December 5, 2002 9:48 a.m. EST
Prodi to Propose
BRUSSELS -- The competition over who will be the author of Europe's constitution just got hotter.
Surprising everybody, Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, Thursday will present a constitution for Europe, complete with a catchy preamble, in a bid to galvanize support for a more unified union capable of "exercising the responsibilities of a world power."
Written in secret by a team of civil servants, Mr. Prodi's constitution marks a dramatic attempt by the former Italian prime minister to wrest control of a debate that had been sputtering toward a more decentralized vision of Europe.
As the most thorough constitution presented to the constitutional convention to date, Mr. Prodi's proposal creates a new, unavoidable point of reference for the people writing the laws and principles that will set the tone for European integration as the 15-nation European Union prepares to expand to more than 25 members in the next few years.
Mr. Prodi's constitution, which isn't an official commission document, will accompany important but arcane official commission proposals he submits Thursday to a convention drafting a European constitution.
The European convention has been gathering momentum as it moved into a crucial writing phase, after six months of deliberations about the future of Europe. It hopes to present a definitive European constitution by next summer, and Germany and France recently joined Spain and the United Kingdom in dispatching their foreign ministers to participate in the convention as it became clear that its conclusions would be the basis for any debate that follows.
Mr. Prodi's constitution "puts flesh on the bones" of an outline of a European constitution unveiled earlier this year by Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the president of the convention, said one person close to Mr. Prodi. But it also makes changes that don't necessarily enjoy the support of the convention -- or even the commission.
"Some people are unhappy with the way this has been done," said one senior convention member who has seen the document, which a commission staffer described as a "working document." In fact, the 20 commissioners were discussing the document for the first time Wednesday night -- a day after it had been given to Mr. Giscard d'Estaing.
A convention spokesman declined to comment on the document, and said the convention's steering committee, which met Wednesday ahead of a two-day meeting Thursday and Friday, hadn't even discussed it.
The constitution was written under the direction of Francois Lamoureux, a senior commission official who was once an aide to Jacques Delors, the father of the euro and a well-known champion of greater European integration. It is fewer than 100 pages -- less than half the length of the EU treaties it would replace.
Like Mr. Giscard d'Estaing's outline, Mr. Prodi's constitution lists areas of public policy such as antitrust, agriculture and the environment and spells out whether they're primarily the business of the supranational EU or the union's individual members -- issues that directly affect the ability of businesses, people and capital to treat Europe as one market.
But while Mr. Giscard d'Estaing foresaw a rigid division of labor between EU institutions and EU member-states, Mr. Prodi's constitution foresees no legal limits to EU jurisdiction. Instead, it lists seven specific policy areas in which the EU would continue to have the last word, and another seven areas in which the union would facilitate "coordination and convergence" of national policies.
Where Mr. Giscard d'Estaing's outline talked vaguely of an EU foreign minister, Mr. Prodi's outline also envisages a European army that could react to attack by a foreign power or terrorists and foresees the possibility of military intervention in the event of a civil war in an EU member-state.
And unlike Mr. Giscard d'Estaing's draft, the Prodi constitution makes no mention of an EU president. Mr. Prodi considers the idea premature, and favors strengthening the role of the commission president -- i.e., his eventual successors.
Mr. Prodi's constitution also contains a short, memorable preamble that he hopes could become Europe's answer to the U.S. constitution's "We the people." Drawing heavily from the 1951 text of the preamble to the European Coal and Steel Community -- the precursor to the EU -- Mr. Prodi's constitution evokes a union "resolved to substitute for age-old rivalries" and "establish by this constitution the foundations of an ever-closer union of the peoples of a continent that has been divided too long."
The preamble refers to the "European model of society," environmental sustainability, and Europe's "cultural heritage" but avoids direct reference to Europe's Christian roots -- a reference sought by the Pope and some Christian Democrats.
Write to Brandon Mitchener at [email protected]2
Updated December 5, 2002 9:48 a.m. EST
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