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Last Updated: Monday, 6 June, 2005, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
The treaty is dead, long live the treaty
By Paul Reynolds
World Affairs correspondent, BBC News website

The EU constitutional treaty, as things stand, cannot be put into effect.

British flags at anti constitution protest in London
Anti constitution demonstration in London

The issue now is how to give it a decent burial.

But already there is talk of resurrecting the treaty in another form.

Experts have been examining which bits might be implemented even without a new treaty.

And others talk of a second, if different, constitutional agreement.

It is a case for them of: "The treaty is dead, long live the treaty!"

John Palmer, Political Director of the European Policy Centre in Brussels, said: "There will have to be another treaty. This will be needed in two or three years. The present voting arrangements agreed in the Treaty of Nice will not be able to bear the weight of further enlargement."

Of course, such a course would be fiercely resisted by those who see the French and Dutch votes as a decisive moment in European history when citizens turned against the concept of a closely integrated continent.

The British Conservative Party's Dr Liam Fox said that the French and Dutch voters had "liberated" Europe. They had delivered "not a crisis but an opportunity".

All states need to ratify

The present treaty cannot be implemented for the simple reason that it requires all 25 member states to ratify it and two states, France and The Netherlands, are not going to do so (unless voters there change their minds).

Voters in others, especially the UK, might well reject it if asked. And that assumes there will be a British referendum which seems highly unlikely given the Foreign Secretary's announcement to parliament that it is being shelved.

Public opinion polls in Denmark, which is due to hold a referendum on 27 September, have also swung against the treaty since the French and Dutch votes.

There will have to be another treaty. This will be needed in two or three years
John Palmer, European Policy Centre

Those wanting to pull the plug now are led by Britain, but even London has to be careful. The British decision not to ask parliament to authorise a referendum is widely seen as a diplomatic way of acknowledging the demise of the treaty without wishing to go out on a limb.

It is also seen as an acknowledgment that it would not win such a referendum. The situation might be very different if public opinion in the UK was different.

EU summit

Ideally, Britain wants all member states to agree at their summit on 16-17 June that this treaty is dead and there is no point in carrying on with it.

The French and Germans, along with the Commission and the European Parliament, want everyone to vote, so that the final tally of opinion is known.

A consensus on ratification will probably not emerge at the summit - indeed, as one European official put it, this might be an "ugly little meeting" - so there will be a further period of uncertainty while it becomes clearer who is going to vote and who is not.

But beyond that, the EU professionals are turning their minds to the next stage, and are preparing to do battle with those who conclude that the EU must now call a halt to all further integration, and even start loosening the ties that bind it.

Two options are being considered.

The first would be to pick bits out of the treaty and implement them by intergovernmental agreement.

Start again?

For example, meetings of the Council of Ministers, which passes EU laws, could be partly televised, as proposed in the treaty.

The Commission could volunteer to send proposed legislation to national governments and if three object, then it would review the proposals. This is also in the treaty text.

Mr Straw indicated that he might agree to this proposal.

The European Defence Agency, designed to coordinate research, could be set up independently of the treaty.

The new EU diplomatic service, work on which has already begun, could also develop.

The other option is to wait, watch and then start all over again with a view to having a new treaty.

"It is important to hear all voices, not just some voices, so all member states should make their decisions on this treaty" said John Palmer of the European Policy Centre. "What has happened underlines the need for the Union not to develop farther than its democratic polity. It must give ownership back to the people. But we will need another treaty."

"However," he went on, "the next one will have to be built upwards and not delivered downwards. For example, another constitutional convention should be directly elected."

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