On February 16 Giuliano Amato, who was twice the prime minister of Italy, spoke about “The Lisbon Treaty and the Future of Europe” in Walter J. Derenberg Professor of Trade Regulation Eleanor Fox’s class on the European Union’s constitutional and economic law.

Amato, a former Global Visiting Professor of Law, was vice president of the Convention on the Future of Europe, which drafted the proposed European Constitution that was ultimately rejected by French and Dutch voters. Amato led the subsequent effort to rewrite the treaty, resulting in the Treaty of Lisbon, which went into effect in December 2009.

To ensure acceptance of the Lisbon Treaty, Amato said, the word “constitution” had to disappear, along with the previous structure of the proposed constitution and certain clauses. The avoidance of the word, he argued, had been a mistake. “Like it or not, whatever they think in France, in Ireland, in the U.K., the European Union has a constitutional structure.... The notion of ‘constitution’ is connected to the notion of ‘state.’ For some people, having a constitution without being a state is not even imaginable, and therefore those that did not want the European Union to be a state resented the use of the term ‘constitution.’”

Amato discussed the concept of “multilevel constitutionalism” at work in the treaty, and the complexities of how the different levels of government—Europe-wide, national, and local—interact. A serious issue, he said, is a lack of solidarity among individual European nations: “The atmosphere is of an increasing sort of separation of our member states from each other, each of them inward-looking into its own domestic matters. Therefore the Union is a common venue where each of them is looking for the best solution for his or her own country, not for the European Union.” Uneasiness with immigration, he said, is one manifestation of that trend.

“Europeans today dislike the world,” Amato said. “For the first time they are realizing that the world is not dominated by us anymore.... The entire world is going somewhere else, and is growing, and we are not growing, and it’s becoming younger, and we are becoming older, and it’s open to expectations of a better future, and we are open to the expectations of the worst future. It is this generation, perhaps. It might pass, and the institutions will remain. So the Treaty of Lisbon will remain with these new instruments that can be used for a better and more integrated Europe.... One day the Europeans will be better, and they will avail themselves of better instruments.”

Posted on February 23, 2010