The ink is barely dry on lisbon and already the french and Germans are contamplating a revision to suit their needs.
New York Times.
BRUSSELS â€” The European Unionâ€™s last effort to enact a new treaty took eight years, prompted referendum no votes in three nations and has so far failed to deliver convincing results.
So could the Union really be about to risk the same thing all over again?
Less than a year after the Lisbon Treaty, the blocâ€™s rule book, came into force, an effort to alter it became likely this week when France supported German calls for fresh changes â€” this time to shore up the rules governing the euro.
Policy makers in Berlin hope that the modifications will not require reopening the Lisbon Treaty, but can instead be tacked on to an uncontroversial treaty that the Union must agree to when it admits Croatia as a member.
But in the European Union, things rarely end up that simply. Already analysts warn that any new negotiation could open a Pandoraâ€™s box â€” and might trigger referendums within the bloc.
Any revision needs approval by all 27 governments. Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, said that if there was a treaty change â€œthere is a danger that other countries will jump on the bandwagon and introduce their pet likes and dislikes.â€
Earlier this week, ÃÃ±igo MÃ©ndez de Vigo, a senior figure in the European Parliamentâ€™s main center-right European Peopleâ€™s Party, called for a â€œconventionâ€ to be convened if there is a treaty rewrite. Such a body spent 18 months negotiating the ill-fated European Constitution, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
After those no votes, the Lisbon Treaty, which replaced the constitution, was deliberately drafted to avert the need for referendums. Even so, Ireland still put the Lisbon Treaty to a nationwide vote, which was lost before being later re-run. Any repeat of this would prove a huge distraction, said one European Union foreign minister speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The reason the Union is contemplating such a step lies in its biggest nation, Germany, which pays most into the bloc. After this yearâ€™s debt crisis in Greece sparked turmoil in the financial markets, Germany was ultimately forced to help put in place a massive financial backstop to stave off the prospect of a bankruptcy within the euro zone.
The life span of this so-called European Financial Stability Facility, established in May, is limited to three years, and Germany insists that any permanent replacement requires a treaty change. Only this would be enough to satisfy Germanyâ€™s constitutional court of its legitimacy.
Germany would like new measures to permit debt restructuring for nations on the verge of default, and might also seek to penalize countries that fail to keep their economies in shape by suspending their E.U. voting rights.
Thomas Klau, senior political analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations said, â€œIf there is no restructuring of debt it is an encouragement for bankers to lend knowing that there is an unlimited pot of E.U. money to call on.â€
France granted its support for treaty change on Monday in exchange for a softening of proposed rules on punishing countries that fail to curb deficits. With the two biggest euro-zone nations on board, the move to change the rule-book is becoming hard to resist.
But few other nations actively favor it, and neither JosÃ© Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, nor Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, is enthusiastic. One reason is technical: It is not clear that changes related to the euro could be included in Croatiaâ€™s accession treaty.
Worse are the political complications. The prospects of referendums being triggered in Ireland, and even in non-euro-zone Denmark, are high because of those nationsâ€™ constitutions.
In addition, the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, a euro skeptic who held up the Lisbon Treaty ratification, could do the same to any new treaty.
The issue could also face hurdles in Britain, where Prime Minister David Cameron has told Germanyâ€™s chancellor, Angela Merkel, that no new powers should be transferred from Britain to the E.U. Since Britain does not use the euro, that ought to be possible. But British critics of the Union want Mr. Cameron to go further and make his agreement on a treaty change conditional on Britain regaining some powers it has already ceded to the bloc.
â€œHopefully the French and Germans and the E.U. institutions will insist on this being a very narrow and specific treaty change on euro-zone governance that would allow Cameron to face down the Conservative Euroskeptics,â€ Mr. Grant said.
Next weekâ€™s E.U. summit will be a test of whether Berlin and Paris can get their way. But the momentum is with them.