BBC TwoNewsnight
Page last updated at 12:59 GMT, Tuesday, 31 May 2005 13:59 UK

How would you fix Europe?

With the EU draft constitution looking dead in the water, Europe would appear to be in a bit of a mess.

A sticky plaster covers the EU flag
Tony Blair will soon be taking over the G8 presidency and will inherit a situation that requires a sizeable sticking plaster across its wounded member states.

Newsnight knows its viewers have views and may even have solutions. So, we want to hear them.

We're inviting you to send in your blueprints for Europe. What advice do you have for Tony Blair? What should France do now? Do you have a new constitution to offer, or a cunning new plan?

Make your suggestions as constructive, imaginative or even as outrageous as possible. We'll be showcasing some of the more inspired ideas on the programme and the website in the coming days.

Tell us - how would you fix Europe?

Click here to send us your views


I would exhort all EU governments to stick to their guns and tactfully inform their electorates their NO opinions are respectfully noted, but their votes are not votes!
Mark Johnstone, Swindon

Euro Politicians have taken the citizens of Europe too far down a road none of us wanted to go. We need to retrace our steps, handing power back to the individual countries to enable them to choose their "way". The amount of retracing needed will reveal itself when we finally reach a consensus on what "Europe" is for.
Michael Vaines, Reigate

I suggest that any sense of a "United States of Europe" is increasingly irrelevant, and can do little more than act as a sink for vast amounts of money which its members can ill afford. The "power" of the original EEC derived from its "bottom upwards" approach to the needs of its members. Somewhere along the way it became a "top down" organisation - with all the inequity, inefficiency, and self-regarding elitism that entails - democracy went out of the window! I propose that the EU revert to a simple Free Trade Association (which is all that I voted for in 1975) with individual groupings of member states encouraged to pursue common interest projects where they see the need.
Paul Vinall, Leeds (West Yorkshire)

The Non vote in France implies that holding national referenda on the issue of the constitution is clearly flawed. The most democratic, accountable and transparent way of deciding the Constitutional treaty should be to hold a pan-European referenda in which the majority verdict by the citizens of the European Union is accepted. Allowing all European citizens to have a say on the same question, at the same time, would mean that the referenda would not be influenced by the verdicts of other member states. The problem with the system at the present time is that local national referenda influence other member states referenda, and these debates are clearly influenced by local issues and concerns.
Edward Hortop, Lincoln

The main problem with the EU is its high handed attitude. I work for the EU, and am disgusted by the way it takes decisions without consultation. It is difficult to negotiate the labyrinth of committees and power structures. It so often ignores its own rules to suit some obscure agenda. Frankly, it's a mess. The constitution was typical.
Hugh Cooke, Weingarten, Germany

Revert to the original plan of a Common Market, which is what we voted for. Nobody envisaged, let alone wanted, a European Constitution, a single European currency, European Law, etc, etc. Give us our sovereignty back!
Nigel Adams, Manchester

I would go back to basics. When Germany and France set up the Common Market in 1954 they set it up suiting themselves. All the later entry members were never going to get in on the ground-floor rules that suited the founder members so well. Tony Blair has a marvellous opportunity to get some sense talked (if he is brave enough) and to redraft some of those basic entry criteria to each individual state. In other words, let us all go back to the dawn of the European idea but with everyone getting the same deal and no preferences - even the one's that apply to the UK.
Steve Calrow, Liverpool

Scrap it and start again with a just a hint of honesty and democracy.
Richard Rosser, London

I think one way forward would be to split the EU powers into two separate organisations, one dealing with trade issues (tariffs, competition, weights and measures and technical standards) and the other dealing with the more "political" issues. The first (call it, say, the ETO - the European Trade Organisation) would be comparable to the original Common Market that everybody thought they were joining in the first instance, and I think it would be freed up from the dragging-down that is caused by the attempts at political integration. The Political EU could carry on attempting to get ever-closer union if and when its member peoples felt like it, including trying to resolve the enormous discrepancy between the "Social Model" and the "Anglo-Saxon Model", without impairing the development of trade and competition in the globalised markets. The ETO could forge all sorts of agreements and make big progress without being forever held back by attempts to resolve near-impossible issues in the political arena, and without so much grand-standing and loss of face by the politicians.
Brian Tolver, Cheshire

