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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Is a new EU constitution good for Europe?
President of the European Convention Valery Giscard dEstaing, right, shakes hands with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis after handing over a copy of the EU draft constitution

European leaders at a Greek summit have accepted key proposals for an EU constitution including a new full-time president and foreign minister for the EU.

However, tensions emerged between larger and smaller countries, as well as between those who want more power in Brussels and those who want national governments to hold the reins of power.

And a British plan to establish camps for asylum seekers outside the club's border to curb the flow of immigrants was dropped after other countries raised objections.

Will the new constitution make a positive change to Europe? Is there enough public interest to call a referendum on it?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinions we have received:

Together in union we can be strong and a force for good
Stuart Mason, England
Although I think that Europe is a hotbed for over-bureaucratic corrupt politicians, I believe that with some work and injecting more democratic reforms the whole idea can only benefit us all. After all, on our own we cannot expect our voice to be heard against bigger and more powerful nations, but together in union we can be strong and a force for good. I would also like to point out to Mark, USA that America is not the oldest surviving Democracy, as the British Parliament has been around for several hundred years before America was even its own state!
Stuart Mason, England

A unified Europe would need a bunch of similar thinking people with similar culture and good healthy democracy and CAPITALISM.....Europe has none of that. (except maybe Britain)
Josh House, US of A

Each EU citizen must ask themselves: Are they European, exactly who is in-charge (voters or the Governors) and, lastly, the EU must decide if the motivating factor for Union is just only a "long shot" counter-weight to the USA or something of a noble calling that compels the imagination! We in the US feel that we are "Americans." But take head this is was not always that way, and fought a bloody civil war less then 70 years after our founding that left 1,000,000 dead to ensure the federal government remains intact and stronger than any one member state.
Jeff, USA

It's good to keep the USA in check. You can't have one world power; you need two to keep each other in line with the world opinion.
Jason d'Eon, Montreal, Canada

All those in the UK wishing to leave the EU could have voted for the UK Independence Party at the last Election. If I remember right they got No MP's elected. The General Election is the Referendum and they come round every 5 years. So there is democracy!
S Harrison, England, European Union

I fear the old guard of each country will be unwilling to let go of their old ways
Jeremiah Coleman, USA
I just would like to wish the EU good luck. I truly hope this works out so there might one day be another superpower to help carry the load of taking care of earth. I fear it will not work out for the exact opposite reason the USA worked out. I fear the old guard of each country will be unwilling to let go of their old ways. The USA was made new, not an old dog taught new tricks.
Jeremiah Coleman, USA

The Government are elected to make these decisions. I don't think that there should be a referendum on the EU constitution.
Irene Threlkeld, England

Let's hope that the Europeans will get a lot of good from Brussels no matter how small the country might be. With so many joining EU, we can be a super power in the near future. All those that are going to join later should get the same vote as the rest.
Carmel, Malta

European super state is a danger to every small country of EU today.
Vijay, India

The idealist notion of a united European superpower will quickly give way to the reality of human nature. Trying to create a superpower out of a group of independent nations with their own languages and cultures will never work. Britain, France, and Germany will try to dominate the EU government and many nations will resign. The end result will be a much more divided Europe.
Ian, San Francisco, USA

Euro is one of the processes to be united European countries to face lots and lots of problems united. If they can be united they will have chance to lead the world. So Britain should join the Euro otherwise in future it will be isolated.
Abdur Rahman Bikrom, Bangladesh

I have no financial stake in this debate but I fell in love with British pound notes when I saw that they feature writers; not politicians. Why would you want to give that up?
Inna Tysoe, USA

I love many of the benefits of EU membership, like ease of travel and many of the employment laws in common, however I despair at the level of corruption within the EU bureaucracy, the lack of democracy (most of the well paid and powerful decision making posts go to failed politicians as a pay off) lack of accountability and general mismanagement. Europe will never be like the US. What makes the US possible is the common language (English) and a common culture: American. Europe is not a bunch of immigrants looking for a new identity. I thought the original idea was a European Economic Community, when was the 'federal' bit slipped in?
AO, England

The go slow approach, although inefficient, is prudent
Vassilis, Greece
The proposed constitution is a small step in the right direction, it is not perfect or ultimate - it may last 10 years. Europe can not emulate the US and should not. The melting pot is not going to work in Europe, therefore the dual citizenship (national and European) is the right balance. The go slow approach, although inefficient, is prudent. Let the next generation rewrite the constitution. The UK has to make its mind up and help to shape EU, or remain outside with Switzerland and Norway. The EU is a voluntary union unlike the Roman and British Empires.
Vassilis, Greece

We should have an opportunity to vote on the so-called constitution for Europe as soon as possible. What validity will it have if we don't want it? I believe in a Common Market - but a united currency and legal system is insane. The chance to vote could be a significant opportunity in throwing out this process, which has gone far, far too far.
Alex Deane, UK

