The European Parliament's plans to resuscitate the European Constitution was thrown in to disarray yesterday when the much awaited Duff/Voggenhuber report on the constitution's 'period of reflection' was opposed by national Parliaments. Ever since May and June of 2005 when the European Union's plans were comprehensively thrown into orbit by their rejection in France and Holland those who would have the Constitution brought into law have pinned their hopes on the European Parliament to jump start the ratification process.
Everything was going to plan, and the Duff/Voggenhuber report was to lead the way. The report calls for the recreation of the Constitution and a pan European referendum to overrule the voices of those countries that are sceptical. This referendum is suggested to take place on the same day as the next European elections in 2009.
All this however has been undermined by an unprecedented letter sent by the leaders of three Parliaments, the Austrian, the German and the Finnish. These parliaments are known as the "troika of the coming council presidencies".
The letter which was written on the 13th and posted on the 16th of January, three days before the resolution was to be debated during the Strasbourg plenary session.
In it the presidents of the three Parliaments attacked the European Parliament, suggesting that it was acting in an overbearing and presumptuous manner. The report calls for "the European Parliament and national parliaments jointly organise conferences - Parliamentary Forums - in order to stimulate the debate and to shape, step by step, the necessary political conclusions". They comment on this that "there is neither a need nor a mechanism to find a joint strategy of national parliaments on how to engage in a lasting debate." Alexis Wintoniak, the head of the Austrian Parliamentary President said that "though the European Parliament has every right to decide what it wants to do, we have made clear what we feel is possible and have made our position clear to the European Parliament for several months. One of the signatories, Paavo Lipponen, the Finnish Parliamentary President was seeing Mr Borrell the EP President on the 18th to voice his concerns.
Astonishingly, the very next day after the letter of protest was sent, Jo Leinen MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee and a major force in the EU's integrationist agenda, directly contradicted the national Parliaments concerns in a letter to Mr Borrell. Two days before the vote he hubristically wrote, "On Thursday(sic) 18th January 2006, the European Parliament will adopt the resolution submitted in the report Duff/Voggenhuber and thus confirm its will that in the framework of the present period of reflection parliamentary forums be organised, jointly by the European Parliament and the national parliaments".
Nigel Farage Co President of the Independence and Democracy Group who brought the issue to light said, "It is wonderful to see national parliaments asserting their independence in this manner. However it is typical of the arrogance of the European elite personified by Jo Lienen that he utterly ignores and contradicts the legitimate concerns of the member states."
Mr Wintoniak made the problem very clear, when he pointed out that the situations in different nation sates are very diverse. "In Austria we ratified the Parliament, in Holland they rejected the Constitution and in the UK there has been no movement". He asked whether the European Parliament really wants to reopen discussions in Austria, when the Austrian Parliament voted 182 to one in favour of the Constitution?