I think the problem is not so much "Europe" but certain countries where there is an irrational fear of expansion and a tendency towards self-interested protectionism. Europe has to change as it enlarges. The existing members will have to relinquish some of their powers to accommodate the new members. Personally I think the new constitution was acceptable but I doubt the wisdom of putting a complex issue like this to a referendum since many will vote according to their prejudices, not on the issue. We allow politicians to make decisions every day without a referendum. I would let the Government ratify the constitution without a referendum.
Nicholas Britton, Cardiff, Wales

1. Demand a single vision for Europe. Make the politicians spell out exactly what the EU's going to be when finished, and the stages they expect all of this to go through to get there. See if they can do this without getting nationalistic about it.

2. Present the Constitution in a fashion that anyone who picks it up can read it and remain awake. Bureaucrats of every stripe are notorious for writing that's best left to lawyers and cryptologists. Once they've 'written' it, send it off to a professional author to translate into prose for the rest of us.

3. Make sure that there's some separation between the Referendums on the EU and the contentment level with the present government. Tony Blair knows that he's on life-support; I wonder if the French government did before their referendum. That may mean having several questions, all connected, leading to a specific answer.
Roger Brown, Treforest, Wales

Europe needs a constitution and it needs to admit that it is next to impossible to create a modern, capital-intensive economy on the scale of the US, China, or India without a common set of social, education, tax and competition rules and the quicker national politicians admit this the better. Decide if Europe will be a federal state or not. If not, then set the rules according to that (and forget a common currency and common market). If so (and I believe it should be so) then create a real constitution that lays down the fundamental principals on which the European state will exist. Do this openly, discuss the difficult issues such as immigration, nationalism and religion openly, reach a consensus and move on. This "constitution was a joke from the beginning. It seemed designed to confuse and allow tired, visionless politicians to continue with their silly, go-nowhere parlour game without regard to their electorates. Better to ditch it and start with something optimistic and forward looking.
Patrick Grenham, New York, NY

I wasn't aware that Europe needs fixing at all. It could certainly be vastly improved by dismantling forever that gross waste of public money, the EU. And the tens of thousands of pen-pushers could at last be found gainful employment. Their first job, might I suggest, could be to expend as much energy dismantling the plethora of efficiency and profitability sapping rules and regulations as was spent by them in their creation. Then they could all stand in a big circle and, on the word "Go!", they could all give the person in front a good hard kick up the backside to remind them never to attempt anything so crass ever again.
Steve T, Stoke on Trent, UK

The way forward has to be to scrap the planned constitution and reappraise the whole ethos of the EU. As a long term europhile I find this difficult but when it is clearly perceived to be wrong it must be changed. Go back to basics - the free trade community is not contentious, build again on that bedrock, this time with the minimum of bureaucracy. Use the extant National civil services to deliver the wishes of the European Parliament and limit the power of that body to truly international issues that have been approved by the member states.
Roy Taylor, Par

I am a committed European, and have been since I can remember. That does not, however, make me a content European. If the political class want to engage citizens of Europe, then a first step ought to be to locate the power base of the European Union with the European Parliament, not the bureaucrats. Fundamental questions of natural democratic principles simply don't take priority. The constitution is too much about economic models and aspirations, rather than a foundation for the framework in which that debate should take place.
James Dargie, Menai Bridge - North Wales

A stupid conception forced on the British people without their consent. How to fix it - easy: LEAVE and start doing what the politicians promised in the first place and have a COMMON MARKET, not a POLITICAL UNION.
Laurence Keegan, Plymouth

