The Union of European Federalists welcomes today's signing of the European Constitution in Rome. "This is an act of great political importance. And it is a symbol towards the political unity of Europe - something the European Federalists have been struggling for since the end of the 2nd World War", declared Jo Leinen, President of UEF and Chairman of the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament.
The citizens rightly ask for a European Union that is democratic, transparent and accountable to them. "This Constitution is a first step into this direction", said Mr Leinen, particularly welcoming the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the clarification of values, principles and objectives, which form the common ground of Europeans, as well as the strengthening of the democratic legitimacy of the EU by giving the European Parliament the co-decision-power in most EU legislation as well as the right to elect the Commission President. "Recent events concerning the nomination of the Barroso Commission have demonstrated once again that behind-the-door-deals by the Heads of State and Government are no longer acceptable", said the President of UEF.
In view of the different national referendums taking place in the coming months and years the European Federalists insist on the need to make known this important move forward to the European citizens. A joint effort including all European institutions as well as national and regional governments and the civil society is urgently needed if the ratification process is to be concluded successfully.
"The most difficult part of the game is still ahead: the ratification of the European Constitution by the 25 member states of the European Union", said Mr Leinen. "Neither the European Parliament nor the Commission can lean back and take a neutral stance on this matter." Furthermore, national governments have to create a framework for a democratic and transparent public debate. "We must not leave the information camp to the Euro-sceptics and their wrong and misleading negative campaigning", said Mr Leinen.
In addition, if one or two member states are unable to ratify the text, the other member states should proceed nevertheless with the entering into force of the Constitution, claims UEF.
Last but not least, the European Federalists stress that the Constitution, however positive, in many respects falls short of what is needed. To give just one example: Many important fields such as foreign, security and defence policy and the multi-annual financial framework will still be decided by unanimity.
"These failings need to be corrected if the European Union is to have a long-term future in securing peace, justice, democracy and economic and social stability", insists the President of UEF, therefore calling for a revision of the Constitution by a new Convention no later than 2008.