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The EU Constitution: The Cart before the Horse 3/3
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2007-10-05 09:01:50
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Were one to glance at the very first article of the EU Constitution one would read these words: Inspired by the will of its citizens and the European States, to build a common future, this Constitution establishes the European Union... So the second insight to be derived from the mistakes of Italian unification is this: that unless those first words of the EU Constitution are really meant and honored in the future, then that common future will be built on sand and one is perpetrating a great fraud on one’s people.

One notices in that first article that the will of its citizens is declared the original inspiration; the will of the people takes precedence, as it ought in any democracy worthy of its name, over the will of its elitist aristocratic leaders, and the will of its member States. Assuming that the people have already been listened to, the member States need to let people ratify the polity that they have created in their name. A Constitution is not a treaty among States but a social compact among the people. Those people have a past as well as a future and that past needs to be known and respected before forging a viable future. A car without a rear-view mirror may eventually end up in a ravine.

To switch metaphor: to make Europe first and the Europeans later, is to put the cart before the horse. That cart and its horse may too end up in a ravine. The twenty-five head of states present in Rome pledged to ratify the Constitution within two years; eleven of the twenty five pledged a referendum among their people, which is all well and good, but there are ominous signs that those may be empty promises. There is talk now of bypassing referendums and leave the ratification to the individual states’ congresses. Even more ominously the very word Constitution has been dropped and the old one Treaty has been resurrected. The racist and fascistic Italian Lega for one seems to be balking at the idea of a referendum. Silvio Berlusconi, the then PM went on record saying that “We shall commit ourselves to ensuring that Italy ratifies the new treaty without delay.” What is ominous in those words is that Berlusconi refers to the Constitution as “a treaty among States.”

But a Constitution is more than a legally binding treaty to insure greater commerce and capitalism among nations. It is also a document that ought to inspire the people to create a greater more meaningful union. It takes more than a bank to inspire the people. Romano Prodi, the current PM who then presided over the EU Commission, reveals that he has a better notion than a Berlusconi of what a constitution is all about when he declared that “The new Constitution goes beyond existing treaties. It has an innovative content of the social rights…and new social clauses.” Indeed, to ignore the will of the people will mean that the cynical politicians will have to deal with the wrath of the people later on. The people in their rage may bring down the whole structure called European Union, once they realize that it is being constructed without their consent.

Finally, let us take a brief imaginary look at the symbolism and the semiotic signs present at the signing of the Constitution on 29 October 2004. In the first place one ought to note the silence of the people. That is a powerful sign in itself. There were neither demonstrations, nor festivities among the people at this august event; an event overshadowed by the Borroso/Buttiglione crisis in the EU Parliament. Could it be that Iris, the goddess of discord was there, invisible perhaps, but there nonetheless to continue the mischief she initiated on December 13th 2003? There were other disturbing signs. Those who are familiar with Rome know that piazza Campidoglio was the ancient citadel, the core of Imperial Rome, the first Rome.

There is an equestrian statue in the middle of the piazza portraying the anomaly of a philosopher-Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. But the architecture of the buildings surrounding the square belongs to the second Rome, the Renaissance Rome of the Popes. The square was in fact designed by none other than Michelangelo. The heads of states must have passed silently by that statue of Marcus Aurelius and then climbed the scalone Michelangelo in order to enter the great hall of Sala degli Orazi e Curiazi, another throw back to ancient Rome. But here too, that “sala” is more Renaissance then ancient.

Another irony: the Constitution, which makes no reference to Christianity, was actually signed under the prominent bronze statue of a Pope in full regalia and wearing his tiara. And who pray was this Pope? None other than Innocent X, the last Pope of the Catholic counter-reformation. He is the one who wrote a bull of condemnation against the treaties of Westfalia in 1648 which, after thirty years of religious wars, declared the end of the so called “Sacred Roman Empire” and authorized religious freedom in Europe. The then Pope John-Paul II who had declared religious freedom in the 20th century was not as much as consulted or even mentioned at the ceremony; as if he lived on another planet. And for obvious reasons: he is the one who had been insisting that Christianity be acknowledged as one of the pillars of Western Civilization while keeping separation of Church and State and religious freedom.

He was ignored and the EU Constitution was signed in his face, so to speak, under the auspices of the goddess Europa and the goddess Iris (perhaps represented by Buttiglione, the rejected minister of Barroso’s EU Commission) and the vigilant watch of a reactionary Pope who condemned religious freedom in the 17th century. Dante must be turning in his grave in Ravenna at the sight of those strange ironies of history.


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