Does anyone really believe that a constitution of more than two hundred pages can serve anyone's interests except the politicians, lawyers and bureaucrats? The United Kingdom doesn't need a written constitution, because all political power is derived from parliament, which is in itself derived from the citizens. There is none of this American nonsense of "checks and balances". Only when the parliament has limited or no power, is there a need for a constitution that prevents the executive and the judiciary from going against the will of the people. And with a constitution so complex that few citizens will either understand or be able to change (via the votes of their MEP), there is a significant opportunity for the executive and the judiciary to abuse their position. People should understand that a constitution does not always mean protecting the rights of the citizens. It can equally mean protecting the privilege of the political establishment.
Vig, UK

In just a handful of pages written in clear plain language, some of the greatest minds ever to put their collective wisdom together to decide how people could govern themselves in relative harmony, created a living document that with little modification, has been the plan for the worlds oldest and longest surviving existing democracy. By contrast, the EU has produced a 300 page tome that few will ever bother to read and even fewer will understand. Which document will prove the more successful for the self governing of people?
Mark, USA

Well at least the new constitution definitely says that a country can choose to leave the EU (granted with 2 year's warning).
Alastair Somerville, UK

I feel we are being railroaded into a deal that we haven't signed up for
TB, UK
I am old enough to remember a much missed "E". The "E" that took pride of place within the EEC. For those of you who are not as old as I, it was the second "E". It stood for economic. This EEC was what Britain bought into when the referendum was held in the seventies. We were to be part of a Economic community. Now it seems we are to have a constitution. What happened to this idea of an economic alliance? I feel we are being railroaded into a deal that we haven't signed up for.
TB, UK

The EU is about co-operation between nations, not complete merging of countries - no individual national cultures will be lost. And such an organisation needs the structure provided by a clear constitution. It is NOT comparable to the spread of Nazi Germany as some people on this forum suggest!
Tim, UK

Has anyone disagreeing with this new EU constitution actually read it? Personally all I see is a more structured way of writing what is currently in place anyway. Of course there are s few minor new clauses but nothing to require a referendum in the UK. The only reason the countries having a referendum are having one is that it is written down in their constitution to have one. With the number of people voting in the UK these days would you get a really true picture of what is wanted anyway? Most people don't care one way or the other. Personally I think being more proactive in Europe and building closer ties with out EU neighbours can only be good for the standard of living and for business in the UK. Bring on this new constitution, welcome the new states and roll on the day I can spend Euros in Wales and Sweden!!!
Jules, Sweden (Welsh ex-pat)

If you want to build a European identity for the British you cannot do it through political tricks
Martin, UK
Holding a referendum in the UK would give the EU more legitimacy. If you want to build a European identity for the British you cannot do it through political tricks. But neither John Major over Maastricht or Blair with the Constitution can risk a referendum. So we (slowly) move to our European destiny with the majority of us feeling as un-European as we always have!
Martin, UK

My question is: "Where is the Bill or Rights?" Governments can argue all they like, but if we the people do not get any benefits concerning our liberty, then it doesn't really matter who rules over us. Constitution or not, who cares?
Geoff ma, UK

I voted to go into the EEC some 30 years ago. I haven't had the chance to offer an opinion since. As a lot of the people who would have voted at the time are now dead, and the youngsters of today (who's future we're talking about) haven't had a chance to. I think there should be a referendum.
Richard Philips, UK

A referendum, in my opinion, is positive provided the questions are correctly asked, and they should be the same in all EU countries. Languages are a minor handicap which is easily overcome. We must not forget that all human beings react similarly.
Jose, Spain

Whilst the UK is having its referendum perhaps we should also be asking our lords and masters why the UK has never had a constitution. Heaven forbid that the people of this country could have rights enshrined in law that cannot be overturned on a political whim.
Gerry, Scotland

An EU constitution is a good idea; I hope EU citizenship will come next
Peter, Belgium
As a citizen of a founding member of the EU, I am proud of what we have achieved. An EU constitution is a good idea; I hope EU citizenship will come next. It is only a pity that we let in a nation whose only interest seems to be slowing the progress of the EU.
Peter, Belgium

Not only should the UK have a referendum on this issue, but all the other EU states should be made to do the same. For too long our political masters have been pushing us all in one direction, and have never asked us if that's what we want. I think a full, country by country, EU referendum on these 200 pages of bilge would prove very educational...for our leaders.
John Smith, UK

I am glad to hear that Europe continues on its path to Unity. As an American who lives in a nation of 50 individual states, united as one. I can attest that in Unity comes strength. If there ever was a secret to success, this is it. Especially when your opponents are divided. My advice to my European cousins, take a note from history. Become united, become Strong, become undefeatable in your resolve for Unity.
Brian, USA