At the time of the UK's accession to the EEC, as it was called then, we believed we were signing up for an enlarged free trade area (glorified EFTA) rather than embarking on a never-ending road to a federal union with the rest of Europe. We were never consulted as to whether we wished to support inefficient farming, whether we wished to have non-elected officials in Brussels having more authority than our own elected officials etc etc. In the future the problems will be greater, the pensions bombshell from demographic change will be worse in continental Europe than in the UK so any tax harmonisation will effectively mean UK tax payers (including pensioners) will have to pay higher taxes to enable the other countries to pay their pensions bill. Surely the reaction we are seeing across Europe is evidencing a need to look again at the basics? Do we want a simple free trade area or a federal Europe or nothing? Perhaps that's what we should be voting on.
Alan Brunskill, Hambleden, Bucks

The French, and very likely the Dutch, have done us all a favour by rejecting the constitution, and I include in that people like myself who are firmly in favour of European cooperation and integration. This constitution was a complete dog's breakfast - overlong and including elements of policy which have no place in a constitutional agreement. It also pre-empts agreements that have yet to be made - how can the EU have a foreign minister without a common foreign policy: what would he or she actually do? What Europe needs is a short and clear agreement which sets out clearly for all Europeans what the mission of the EU is (that of course is the hard part), describes the division of powers, and their limits, between the EU centre and nation states, and sets out the conditions for states who wish to join, or leave, the EU. This is what a constitution is for, not some grandiose document running to several hundred pages which can never inspire, if anyone could even be bothered to read it.
Russell Dove, London

The constitution contains many good proposals, which should not be given up easily. There are however fears about further expansion of the EU beyond Europe. The lack of accountability of the commission is also very unpopular. The first point can be dealt with by including a clause that there would be a referendum of the EU as a whole before any country which had a land mass and population that was located totally or largely outside of Europe (Turkey is located largely in Asia Minor) was invited to join the European Union. The lack of accountability of the commission could be dealt with by making it accountable to the EU parliament. The parliament should choose the president of the commission and the president should choose the rest of the commission. Each member of the commission should be answerable to the EU parliament. This should not in any way affect any of the powers of the member states or the EU Council except that they would no longer have exclusive power to nominate members of the commission. The final power in the EU would still remain with the member states and with the commission. If these two changes were made then I believe that the new constitution would be much more acceptable to the people of Europe.
Stephen Franklin, London

I would have referendums in every country asking if the people wish to have political integration or just a common market.
Liam, Ireland

Europe needs a more modular or unit-based approach. There are currently four basic levels of government: World or UN, Continental, National and Local. Why not let each European country work out once and for all which powers they wish to allocate to each level? The EU can then work on full majority voting for each law they pass and each country gets to decide whether to select continental or national level for that power. Basically a pick and mix approach. It works for the Euro. Tax rates are more competitive at national level and tax law helps businesses at continental level. Why not just be sensible and practical and select what works best? Finally, I have to say referendum only works on single questions, not treaties, so why do we have them?
Simon, Chesham

It is time Europe decided what it wants to be. It could be the bulwark against a global capitalist model run on liberalist economic principles. However this would mean Europeans such as the French having to become less selfish and hiding behind protectionist policies to preserve a way of life that is fast changing due to globalisation. Alternatively it is time for the British to realise that without European legislation we may lose minimum wages, guaranteed paid holidays and maximum working hours. Clearly European leaders need to hammer out an agreement that is a middle way and clearly present the benefits to all Europeans as the alternative to global capitalist ideas.
G Fitzpatrick, Birmingham

Eurosceptics stop gloating, please. We federalists never expected to have it our way all the time. The French "No" is no more than a small bump on the road towards a United States of Europe. The past is yours. The future is ours. Vive L'Europe!
Brian Donohoe, Dublin, Ireland

I don't recall voting to change the EEC into the EU! Draw up a free trade agreement which is all we thought we were getting in 1975, and ask for the other half of our gold reserves back that chancellor Brown handed over to the European Central Bank in readiness for our stock exchange to be moved over to Frankfurt. Change the ethos to one where people do not require rights to be bestowed upon them, rather we all have freedom unless under the jurisdiction of law. That should cut down unnecessary bureaucracy.
Jim Cooke, Newburgh

