community. I didn't realize back then that the EEC as a customs union had already been equipped with constitutional-like institutions and therefore offered the prospect of a real European Community, that is, a political unification of the countries of Western Europe. On the other hand, the motives of supporters of the national peace movement were in accord with those driving the six EEC founding nations and their chief spokesmen, Adenauer, de Gasperi and Schumann. Those aims were: no more war between the nation-states which had devastated one another in two world wars, and the firm anchoring of Germany in a community of European nations, the selfsame Germany which had launched the last war and bore the monstrous, criminal responsibility for the Holocaust.

That EU member states could ever again make war on one another seems inconceivable. And the mature Common Market has brought prosperity to many people. May we then celebrate an historic paradigm shift in European politics, away from thinking in terms of nation-states and towards a genuinely pan-European view?

That is certainly cause for celebration, even though the paradigm shift is not yet complete. But there has been quite another outcome which, with some degree of self-awareness, we could put to good use. In today's tense, multi-polar situation, European unification makes it possible for us to play a role which no one could have foreseen back at the start of the East-West conflict. At the outset, "Europe" was a response to internal problems; today, when we think about the future of Europe, our eyes are mainly on problems which challenge us from the outside. It is not only the EU's eastward expansion which is extending the dynamics of unification beyond the level arrived at in Nice. But admittedly we are not yet ready to play the role of a diplomatic bridge among global powers.

Could you cite a particular geopolitical challenge?

Let's take the example of the recent conflict between Israel and Hizbullah, carried out on Lebanese soil. Thanks to the Bush government's one-sided policy on the Middle East conflict, the USA has long been a partisan player. Many people pinned their hopes on Europe, which was regarded as neutral. But aside from sending its foreign policy spokesman Javier de Solana to Beirut and Jerusalem, the EU provided a laughable spectacle with its chorus of dissonant voices. At the same time certain individual countries, such as France, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, tried to stand out on their own, and outdo one another by putting forward home-grown initiatives.

What would you place at the top of the EU's policy agenda: the recently defeated EU constitution; a common European foreign policy; joint European armed forces; the taming of international neo-liberalism by setting social standards; or taking a leading role in international efforts to deal with climate change?

You've listed there the most urgent challenges which a united Europe must face in the 21st century. But a common foreign policy, the creation of joint armed forces and the harmonisation of tax and economic policies to secure our endangered social and cultural standards are on quite a different level from the defeated EU constitution. Before it can set itself such ambitious goals, the expanded EU must first put its own house in order, so it can remain governable and develop the ability to act politically. Above all, we shouldn't harbour any illusions about where the resistance to a deepening of EU institutions is really coming from...

... from the rejection of many citizens throughout Europe?

Not from resistance by the people! That is an understandable, but nevertheless mistaken idea which has taken root since the constitution's defeat in France and the Netherlands. Actually, in most countries there are silent majorities that favour a strengthening of the European Union. The underlying reason for paralysis is rather that various governments have differing objectives to the Union. The obstruction we see today comes from the fact that our governments are avoiding the predictable conflict over this central issue. There have been reports, for example, that as President of the European Council, Germany is preparing a statement for the March 25th jubilee which touches only tangentially on the constitution question.

Then what is the significance of the negative outcomes in the French and Dutch referenda?

The failed referenda simply turned a spotlight on the fact that our governments are stuck in a dead-end and can move neither forwards nor backwards. Until now they have been able to rely on the "Monnet method" and have followed the imperatives which inevitably arose from economic integration. The Common Market was not a zero-sum game. It brought various benefits to every member-state. By contrast, a constitutional framework for common policies demands a common political will that goes beyond recognition of the benefits for each member-state. Obviously our governments cannot yet reach agreement about the ultimate goal, the real meaning of the "European project."

Would it be possible to say more concretely whose fault it is?

Leaving out the new member-states, Great Britain and some Scandinavian countries are pulling in one direction, while the founding nations and Spain are pushing in the other. The Brussels agreement on concrete goals to reduce climate change (news story), which has yet to be implemented, must be regarded as a success for Angela Merkel. But was it really anything more than a diversionary move before the real battle?

Then who should fuel European development, if not the governments?

The only way out I can see is a Europe-wide referendum. The governments – which control the process after all – have to recognize their own powerlessness and, this one time, "dare to use democracy." They have to rise above themselves and face the political parties of which they themselves are composed with the necessity of engaging in an open, Europe-wide campaign, a struggle for each and every vote in favour of, or in opposition to, an expansion and deepening of the European Union.

As you have emphasized on many occasions, geopolitical developments demand a strong Europe, which could become a model for similar mergers into supranational powers on other continents. A just international economic system cannot come into being without such global players, you have argued, and in any case neither international security problems nor the challenge of climate change can be treated at the national level alone. In brief: given all the problems which cannot be dealt with nationally, is the model of the nation-state on the way out?

