I cannot deny feeling a growing sense of satisfaction at the rejection of the EU Constitution by French voters. I know it’s a big setback to European integration, and that it’s ruined a lot of peoples’ days. I also know that a lot of the opposition to the Constitution came from very unsavory forces on the right and left.
But quite a large part of the rejection of the Constitution was due to public distrust of the ruling political class. The distrust was earned; this class wrote a shitty Constitution. Its 448 articles are the embodiment of the worst kind of opaque, abstract, consensus-clogged, untouched-by-reality thinking that European bureaucrats are capable of. Let’s take, for example, Article III-122 (selected at random):
Without prejudice to Articles I-5, III-166, III-167 and III-238, and given the place occupied by services of general economic interest as services to which all in the Union attribute value as well as their role in promoting its social and territorial cohesion, the Union and the Member States, each within their respective competences and within the scope of application of the Constitution, shall take care that such services operate on the basis of principles and conditions, in particular economic and financial conditions, which enable them to fulfil their missions.
The average citizen, reading this provision (after slogging through the first 2 articles, which are long indeed), would be completely nonplussed. First, he’d have to cross-reference all the four other cited provisions — no handy summaries here! — to even get an understanding of the scope of this provision.
Then he’d think: "Umm, as far as I can tell, this article says that ‘services of general economic interest’ should ‘fulfill their missions.’" What on earth is that supposed to mean? Why is it worth a constitutional article to say something that is, at the same time, so vague and so obvious? Then he’d begin to get suspicious…"maybe they’re using some weird code here. I bet this article really does do something, something I might not like. And these cowardly bureaucrats are too afraid to tell me directly what it is."
Here’s some free advice. Scrap the current constitution. Apologize to the voters for inflicting this monstrosity on them. Have each of the Member States nominate one author or poet renowned for their spare, lucid prose. Put this drafting commission into a room and give it 10 days to write a constitution. Tell them it’s got to achieve the basic structural objectives of the Constitution (i.e. reforming the decision-making process, which really is a priority). But it has to do everything in fewer than 100 articles, that will fit on fewer than 20 regular-sized pages. Longest permitted sentence length: 25 words.
Of course, half of the members of the drafting conference will leave in outrage. Good — the smaller the better. After you’ve got a draft, pick 100 people at random from Europe’s population. Give each of them 100 Euro to spend a few hours reading the constitution, and ask them at the end if they were able to understand it (not whether they agreed with everything in it, just whether they were able to understand it). If fewer than 80% say yes, start the entire process again. Repeat as necessary.
Of course, wise European bureacrats are now smirking at this suggestion: "Oh my dear Mr. Hammel, of course that could never work. You haven’t the faintest idea how complex the whole process is." But remember, these European bureacrats just brought you the existing European constitution, which is now only of interest as one of the biggest wastes of human energy and time in modern history.