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The European Union Constitution

The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE), commonly referred to as the European Constitution, was an unimplemented international treaty intended to create a constitution for the European Union. It was signed in 2004 by representatives of the 27 member states of the Union but was subject to ratification by all member states. Most of them did so, by parliamentary ratification or by referendums, but two (France and the Netherlands) rejected it in referendums. Its main aims were to replace the overlapping set of existing treaties (see Treaties of the European Union) that compose the Union's current informal constitution, to codify human rights throughout the EU and to streamline decision-making in what is now a 27-member organisation.

The TCE was signed in Rome by representatives of the member states on 29 October 2004, and was in the process of ratification by the member states when, in 2005, French (29 May) and Dutch (1 June) voters rejected the treaty in referenda. The failure of the treaty to win popular support in these two countries caused some other countries to postpone or halt their ratification procedures, and the European Council (of heads of government of the Member States) to call a "period of reflection". Had it been ratified by all Member States, the treaty would have come into force on 1 November 2006. In perspective, 18 member states ratified the text (three by referendum: Spain, Luxembourg and Romania) while 7 postponed the ratification process after the 2 rejections.

Following the period of reflection, the European Council meeting in June 2007 decided to start negotiations on a Reform Treaty ("Lisbon Treaty") as a replacement.

Some additional information on the process of this European federative effort follows:


The Reading Chronicle - Mar.27,2007- Prime Minister Tony Blair called for Europe's constitutional crisis to be resolved as quickly as possible to give the Union a new set of rules for the future. But he warned that EU leaders could not simply brush aside the fact that Dutch and French voters delivered a resounding "no" to the original constitution plans nearly two years ago.

The EU has been rudderless ever since - but the celebration summit delivered a clear pledge to get the project back on track.

A new EU mission statement - the "Berlin Declaration" - proclaimed: "We are united in our aim of placing the EU on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009."

Without mentioning the constitution by name, the document amounts to a new timetable for agreeing sweeping reforms to streamline decision-making and renew creaking institutions unable to cope with an EU of 27 nations - compared with six at its launch on March 25, 1957. ...


Ratification status in member states and candidate countries

     Referendum announced

     No referendum planned

     Yes - Accession treaty

     Yes - Parliament only

     Yes - Referendum

     No - Referendum

     Referendum postponed indefinitely

[ Main stages in the institutional reform of the European Union ]


Updated to November 2006.- The European Union Constitution should have been adopted by referendum in 10 European countries, while the remaining EU member states should have ratified it in their parliaments. The only exception was the Czech Republic, which was undecided upon the method to be used until the crisis of the Dutch and French rejection in their respective referenda.

All 25 European Union members should have approved the Constitution before the end of October 2006 in order for it to take effect.  Since it has not happened, new negotiations ensued.

Here is the state of play reached before the Dutch & French rejection referenda aborted it:

- Lithuania: November 11, 2004
- Hungary: December 20, 2004
- Slovenia: February 1, 2005
- Spain: February 20 (referendum; officially adopted by parliament May 18, 2005)
- Italy: April 7, 2005
- Greece: April 19, 2005
- Slovakia: May 11, 2005
- Austria: May 25, 2005
- Germany: May 27, 2005
- Latvia:  June 2, 2005
- Cyprus: June 30, 2005
- Malta: July 6, 2005
- Luxembourg:  July 10, 2005 (referendum; adopted by Chamber Oct. 25, 2005)
- Belgium: Approved (Upper House 4/28; Lower House 5/19); ratified Fen.8, 2006
- Estonia: May 9, 2006

- France: May 30 (Referendum)
- Netherlands: June 1 (Referendum)

Postponed Referendums:
- Poland: the left wanted a referendum in October 2005; opposition conservatives wanted a referendum in 2006.  Postponed indefinitely
- Portugal: scheduled for October 2005 but postponed indefinitely
- United Kingdom:  referendum postponed indefinitelly after French & Dutch rejections
- Ireland: debated October 2005; postponed indefinitely

Parliamentary ratification:
- Sweden: scheduled for December 5, 2005; postponed indefinitely
- Finland: debated on December 2005; expected during Presidency of the Council late on 2006; postponed indefinitely 

Referendum possible:
- Denmark: Polls in favor; probably late 2006
- Czech Republic: government was pushing for June 2006, along with legislative elections; expected for early 2007

NoteOne year after the draft for a European Constitution was rejected by referenda in France and the Netherlands, the President of the European Council, Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, suggested on 11 June 2006 a new concept for the adopting process.

Schüssel proposed a referendum that should be held at the same time in all EU countries; to be successful the referendum would require the affirmation of the majority of individual countries and of the total population.

On June 24th the European Union leaders reached a new agreement that needs to be ratified. The European Council approved the mandate for an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), scheduled to start in July, to draw up a new EU treaty. The European Parliament will now draw up its opinion, without which, under article 48 of the current EU Treaty, the IGC cannot start its work. The new EU treaty will then be put to the voters in a referendum in Ireland, and possibly also in Denmark and the Netherlands.  The treaty is designed to replace the EU Constitution, negotiated by Ahern, that was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

[Highlights of EU Constitution]
[BBC Guide on the EU Constitution]
[Legal Perspective]
[Progress analysis]

[Facts leading to the Reform Treaty]

The new Reform Treaty has some significant differences from the original EU Constitution.  Most strikingly, the Treaty will allow Britain to choose whether to take part in EU co-operation on policing and criminal justice.  It contains a Britain-specific, legally binding protocol on the Charter of Fundamental Rights.  In addition, it keeps foreign and defence policy in a separate treaty and contains new language excluding the jurisdiction of the European Counrt of Justice.  It also gives national parliaments new powers to scrutinize draft EU laws and force their review.  And, for the first time ever, the Treaty will state that national security is the sole responsibility of national governments.

[Read A Comparative Text of both documents here (PDF format)]