No, nation-states remain the most important players on the international stage. They also constitute irreplaceable components of international organisations. After all, the international community is organised in the form of "United Nations." Who is to support and nourish the UN, and provide troops for humanitarian interventions, if not the nation-states? Who, if not the nation-states, will guarantee equal rights for all citizens? What must change – and has already done so in Europe – is the self-image of nation-states, which must learn to see themselves not so much as independent players but as members of a larger community, who feel bound to adhere to common norms. They must learn to pursue their own interests within international networks, more through clever diplomacy than through the threat of unilateral military force.

You have sharply criticised the crude power politics of the USA under the Bush administration, which makes the interests of its own country the supreme criterion and has openly suspended major tenets of international law. In your view, world politics today is governed by an uninhibited "social Darwinism." A strong Europe could strengthen the United Nations and pave the way for a more just worldwide domestic policy. How do you envision that in concrete terms?

Your brief account neglects two things. First, that my criticism of the Bush government bears not the faintest whiff of anti-American sentiment. Here in Germany, anti-Americanism has always been part of the most reactionary movements. But the fact that my generation in particular admires and has learned from the political culture of the United States, which is rooted in the 18th century, does not oblige me to unquestioning loyalty. Rather, it obliges me to hold fast to the normative significance of the Federal Republic's orientation towards the West, even against the self-destructive policies of an American government which can be voted out of office. Secondly, I am not naive enough to believe that even a Europe which has learned to speak with a single voice could alone bring about the long-overdue reform of the United Nations. If the United States does not spearhead the movement for reform – as it did twice in the course of the 20th century – there is little prospect of its success. We can at most cultivate the hope that a stronger Europe will be able to influence its allies along these lines. At the same time we must reckon with the likelihood that the next U.S. administration will pursue a neo-realist power policy and will tend not to be open to the normative prospects of a strengthened United Nations Organisation.

What long-term goals should be pursued by the EU as a political body? Does your vision include a "United States of Europe" with a common government, citizenship, armed forces, etc.? What should Europe's political structure look like 50 years from now?

A bold vision for 50 years down the line will not help us get on right now. I am content with a vision for the period leading up to the European elections in 2009. Those elections should be coupled with a Europe-wide referendum on three questions: whether the Union, beyond effective decision-making procedures, should have a directly elected president, its own foreign minister, and its own financial base. That is what Belgium's Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt advocates. Such a proposal would pass muster if it won a "double majority" of EU member-states and of individual citizens' votes. At the same time, the referendum would be binding only on those EU member-nations in which a majority of citizens had voted for the reforms. If the referendum were to succeed, it would mean the abandonment of the model of Europe as a convoy in which the slowest vehicle sets the pace for all. But even in a Europe consisting of a core and a periphery, those countries which prefer to remain on the periphery for the time being would of course retain the option of becoming part of the core at any time.


The interview was conducted by Matthias Hoenig for the dpa.

Jürgen Habermas, born in 1929, is one of Germany's foremost intellectual figures. A philosopher and sociologist, he is professor emeritus at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt and the leading representative of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. His works include "Legitimation Crisis", "Knowledge and Human Interests", "Theory of Communicative Action" and "The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity."

Translation: Myron Gubitz.

JEF Pan-European Referendum Campaign * 16 June 2007

Young European Federalists are launching a referendum action at European level on 16 June 2007. Contact asa.gunven@jef-europe.net if you want contribute actively in your city.


When, why, aims, action plan, find partners, press work.

When: Saturday 16 June 2007

Why then? The European Council meets 21-22 June and we want to send a strong message from every corner of Europe by acting jointly for a European Referendum. Also German Chancellor Angela Merkel will speak in the European Parliament (Strasbourg) on Wednesday 20 June to conclude on the German Presidency. In case of a successful campaign day, we will try to hand over our results from the action to her.

• Get our message in the media and generally increase the awareness of the referendum campaign and webpage
• Collect signatures for the 1 million goal and jointly show how many people across Europe are prepared to work for and to support our demand
• Provoke debate about the constitution, the referendum and about Europe
• To show that the demand for a constitution and a pan-European consultative referendum reaches across the borders of Europe and that JEF is always prepared to act for its beliefs through acting together, using innovation, motivation and limitless federal energy and a true pan-European network beaten by few!

A "3-step" action plan:

1. Get attention
In every participating city we will build a huge artsy ballot box that also has the slogan of the campaign and web address on it -
"www.europeanreferendum.eu - Let the European people decide!". The box should preferably be 2x2x1 meter and be put in a strategic place – either on its own or in the place where the activists are collecting the signatures.
You can build the huge box e.g. from empty cartons/boxes you take in super markets, and then put them together. Use your imagination as a real democrat to build the coolest and biggest ballot box in Europe!

