October 21, 2010
It was supposed to be a final act. The Lisbon treaty, successor to the ill-fated European Union constitution, which in turn followed the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties, would create a permanent club rulebook. “We expect no change in the foreseeable future,” European leaders declared in December 2007. Freed from its internal wrangling, the EU would be able to turn outward and face the real world. Instead, the real world threw up the euro-zone debt crisis. And less than a year after the Lisbon treaty came into force, the EU is talking of a new treaty.
Brussels’s favourite game has been restarted by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. At their summit in the French resort of Deauville (where they also met Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev) this week, they declared that, in order to deal with future debt crises, “it is necessary to revise the treaty”. What fun. Remember the French and Dutch rejection of the constitution? How the Irish had to vote twice to approve the slimmed-down Lisbon treaty? The thrill of the Czechs keeping Europe guessing until the 11th hour? Let’s do it all again. This time, in the face of economic crisis and budget cuts, it will be even more exciting to run the gauntlet of parliaments, constitutional courts and angry voters—and all in the name of imposing still greater fiscal rigour in future.