The huge tome of the proposed constitution is useless for many obvious reasons. What is needed is a short document outlining the principles which the member countries share. This should draw on such principles as are already tried and tested in management, and in psychotherapy, and elsewhere. They include providing a direction in which the enterprise should work and some limits on the behaviour of its membership. And the context for the enterprise - what is it for? In mediation, finding the common purpose behind different positions leads to resolution and agreement. Why can't those principles be used to get Europe to cooperate?
Hugh Deynem, London

The European constitution must be based on direct democracy for it to have any success or relevance to the European public. I do not believe the no vote in France was due to national prejudices and it irritates me to hear people discredit the peoples' rights to their opinions like that. The Swiss have had direct democracy for nearly 200 hundred years and are extremely wealthy. Very little is known about the Swiss system by the public and it is important that we are aware that we have a perfect template right in front of our noses for the European constitution, if only the politicians were willing to give up some of their power for the greater good. (Doubtful, I know!)
Deirdre Farrell, Essex

Tony Blair should abandon the idea of the constitution entirely and focus on the areas where people can actually agree. Despite the bleak scene there are probably more than people expect. These and the role of the European Parliament are the areas that Tony should pursue in the short term of the presidency. This will then set the scene for measured integration and produce some small but notable successes. As for larger issues like economic models, these will happen in their own sweet way and in their own time, as someone once said: "you can't buck the system"!
Richard Bankart, London, UK

Europe needs to return to a trading community, and the people of Europe need to start telling the political elite to listen to what the citizens of Europe want! Not politicians driving us ever closer towards political union. They simply don't listen, even when the French say NO some politicians think they can just keep asking the same question until they get the answer they want.
Justin Pursell, Nuneaton

Forward not backward. The UK should have the referendum ASAP so that the "no" vote can be got out of the way. Then forward to a joint solution. A European solution. Each country must give up a little to, together, gain a lot. Listen and act upon the ideas of the optimists. Not to the negative criticisms of the pessimists.
Mr Nish Pandya, Brussels

The current text being subjected to referenda is the horribly humped result of allowing a committee of eurocrats to design a constitutional horse. The example of either end of the French political spectrum coming together to defeat the referendum there is a clear demonstration of the folly of trying to persuade voters that their fears and hopes are accounted for somewhere deep within hundreds of pages of technocratic language. A majority "no" in any country is a veto and the same question should not be voted upon again. Instead, the eurocrats should busy themselves with the boring technical practical issues - the mechanics of the European project - and the politicians should take back control of the vision thing - the beliefs, values and ambitions Europeans have in common - that vision should fit within a single page and that is the text that should be put to the people in the form of a constitution. It would serve as guiding principals upon which the vast majority agree, without asking voters (who have actual lives to lead) to get into the ridiculous detail currently awaiting their opinions.
Tom, Reykjavik, Iceland

The EU is going its own way without the following of the people. The EU should be stronger, concentrate on what is important, improve the economies, get countries ready and prepared for the outflow of specific types of jobs, stop the fraud, stop the gravy train. The EU just wants to keep growing and never resolve any of these fundamental problems. This is why the EU lacks direction as its only direction is enlargement when it should be building strong economies and a great trading block. Very simple really and this is why the French voted no and The Netherlands will follow. I am sure that if all countries had a referendum then many of the core EU countries would have said no - even Germany.
Graham Aldridge, Brussels/Belgium

Firstly, the EU budget is not that expensive at only around 1% of EU Gross National Income. Secondly, the EU is only undemocratic because Member States retain too much control. Thirdly, it's naive to think that a common market without a legal framework to go with it can operate without serious problems. I think the commission should become a faceless institution like the British Civil Service and MEPs should appoint heads of departments from amongst themselves. The Council of Ministers should have a one Member State one vote approach with a two-thirds majority required to carry. There should be no vetoes on anything. Any Member State that doesn't like the decision should live with it or leave the EU. The threat of a country leaving would have to be considered as part of the decision. A European President should be directly elected with candidates put before the European Parliament and by elimination reduced to two candidates, who would be put before the Citizens of the EU as a whole. This President should have no legislative power but should set the agenda for the EU. Their power will only be one of influence and mandate.
Phil Quinn, Newport, Shropshire

