It was to a largely empty house that the Austrian EU presidency went through the conclusions of last week’s European leaders’ summit.
Wolfgang Scheussel has told the Parliament in Strasbourg that the only way to save the European constitution would be to hold another referendum on it, this one Europe-wide.
It would be in June 2009, on the same day as the EU elections.
The chancellor was praised for his presidency’s efforts not to let the constitution die, in the wake of French and Dutch referendums one year ago in which the voters rejected the charter.
“The substance of the constitutional treaty must not be altered,” Scheussel said.
“No Member State in the European Council called this substance into question.”
“It needs new elements, to try to make it as acceptable as possible.”
But Scheussel conceded that, for the moment, much of this was conjecture.
To take this path, everyone has to agree, and at the summit they did not.
A pan-European referendum, conceived to make the result binding on all the countries involved, would imply placing the European interest before national interests sovereignty.
On 1st July, Finland begins its six months as EU president, then Germany in January.
Finland plans to approve the constitution this autumn.
That would make 16 countries in favour.
The others have placed the project on indefinite hold.
President Tarja Halonen will work closely with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has promised to prepare substantial proposals on how to proceed.