EU laid bare: Why reform is badly needed but Brussels ‘always shies away’

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The EU has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic this year. As euroscepticism is on the rise in some of the nations who have suffered most, many critics – most notably in Italy – are looking to the EU to make significant changes which would help its member states. However, the bloc’s slow response has not just triggered an economic crisis but it is raising questions within its political and constitutional makeup, too.

According to an article in The Economist last week, “by failing to face up to its difficulties, the EU only makes them worse”.

It explained: “Ominously, the mechanism of reform is also broken.

“Ever since Schuman’s day, the EU has grown by repeatedly amending the treaties that govern it.”

Robert Schuman was the French foreign minister who initially proposed a European ‘coal and steel community’ after World War 2.

This formed the basis of today’s EU, which has evolved over 70 years.

The article continued: “But EU leaders have shied away from treaty change since the plan for a new constitution was thrown out by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

“Leaders have not dared to put through a significant amendment since 2007.”

France was the first nation to reject the treaty. The new constitution would have replaced all the overlapping EU treaties with just one text.

It would also provide legal force to the charter of Fundamental Rights and expand Qualified Majority Voting to all areas of the bloc, including ones which previously needed unanimity.

The Netherlands then rejected the idea of a new constitution too, despite Dutch politicians claiming the country was one of the greatest supporters of the bloc since it started.

The daily Dutch newspaper, de Volkskrant, exclaimed at the time: “The Dutch were always at the forefront of the European Union, but now the good kid in the class is the scene of an anti-European rebellion.”

Nine of the-then 25 member states had ratified the treaty, but this reluctance from the Netherlands and France threw the constitution into doubt.

The ratification process was subsequently closed.

Speaking during his LBC show back in 2017, Nigel Farage claimed this treaty was the catalyst which cemented his anti-EU views.

He said that “many other people, had they had the chance, would have rejected it”, although the UK public were not permitted to have a referendum on it.

He also pointed out that the EU did not learn from the apparent reluctance of the member states to turn the bloc into “a state with a flag, an anthem and an army”.

Instead, they “rebranded it” as the Lisbon Treaty.

The EU caused greater divisions within its ranks with the handling of the Lisbon Treaty.

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An ICM poll in August 2007 revealed that 82 percent of British voters wanted a referendum on the treaty, but the matter was not passed to the public.

Gordon Brown did not allow a referendum to go ahead and allowed his Foreign Secretary David Miliband to sign it on his behalf.

Mr Farage explained how the Lisbon Treaty impacted his own views of the EU: “From that moment, I have been an enemy of the entire project.

“I think it is not only undemocratic, I actually think it is dangerous.

“I think if you suppress people’s ability through the ballot box to make their own decisions, to be in charge of their futures, you will lead directly to political extremism and violence.”

Former Ukip MP Douglas Carswell also told earlier this year that the EU’s refusal to make long-lasting change has seriously damaged nations’ trust in the bloc.

He said: “I have noticed the same pattern repeating itself on the EU side.

“They constantly failed to make the concessions that they ought to have made in a timely manner.

“And as a result, they encourage an ever more distant relationship.

“They were intransigent on the Irish backstop.

“They administered to Theresa May the equivalent of a punishment beating.”

He continued to say this only ensured a Brexit majority and Boris Johnson’s astonishing electoral win last year.

Additionally, he pointed out: “They failed to give David Cameron when he was negotiating, any credible concession that might have allowed him to convince the public to vote Remain in the referendum.”

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