Re-brand the EU "The European Tourist Board". Then have a referendum. "Europe. A great place for a holiday? Yes or No." I'm sure we could all vote Yes on that. We could even ask the French to be in charge. Problem solved.
Patrick Nagle, Birmingham

No vote = fear of enlargement, wasteful expenditure. Money spent on commissioners and translations could be spent on creating jobs. Yes vote = optimism for the future. Civil law countries need a common sense approach. The UK will have the presidency at the right time and has a great deal of experience in running a club of commonwealth countries.
Arvind Dewan, Berlin

It seems obvious that the only possible solution is a multi-speed Europe. There are countries that want to pursue full social, political and economic integration and if that's what they want, the countries that want to be part of this should be free to realise their ambitions for Europe. There are other countries (e.g. Britain, Poland, Estonia etc.) which want the benefits of a free trade Europe but do not want to yield social and political power. There is simply no point in trying to impose unpopular policies on these countries as the electorate will just bring into power an anti-European political party who will remove the country from Europe, either in part or in its entirety. Put simply, each country should be free to decide its own destiny in Europe. I do think it is important that the views of the electorate of the countries which have not yet ratified the constitution are sought. I realise that the constitution is dead in the water, but I think it is wrong to say that the people of Britain (or any other country) cannot have a say on this matter, purely because the people of France and Holland have rejected it and for no other reason that they held their referendum chronologically before ours. I'm not saying there should be a referendum on the constitution itself, but the government should hold some sort of referendum on exactly what we do want from Europe.
Ian Gray, Aldershot

Let all EU countries govern themselves in the normal way but have free trade between all members.
Anthony Alford, Maidenhead

Each member country should attempt to discover a "National Mayor". This person would be a-political, of highest integrity, and unpaid. The 25 NMs would combine to discover what is possible and how best to proceed. Their PRIME IMPERATIVE would be to maximise benefit to the "EU" as a group. Any NM considered to be working for national advantage, would be expelled and another chosen. The NM group would be at pains to expose their workings, expenses etc. to public gaze through modern means. In the unlikely event that these 25 can achieve a consensus on their own workings, they would then try to formulate a structure for workable government in the "EU".
Barrie Singleton, Newbury

The immediate move should be to campaign for the promised UK referendum. That will be a resounding "NO" and perhaps the technocrats in Brussels will begin to get the message and start reshaping, instead of looking for further ways to put the egg back together.
Ian Howell, Hessle, E Yorkshire

I urge all of those who demand a "simple" common market to take a few courses in economics. You cannot have a common market without the legal structures and governance of it that the EU provides. The Common Market works for people at all levels. A free-trade area (like NAFTA) only benefits large corporations and cares nothing for the workers in the system.
Sean Schneider, Edinburgh, UK

Let Jeremy Paxman take over.
Simon Drought, Hanoi, Vietnam

Make it the 51st state. Then they can get Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, etc. Our illustrious leaders LOVE to give money away...

Any European Constitution should use democracy and what Europeans have in common as its framework. Basing a constitution on economic structures that require centralised laws to make them work cannot possibly appeal to G K Chesterton's "man in the street". It may well all be intended for that notional citizen's ultimate benefit (good intentions not holding great currency with economists) but it doesn't actually give the impression of changing lives for the better. In fact it smacks of big business, the Bundesbank and innumerable fat-cats having THEIR lots improved. We share huge cultural diversity that is historically interwoven exactly BECAUSE we are neighbours. Culture and quality of life need to be the watchwords, not the divergent economies of the member states. Europe isn't a quango. Sling out the Commissioners and have a democratically elected senate - even a President. Allowing Giscard D'Estaing to draft the constitution and then being surprised when the French rejected it is a perfect example of The Commission's myopia and perceived nepotism. If there is going to be public money put into any referendum then make sure that it's run simultaneously throughout Europe. Democracy and a feeling that everyone's vote counts can't do any harm. It might stop people focusing on the wasteful, stupid way the referenda have been managed (like a formality - as if everyone would say "yes", so why bother with a vote?)
Steve Whitaker, Bedford