How can anybody object to a referendum on this, the most important issue of our times? If the federalists are so sure of their case they should be happy to put it to the people and let the doubters do the same. My own view is that the EU is a corrupt and unaccountable disgrace. If the public do not get a referendum the subsequent civil disorder will rest on the heads of this government.
Malcolm, England

In Albania, the country where I was born, everybody wants to join the EU but almost nobody understands what that entails. From the conversations that I've had with western Europeans, it seems to me that they themselves don't understand what the EU is all about - they simplistically see it as a sort of balance to US. An EU constitution should instil some common sense in the complicated arrangement that is the current EU.
Albi, US and Albania

Has a prosperous, powerful nation ever before voluntarily terminated its sovereign existence?
Hal, USA
During WWII Britain lost hundreds of thousands of its best and brightest to prevent being swallowed up by a European empire. It now goes to its national death willingly. Has a prosperous, powerful nation ever before voluntarily terminated its sovereign existence? One thousand years of history thrown down the toilet as part of an idiotic socialist pipe dream. Heartbreaking.
Hal, USA

Open markets, yes. But a strong European Union, as outlined in the new constitution? No. It's a flawed concept that overlooks the obvious - people like their own nationalities. They like having laws that reflect norms and morals of their specific cultures. Foreign policy by 25 separate countries under one umbrella - good luck. And having monetary policy across such a vast array of economies is a recipe for hardship.
Sam, USA

It seems that this is the perfect opportunity to really get to the vision of Europe many people have. All member states of the EU should be required to hold a referendum and if the people accept, the commitment is made and hopefully the banal pointless arguments in UK will stop. My proviso is that only those who have read and understood the draft should vote and only if they are under 45 years.
MIKE, UK

Time is changing; Europe like the rest of the world needs rebirth of reconstruction. The role of nation state in world politics is decreased. Therefore to be an affective player you have to play in a time guided with rules otherwise you are just playing alone.
Bahoz Aras, Belgium

However you look at it, the EU constitution proposes a major political change for Britain. For this reason, the British people - and not just politicians - must be allowed to make the decision. This is *our* country and its future direction must be ours to decide.
James Farley, UK

Those predicting the doom of Europe should try to get better information about how the EU works
Lionel, France
The greatest danger Europe is facing is disinformation. Those predicting the doom of Europe or seeing Europe as a kind of illegal and un-democratic power should try to get better information about how the EU works and what it does everyday for EU citizens. For the constitution, I suggest that people read the 230 pages draft constitution before starting to voice their misinformed opinion. There is no better way to make your mind. If you don't trust politicians, why would you trust tabloids? I know that my country is for a referendum on this subject; and there will be one here.
Lionel, France

In 50 years, EU will be world's strongest superpower. It will surpass USA in terms of economy, military power and level of democracy. USA will remain a strong country, but won't be number one any more (too much fast food, insufficient access to good education for the average person, international isolation, racial tensions and guns everywhere - can't run the world like that). This is the bottom line.
Nicholas, Slovenia

A key principle of organisation in European constitutional law is the Principle of Subsidiary. This states that decisions made and actions taken must always be at the most local level possible, with decisions made and actions taken at the next more centralised level, only as necessary. The application of that principle in any negotiations will ensure that democracy reigns. It is essential that referenda be held in all countries affected.
David J. Weston, Scotland

The problem with the European politics is that the elites feel that only they know what is best for the populace and they will not allow the common man to question them. In the US, we feel the people give the government permission to govern us, and we can withdraw that permission. That is why we hate the idea of an unaccountable International Criminal Court. If someone tried to impose a constitution on us like they are doing in Europe, we would fight them.
Brice, USA

Those of us who love Europe in all its variety, fear the federalist project
Paul Giles, Belgium
Everything that takes power further from the people must be a bad thing. Those of us who love Europe in all its variety, hate and fear the federalist project.
Paul Giles, Work: Netherlands, live: Belgium, vote: UK

More highly paid "jobs" for the Eurocrat commissars' cronies and other national political rejects. Exactly what is in this for the people of the UK?
Phil, UK

It amazes me how many voices from the UK and the US outright object to the EU and predict nothing but doom. Now why is that? Could those from the UK still mourn their bygone empire and might those from the US signify uneasiness about an EU superpower potentially putting them in their place?
LB, UK

I really hope Europe can pull this off, but it is going to be extremely hard work. Europe will have to conquer cultural, political, and even language differences. But what I see as the largest obstacle, France and Germany's hegemony over the EU. Chirac has already berated new member states over Iraq. I pray we are not sowing the seeds of the next major European conflict.
Steve, USA

