Constitutionalism and Regional Integration: Lessons from the Europe's Constitutional Conundrum
The Constitutional Convention process was portrayed by its proponents as a major step forward in the development of the Union and for some was seen as a step change in the nature of this most successful of international regional organisations. This process would lead to a European Union Constitution upon which to base future development of the Union. The rejection of the Constitutional Treaty which eventually emerged from the Laeken Process at the hands of the French electorate and their Dutch compatriots thus marks and equally serious reversal for those with such high hopes for this document.
The failure of the Constitutional Treaty is more than a mere rejection of a European Treaty. This has happened before, both after Maastrict and Amsterdam, but the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in core Union states marked a crisis not only in terms of this treaty but in the confidence in the European project as a whole. For the first time since 1957, the onward march of the European regionalisation process was clearly and unmistakably halted by the populace of its Member States. Their had been warnings before and rocky times along the way but this event, public as it was, could not be wished away by any amount of spin or political manoeuvring. The people had been allowed to speak and their voices were an unmistakable Non or Nej.
However, although the failure of the Constitutional Treaty is clearly a fundamental problem for the continuing development of the Union it also has significant implications beyond Europe's borders. The success of the Union and the realisation that the same drivers that brought the Union's Member States together in 1957 apply increasingly to nation-states across the globe has led to interest in and the creation of international regional organisations in every populated continent. From the NAFTA agreement, to the CER via the Andes Community, nascent regional organisations are now the rule rather than the exception. Such developments are now to be seen taking shape in East Asia. The European Union, however, has had more of a role than merely convincing other regions of the advantages of regional co-operation, its success has led to its development being seen as a model for others.
This paper examines this phenomenon in the light of the crisis that currently affects the Union in the wake of the TCE's demise. The crisis of confidence that now afflicts the EU gives significant food for thought to those countries considering regional cooperation in their own corners of the world. What does the failure of the ECT mean for European model of regionalism? Is the European model such a success after all?