Soon, we will be able to cast our votes against or in favor of the European Consitution. As a European citizen, there are three things that concern me most when it comes to the European Union:
- The subsidies for argicultural products. These make up the bulk of the EU budget -- basically, our tax money is used to pay farmers for producing more stuff than anyone wants. Millions are wasted paying for milk no-one will ever drink, and further millions to dump that unwanted product somewhere...
I would like to see those subsidies immediately stopped. Yes, a lot of farmers will go bankrupt -- that's how economics work. You just can't go on producing something that no-one wants.
- The apparent lack of democracy. The European council and the council of ministers of the member states draft legislation. There is a body that represents the citizens, the European Parliament, but that can only vote for or against a proposed law/treaty -- it is unable to draft legislation of it's own.
The whole disaster over the issue of the software patents has made it clear that the control of the citizens on European policy is sorely lacking. And yes, I do have a vested interest in this particular issue: I could very easily lose my job if software patents are possible.
- Our position as an ecomonic block. The European Union is a large market with (by and large) wealthy citizens. The unified market has created a lot of wealth for the Dutch and the citizens of other EU countries: from 1992 to 2002, an increase of 5.700 euros per year per household on average.
With the increased economic power of India and China, and the waning power of the US provides challenges and opportunities alike for the EU and its citizens.
I am not fearful of handing control over certain aspects over to the EU. I firmly believe that the United States of Europe will be a fact within the next 100 year -- and its citizens will live wealthy lives in liberty and peace. The sentiments of paranoid people who are afraid that the Netherlands will lose its sovereignity are completely alien to me. Let's face it: economically, we're merely a province of Germany. Internationally, we don't mean shit. It is only within the EU that our voice is heard -- and the EU amplifies our voice throughout the world. If you want to have something to say in the world, you should be in favor of a strong EU!
But to be able to realise that grand vision, the EU will have to change. The Constitution is one of the ways in which the EU is changing.
Granted, 'Constitution' is a misnomer. It's merely a collection of treaties recast into a single document, with a few extra measures tacked on. It's not a document that outlines the basic rights of the citizens or the member states -- it's 'just' a really big treaty.
One could make a straw man out of this and attack it viciously, as the nay-sayers seem to be fond of doing. They are doing their audience a disservice, because they don't focus on the contents of the treaty, but on the form. Frankly, I found my intelligence insulted when phrases like 'a run-away train' was used to describe the EU.
On the other camp is the campaign to get people to say yes. The language of that camp is much more factual, such as this pamphlet of VNO-NCW, the Dutch club of businesses. As a rule, I am pro-capitalism, but weary of anyone who only focusses on the bottom line (as the members of VNO-NCW are prone to do).
But what do I read? Sadly, no mention about the argicultural subsidies, but there is plenty left. There will be more democracy with the treaty in place: meetings between ministers will no longer be secret, less comissioners, and the European Parliament is allowed to act as a real parliament. There will be further economic and (gasp!) even military cooperation.
THIS is what I want: a strong European Union, with wealth, liberty and a grand vision for all of its citizens. No provincial nay-saying -- I am going to vote in favour.