i [Source : Bruges Group
Dear Bruges Group friends.
It is a great pleasure to find ourselves here, in King’s College London, amongst fellow ’Europeans from nation states’, defenders of sovereignty and by extension resolute opponents of the European Constitutional Treaty project.
For the French we are – MEP Patrick Louis (who spoke this morning) and I- defenders of national sovereignty, it’s an honour to speak in this prestigious place and in your splendid capital.
Indeed, for several centuries, England offers to the world a parliamentary model, a wonderful expression of the British people’s sovereignty.
And again, it’s from London that we can still hear the echo of General de Gaulle’s call for the peoples to resist.
So, not surprisingly, it is –again- from the United Kingdom along with Poland that came one of the best news for defenders of nations, at the last European election of last 13th of June…!
In France, in a few months, the parliament will meet to modify our constitution before the referendum announced by President Chirac.
Gaullists and Sovereignists leaders, be they left-wing or right-wing, have asked for it often enough!
It was even the raison d’être (if you’ll excuse the expression) for a coordinated European campaign for such a referendum. “SOS Democracy” – its very name echoed like a clarion call – was set up in the European Parliament by its chairman, Jens-Peter Bonde.
We were demanding a referendum because we couldn’t comprehend how such a page of the history of our nations could be turned, yet again, under the noses of the people of Europe.
Except that, already no longer being sovereign on this continent, it’s no longer up to them to write the last chapter.
However, when you think for a moment about the question that is going to be asked, it is quite scary how much the stakes seem to pass the citizen himself by.
Who has the legitimate authority to take sovereignty away from Europe’s peoples?
Does a majority of electors in a given country, at a given moment in time, have the legal authority on some fine Spring summer’s day, to ditch the right of a people and future generations this fundamental freedom – the freedom to govern themselves?
National and popular sovereignty is not Parliament’s possession.
Nor is it the property of a body of the electorate expressing itself in a referendum.
Such are no more than the privileged guardians and watchkeepers of a treasure that was conquered in a great struggle by our ancestors; something we, young generations, won’t accept to give up, and that we must pass on, intact, to our descendents.
If we are delighted at being able to tackle this referendum campaign, and if we are impatient to fight the Constitutional Treaty, it’s with the conviction that basically, no one has the legitimate right to answer the question that will be put, not even the people.
So for us, this referendum can not be lost. A ‘No’ to any European constitution is more than a necessity: it’s a duty we owe History.
In France, many political figures, sometimes for different reasons, have joined the No to a Federal Europe camp.
Indeed, in a few days time if I succeed, a Joint Campaign for a European Confederation is due to be set up, reuniting several personalities with their roots in ‘historical Gaullism’, MPs from the UMP, from the Centre Right and I hope, MEPs from the party of Philippe de Villiers.
It is a key event in the campaign: these are very different people who have decided to bring together their skills and forces, to block the madness of supranationalism, this dangerous ideology of old empires, this utopia born during the cold war.
In the age of atom, micro-ship technology, internet, the relationship between weight and power is no longer what it used to be.
We don’t need a new Soviet Union in Europe.
We need a flexible Europe.
That is why:
We refuse to allow a higher law to override a national law, including constitutional law
We refuse to allow the limitless extension of Qualified Majority Vote without any right of appeal or of opposition from any people
We refuse to allow the Union to become a superstate, equipped with legal personality, the ability to sign international agreements, raise taxes, and sit down at the nation’s place in U.N.O. We refuse to give up our British and French veto in U.N.O to an invisible power.
And then, we refuse to have a ‘Charter of Fundamental Rights’ incorporated into the constitutional project, that overturns the definition of our laws and freedoms, such as they have been built up over the centuries by our parliaments and by our national courts of law.
The Europe which we want is not based on ideology, the logic of an idea.
Our Europe is pragmatic – the logic of reality.
Well, the reality is that Europe is made up of nations, and that it’s from these nations that we have to organise a Europe to confront hegemonies from wherever they may come.
Against the Europe of ‘shared sovereignty’ (as if indeed sovereignty could ever be shared!) – against a Europe then without sovereignty – we support a Europe of ‘partners in sovereignty’.
It is what it was all about back in the foundations and starting points, back in the Treaty of Rome. It’s the Europe that lasted for a quarter of a century that we should pursue the building.
It’s the Europe that peace allowed to be born. Contrary to received wisdom, it’s not Europe that has brought peace, it’s because of peace that Europe was made.
Well, since the 1980’s and especially since the Treaty of Maastricht, Europe has stopped being the daughter of Europe’s nations.
It has become their enemy.
We will say in this campaign that we have to go back to the foundations.
We will fight for a refounding treaty for Europe, for a confederation, in other words an association of states that remain sovereign and that delegate the running of certain powers to a common body.
If, as we believe, in the UK, in France, the ‘No’ wins, we will have scored a decisive goal against the powerful federalist camp, but the match won’t be over …
A win over the ‘Giscard Constitution’ will not bring home the wide rafts of competences already lost to the civil servants, judges and bankers of Brussels, Luxembourg and Francfort.
It will not prevent subsequent federal law from overriding national, even constitutional, law, because the courts are already leaning that way.
In France, following the Supreme Court and the Council of State, the Constitutional Council itself, three days before the 13 June MEP elections and in the greatest secrecy, gave supremacy to a directive over the French Constitution. (It only publicised this decision the day after the election stating that it wanted to avoid giving arguments to the opponents of the federalism…!)
That’s why if, after having run a campaign side by side across the whole of Europe, we win at least one of the referendums, and make the project fail, we must be ready to transform the exercise.
We must immediately appear as those who have saved Europe from federalism, and as the pioneers for a vibrant enlarged Europe.
In our ‘No’ campaign, we should be capable of offering a credible alternative, a new European project.
We could propose a fundamental treaty which would be a ‘Charter of the Rights of Nations’ built up around certain simple principles:
the superiority of national constitutions
reinforcing the direct role of national parliaments in the processes of European decision-making
recognition of a right of veto for states protecting their vital interests
rehabilitating the principle of Community preference
In the coming months, why not work and reflect together, on our alternative projects, within a sort of “counter-Convention” or “shadow Convention” for the refounding of Europe, which would give our movement all the depth that it deserves?
We are not a flotsam of opponents in the wake of European federalism.
We are those people who, in Europe, oppose the dilution of political willpower, that is handing us over to world forces and breaking, one by one, our vital links.
We are those people who, in Europe, are defending the sovereignty of their nation and of their people, without which democracy has never and can never be.
We are those people who want to put nations back at Europe’s tiller, because we refuse to see our country become, no more than a simple expression of geography, but on the contrary, that it should remain a player in history.
Christophe Beaudouin practises as a Barrister at the Court of Appeal in Paris. He was President of the Movement Young Gaullists (UJP) and a candidate in the European Parliament elections. Christophe is also a city council member.