Alternative Article I-8: The Symbols of the Union. The flag of the Union shall be a circle of 12 golden stars on a blue background in the top left corner surrounded by 13 red and white stripes. The anthem of the Union shall be based on "Ride of the Valkyries" by Richard Wagner. The motto of the Union shall be: "United as states". The currency of the Union shall be the European dollar. Europe day shall be celebrated on 1 April throughout the Union.
Will, Amersham

My preference is for a European Commonwealth founded on the twin principles of Solidarity and Subsidiarity. Without cohesion there will be disintegration, so the pressing need is for a document setting out a Shared Vision based on our common and historic heritage. Only when this is accepted by all the people of Europe will it be possible to formulate a Common Agenda aimed at achieving the Vision. The present system is not democratic and the European Parliament is not a legislature. In the future Europe must be people-lead.
Paul Kennedy, Sheffield

The most obvious thing is that Europe needs a goal. If we're headed for a federal state, then let's start writing up a federal constitution - Germany has a good one if you need a template. If in fact the end goal is a common market, we already are one, so let's scrap any further integration. The entire structure then needs more accountability and less corruption. I think you could do a lot for the EU simply by hauling an (ex-)MEP or (ex-)commissioner or two before a judge and jury. You might get the accounts signed off as well...
Pete, York

The original idea for the European countries under the Treaty of Rome was for it to be a European Economic Community. No bad thing. Strength in numbers, etc. But most of the peoples of those countries want to maintain the sovereignty of their own Democratic Institutions, which is something that the politicians and Eurocrats don't understand or even wish to understand. They have created a monster that is already out of control, and do not seem to realise that they have for years now been seeking a form of political unity which is currently impossible. It is impossible because if two founder members have already voted no in Referenda, what chance of being able to mould the thoughts and aspirations of the new members of the EEC, some of whom have had no time at all to rationalise their positions?
Peter Gregory, Northwood

Clearly the electorate should never have been consulted about the European Constitution. The President of the Commission has called for a period of reflection to see how the Constitution can be implemented regardless. I think the only way forward is for ratification by penalty shoot-out just like in the world cup. That way the Germans will win and we can all get back to EU business as usual.
Marc, Isle of Wight

Is it me or have we all been locked in a Monty Python sketch this week? ...

Dutch Voter: Hello, I wish to complain about this treaty what I voted for not half an hour ago.
Eurocrat: Oh yes, the EU Constitution. What, uh... what's wrong with it?
DV: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. Its dead, that's what's wrong with it!
E: No, no, uh... what we need now is a period of reflection.
DV: Look matey, I know a dead treaty when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
E: No, no it's not dead, it's being ratified. Remarkable treaty, the EU Constitution, innit, eh? 300 pages!
DV: The verbosity don't enter into it, my lad. It's stone dead. It's passed on! This treaty is no more! It has ceased to be! It's expired and gone to meet its maker! It's a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If the senior politicians hadn't been ramming it down our throats, it'd be pushing up daisies! It's off the table. It's kicked the waste paper basket. It's in the shredder. It's shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible! THIS IS AN EX-TREATY!
E: Well, I'd better replace it then. [takes a quick peek around Brussels]
E: Sorry squire, I've had a look around Brussels, and uh, we're right out of treaties.
DV: I see. I see, I get the picture.
E: I've got a Charter of Fundamental Rights.
DV: Pray, does it lead us to an increasingly united federation of nation states?
E: Not really.

Jonathan Rowles, Fleet

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