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E.U. Official Defends Draft Constitution

By Alexander Bevilacqua, Contributing Writer

Although some have criticized the newly-drafted constitution of the European Union (E.U.) as too weak, it represents progress towards a stronger and more effective Europe, the vice president of the E.U.’s Constitutional Convention told an audience of about 60 at the Law School last night.

Giuliano Amato, a former prime minister of Italy, said that the outcome of the year-long convention was not exactly what he had hoped it would be, but that it is a definite step forward for the E.U.

“I fell in love with a constitution and found myself with a treaty,” he said.

Tomorrow, the process of ratifying the constitution will begin with an intergovernmental convention in Rome.

In May, 10 new member states will join the E.U.

Amato said he is confident that the governments of Europe will reach a consensus about the constitution before then.

Amato, a former professor and an influential Italian political figure, emphasized that many nations, not just the independent-minded U.K., are reluctant to sacrifice their power in favor of the supranational body.

“It’s not only due to the U.K. if we have too [many articles requiring] unanimity in the constitution,” he said, referring to the provisions contained in many of the constitution’s articles requiring all of the E.U.’s member states to concur on an issue before the E.U. can take action.

He also defended the length of the constitution—which has about 400 articles—as necessary.

“Governments don’t buy general principles unless they see the effect it will have on specific policies,” he said.

Amato said that Antonin Scalia found the document impressive and that the U.S. Supreme Court Justice joked that the constitution gave the E.U. powers that even the U.S. federal government doesn’t have.

“I am not a conservative but I admit that even conservatives can have excellent minds,” he quipped, prompting laughter from the audience.

The convention had to unite a political objective with a technical-legal aspect.

This dualism is something for which Amato, with his academic and political background, was very well-prepared.

“Even if he’s played the role of a politician, he’s a professor at heart,” said Alberto Alemanno, an Italian student at HLS.

Nearly 60 audience members packed in to a small room with about 25 seats.

“He was very sharp, but perhaps a vision was lacking for why we need a constitution,” said Fernanda Nicola, another HLS student.

Amato left unanswered an audience member’s question about what image of the constitution the convention had in mind during the drafting process.

“Ask Giscard, he’ll be here next week,” he replied enigmatically, referring to Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, former French president and president of the Constitutional Convention.

Giscard will speak on Wednesday at the Kennedy School of Government.

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