The EU Maastricht Treaty was 25 this week. Since it was signed in the Dutch town in 1992, there has been a new EU Treaty every 6 years, Amsterdam 1997, Nice 2001 until the Lisbon Treaty in 2007.
writes Jane Morrice, EESC member and New Europeans Ireland
That’s 4 new EU Treaties in 16 years and no new Treaty in the 11 years since. Brexit and EU instability aside, the fact is the EU needs another new Treaty simply to keep up with the times.
Great change will take place in the EU in 2018 with the renewal of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the EC President and other EU Institutions. There can be no better time to start deliberations on a new EU Treaty than next year and no more opportune moment for the UK to be among those driving the EU through Treaty change for the better of all.
There has also been great change in Europe and the world since the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007.
The financial crisis, the migrant and refugee surge, the rise of populism and Brexit have shaken the structures of the EU to the core. None of these challenges can be managed in the hap-hazard, crisis management style that has become the norm in EU policy-making over the last decade. Only a new Treaty can put the power to deal with these challenges into place and into play.
The digital revolution is another change marking a new beginning in EU relations with its citizens.
Social media overrides conventional media allowing us to see and hear more about what is going on in the corridors of power and fuelling the desire for more control, more democracy, more scrutiny, and more accountability. The lack of constructive engagement between EU Institutions and European civil society is clearly the root of much of the Euro scepticism which is stampeding through the streets of cities, towns and villages throughout the EU.
A new Treaty could give the power back to the people to decide by referendum if whatever is new is right for them.
The continuing enlargement of the EU poses yet another challenge. This could be addressed in a new Treaty allowing for a two, even three-speed Europe making provision for more wide-ranging transition arrangements for newcomers alongside arrangements for those countries, old and new, which prefer less rather than more Europe. An EU of 28, 30 or more Member States cannot and should not demand absolute alignment from nations whose people are unprepared for what that entails. This system operates well for non-Schengen and non-Euro Member States so why not allow divergence for other rights and greater support for those countries which cannot afford to lose skilled workers to migration and for those accepting more migrant workers.
The lessons learned from Brexit could place the UK in the driving seat for EU Treaty reform. The people of the UK have spoken and their voices should be heard alongside those who have voiced a new support for the European Union in numbers and strength never before seen in the UK or elsewhere in Europe.
That support should be galvanised, but the real concerns of those who feel dejected and rejected by the European ‘elite’ must also be addressed. They see the EU as foreign, faceless and too far away. The Europe of tomorrow must be seen as a friendly, familiar face on their doorstop which meets their needs and cares for their future.
The solution is not rocket science. It is one which not only puts EU citizens first but actively engages and is seen to do so. This is where Government policy, EU information policy and public service broadcasters come into play.
The EU can no longer be used as a scapegoat by blaming ‘Brussels’ for all that is wrong and claiming national success for all that is right.
Shared responsibility, solidarity, integrity and trust must be the cornerstone of any new Treaty and Information, Communication and Education must be part and parcel of every policy development.
The UK doesn’t need a deal, the EU needs a new Treaty. The irony of Brexit is that it teaches the EU a lesson it ignores to its peril. Recognising the need to put their own house in order and the vital role of the UK based on its Brexit experience, the EU 27 should offer the UK the option of putting Article 50 on ice in return for a place at the top table of EU-wide negotiations on a new EU Treaty.
In recognition of the UK experience and in a spirit of solidarity, the resulting deal, once signed, sealed and accepted by the people could be named the EU Treaty of London.