2. Activists in action
The action consist of two parts – feel free to use your own imagination to develop them in any way!

Collect signatures through a street referendum Across the borders of Europe we will all go out in our cities and local community on the campaign day to collect signatures for our 1 million
signature goal. To ask people to sign a list with a take it or leave it approach is not the most innovative or interactive approach. Instead we will let people participate in a street referendum where people can "vote" for if they want to have a referendum on the constitution or not – a method that has proven to be successful for interacting and provoking debate.

How to do it:
1. Make some artsy ballot boxes with www.europeanreferendum.eu visible on them. The ballot papers that you can use will be sent out by JEF Europe.
2. Leave the info stall/table at home and spread out the activists everywhere with their ballot boxes, maybe with balloons or even painted faces, and approach people on the streets, at bus stations or even people having picnics or on the beach. The people will be asked to vote if they
want a European referendum or not. Once they voted ask if they want to sign the petition - this is of course the goal of the action☺ (we will send out signature lists).
3. It is of course better that the more people you are, the bigger and cooler box you build to catch attention – but don't make it complicated: at the UEF stall at the Europa Fest in Berlin on 25 March, we managed to collect 500 signatures over a day – with 2 people standing there!

Stickers guerrilla action
JEF will send out templates for stickers/labels you can print using your own printer and also mini posters, with the web address and slogan on it. We will try to put these low budget – but yet efficient! – stickers/mini posters up across all of Europe in all visible places like the inside of the door of public toilets in bars, cafes, libraries, universities and on lampposts, garbage bins etc. This is by far the most effective way to reach out to many people with the webpage. Remember: toilets are an excellent place for (political) meditation in today's society! ☺

3. Getting political support and media
Important people!
Try to get some responsible politicians (e.g. the mayor of the town, an MP, a government ministry or someone else high profile) to either come to your action on the 16th or otherwise to get a meeting with them on the following Monday to hand over the result of the action. The purpose of this is two-fold. Firstly, you are making this person aware of the campaign and offering him/her to sign. Secondly, meeting (10 minutes is really enough) a public person and handing over signatures, is always interesting for the local media and newspaper!

Find partners!
Try to involve as many other NGOs as possible in the action – remember that you don't have to be a mad pro-European to be a friend of a Pan-European referenda. This is a great opportunity for us to interact with groups we usually don't meet and obviously to increase the support for the campaign. Also UEF, that is leading the referendum campaign, is very likely to join your activities if you invite them.

Press work!
Press is of course the number one method to get a message out to many people. Just before the end of the German presidency this issue will have a high media potential. JEF Europe will as usual prepare a PR to be sent out both before and after the action, that you can adapt. We have seen again and again that doing early press work, phoning, emailing and above all finding the most likely media, like local press, TV etc can really work! Remember that it is quite unique to have an action taking place simultaneously in so many cities.

Use your imagination to develop the action and don't foget to tell me about your plans on asa.gunven@jef.eu. And good luck!

• If you have questions as to what concretely you can do and how to organise it, please contact Åsa at: asa.gunven@gmail.com!
• When you decided whether to join the action or not please inform asa.gunven@gmail.com of your plans
• Don't forget to take photos of your action and your meeting with politicians etc. to hand over the result! Email them to vdh.vincent@gmail.com directly after the action so they can go online directly!
• Check the campaign website www.europeanreferendum.eu and inform Vincent if you need further material than what is provided there
• Write a very short impression of your experience with the action, and about the arguments our fellow citizens had! Send them also to

Material checklist:
• Huge artsy ballot box to catch attention
• Small artsy ballot boxes to be used by activists
• Ballot papers (from JEF Europe)
• Petition lists (from JEF Europe)
• Campaign stickers/posters (templates from JEF Europe)

åsa gunvén

(m-portugal) +351 96045 39 44
(m-sweden) +46 708 38 46 33
(e) asa.gunven@jef-europe.net

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Let the European people decide

Berlin EU summit ends up with a declaration that doesn't give any voice to the European citizens in the Constituent process.

After the national referendum in France and in Netherland every future change in the European Constitution or Treaty should be legitimate by the European people. It's not possible to accept Angela Merkel proposal to have a quick intergovernmental conference - behind closed doors - to design some little change and that's all. NO it's not acceptable.

This is not the right way to build a democratic Europe.

The procedure to change the Constitutional Treaty should include the European Parliament, the national Parliaments, the European Commission and not only the Governments. A new European Convention with a sharp mandate will make a shared proposal about a revised Constitutional text.

And the final approval should be given to the European citizens through a pan-European referendum held the same day in all European countries during the next European elections.

If you think this is right please support and sign the petition for a European referendum on the following web site:


If you have any comments about this post or you think differently or you are against this issue please react and start a fruitful discussion.

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