The conference presided by Germany and which was supposed to relaunch the EU construction, stalled by France and the Netherlands, has been presented by Angela Merkel as a success. My first reaction would be to say: we should be preserved from such success in the future, because I don't see what a failure would have had worse. But let's analyze a bit what happened.
The intergovernmental conference in Brussels lasted a bit longer than foreseen, but that is a very usual feature with these negotiations. What actually happened behind the doors of the conference rooms was unfortunately not worth the time spent on it (paid, may I remind you, with our hard won euros). It was one of the worse pieces of haggling and bitter bickering that the EU has seen. Everyone was ready to take concessions from others but none was ready to offer something for the common good. The result is up to the lack of good will. Even Poland managed to get its way, despite its ridiculous claims (opposed by all the 26 other members). Somebody was so frightened to see them walk out that they actually managed to impose a point on the voting system that wasn't even in the list of items at the conference.
Thanks to the twin "jerk" brothers in Warsaw, the completely inefficient voting system from the Nice Treaty will be kept until 2014 and, for some areas deemed "important" by member states (understand Poland or future other jerks discretionary decision) until 2017. This is sad enough already, but it isn't the end of it. Most of the items in the Constitution project which were trying to put some spirit in the Union, some visibility (and by it some democracy) in its functioning, have been scrapped or badly damaged. Gone is the official adoption of its flag, anthem, motto and other symbols. Like such things could harm the petty nationalism of some member states? This is ridiculous, sad, but ridiculous. I don't know who asked for this, but you can bet the UK is behind. It's typically the type of decision which would (temporarily) please the readers of The Sun. Gone is also (and at the request of the same country) the EU Foreign Minister, replaced by a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. How can anyone take such a title seriously?
But more important maybe than the symbolic aspects, everybody has bitten chunks of a text which should have remained simple and readable. The only serious flaw of the late Constitution was its lack of readability, and that flaw has been actually made worse. On top of this, countries have won the right to opt out from the common justice and security policy. The UK have asked for this and obtained it. But it means again that they are not showing any kind of commitment to Europe. Everybody can see, even, I am sure, Her Majesty's police forces, that a common policy in this domain is vital to fight international crime, terrorism or illegal immigration. But the UK will prefer endanger its own citizens rather than bow to the EU. The stupidity of politicians, their lack of vision will be paid dearly in the future. But hey, they don't care, they will get reelected because they will have gotten a "victory" in Brussels last week-end.
Poor Europe and poor Europeans. Do we deserve this? I guess yes. After all, we have got the politicians we have voted for. And French and Dutch citizens bear even more responsibility. It's after all their fault if all this happened. By voting no, they have killed a great project and made all this possible. It is saddening but true. The two countries which were maybe the most willing builders of the European ideas have betrayed it in the most stupid way.
I don't see what the future will get us. But I am not optimistic (one used to say that I was a cynic and that one was right). The only way of rebuilding what's left of the EU, with all its opt-out clauses, temporary systems and impaired institutions, would be I think to go it alone with a group of countries whose citizens and politicians have a bit more vision than the others. I don't even know for sure that these countries exist. But I guess Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain and Luxembourg are the most obvious ones. They should invite the historical ones to follow them (us French and Dutch, for instance) and hopefully we will see our mistakes. But I believe they should simply drop out (instead of opting out) the ones that don't really want to participate. Then we will see who owns the future. The old nation states like the UK or Poland or the new humanist European dream?