An excellent idea to promote unity on such a diverse continent
Jon, UK
I think a written constitution for the EU is an excellent idea to promote unity on such a diverse continent. It is wrong to say that the EU will fail because its constituent parts are so varied in terms of language and culture. Nation-states do not have to have homogeneous populations to be successful - look to Australia and the UK for proof.
Jon, UK

The constitution is a positive step, but can't we do better? Switzerland is as close to a direct democracy a nation has ever been. Europeans are well-educated and well-connected, why not try to establish a true direct democracy? Let's leap, not stumble!
Jakob, Switzerland

The draft constitution expands the powers of the European parliament - the only directly elected part of the EU, and gives the EU a president and foreign minister, a step towards a unified foreign policy. All of this is cause for celebration! Next step: Common defence force and a directly elected EU president!
Agnes Clarke, Netherlands

The new constitution can only hasten the day when Europe splits up like any synthesised boy band
Dave Mate, UK
Sometimes you look at a new couple and you just know this isn't going to last. Europe is one of these arranged marriages. Rather than celebrating the diversity of these individual amazing places, some egotistical politicians, jealous of the US, have decided that Europe MUST work. The new constitution can only hasten the day when Europe splits up like any synthesised boy band. The truly amazing fact is that the British people aren't being offered to vote on the constitution. Getting out later will be messier and I hope, not fraught with armed conflict.
Dave Mate, UK

The new constitution seems to lack anything really "new". This is the 21st Century and the richest nations in the world have a chance to truly achieve something that has never been achieved before. This constitution seems more about efficiency than vision and that is why nobody is that excited about it. Europe needs the young generation, which is truly European, to take the helm.
Ingemar, Sweden

While negotiating the conditions for her accession, Poland was granted 27 votes in the European parliament. Now, less then a fortnight after we said yes in our final referendum, we hear about a new European constitution that will marginalise Poland and strengthen Germany. Where I come from this is called deceit.
Leszek Luchowski, Poland

What started out as a trading bloc to facilitate the movement of goods and people between countries without the hassles of endless paperwork and delay has become an effort to create a superstate from such diverse economies, cultures, and people as to be unworkable. Even were it not for the nightmare bureaucracy they've created which seems invisible, unaccountable and increasingly omnipotent in the running of the affairs of all of the lives of the citizens in the participant countries, the diversity and disparity of needs, points of view, ways of doing things would make this a bad idea.
Mark, USA

Since the fall of the Soviet Union there has been a power vacuum and a strong EU could fill it. This isn't only good for Europe, it's good for the United States as well. The US needs another superpower to keep it in check.
Christopher Wick, Omaha NE, USA

Europe needs to come together
Dom, UK
As a first step to a federal European State I applaud it. As the US amply shows the days of the small nation state able to operate in any meaningful way are fast going. Europe needs to come together, united we stand divided we fall - it is that clear.
Dom, UK

Whilst I personally have reservations about moving towards a European superstate, it is for the people to decide following a full, proper and reasoned debate.
Colin Shaw, UK

There certainly should be a referendum on this. It is not sufficient to know where our political leaders stand, we need to know the feelings of all EU citizens. The issue is far too serious and the consequences too far reaching to be discussed over dinner at some Greek resort.
Graham Rodhouse, UK and the Netherlands

A written constitution would at least clarify what is going on and the intentions of everyone involved. Then at least we can have an informed debate instead of the preposterous and embarrassing 'debate' by tabloid that's going on at the moment.
Katherine, UK

We have to have a referendum
John Adlington, UK
This constitution is absolutely essential to get the fledgling European superstate off the ground. Trouble is if what you want is the continued existence of the UK as a sovereign nation then it should be rejected. The choice is that clear and the consequences so profound we have to have a referendum.
John Adlington, UK

Constitutions are the backbone of society. They have to be approved by the people though. In this case by over 200m people of varying cultures!!
Steve H, UK

Forget Europe, I want a written constitution for the UK!
Paul Weaver, UK

How long can a nation with a dozen or so languages stay a nation? Not that long. All a federal constitution will do is make the break up more bloody when the EU collapses on its face.
Andrew, USA

It will be a disaster, based as it is on naive idealism and socialist principles. In its present form it will strangle enterprise, damage individual countries and cause unrest and resentment. The best thing Britain could do is to refuse to ratify it and withdraw from the EU. That would mean the 43m we hand over to the EU every day could be spent on hospitals, schools and prisons for OUR country, instead of giving it away to the 'begging bowl' countries clamouring to join.
Andy H, England

So - they're meeting at the secluded Greek resort of Porto Carras, are they? What's wrong with meeting at Hull, Ghent, or Hamburg - or is it just another lame excuse for a luxurious jolly, ultimately at the hapless taxpayers' expense? As for the answers to your questions - negative on both counts!
C. Hunter, UK




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