A final version was agreed in June 2004, and what a sorry, shabby work it is, an unreadable mish-mash of political correctness, micromanagement, bureaucratic jargon, artful ambiguity, deliberate obscurity, and stunning banality that somehow limps its way through some 500 pages with highlights that include "guaranteeing" (Article II-74) a right to "vocational and continuing training," "respect" (Article II-85) for the "rights of the elderly... to participate in social and cultural life," and the information (Article III-121) that "animals are sentient beings."
If the document itself is bad, the intentions behind it are worse.
The project of a federal EU has long been driven, at least in part, by a profound, and remarkably virulent anti-Americanism, with deep roots in Vichy-era disdain for the sinister "Anglo-Saxons" and their supposedly greedy and degenerate culture. Throw in the poisonous legacy of soixante-huitard radicalism, then add Europe's traditional suspicion of the free market, and it's easy to see how relations between Brussels and Washington were always going to be troubled.
Speaking back in 2001, some time before 9/11 and the bitter dispute over Iraq, Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson (who then also held the EU's rotating presidency) provided a perfect example of the paranoia and ambition that underpins this European dream. The EU was, he claimed "one of the few institutions we can develop as a balance to U.S. world domination."
But if the EU has had only limited success in persuading its citizens what they are, it has done considerably better in convincing them as to what they are not: Americans. Writing in 2002 about the "first stirrings" of EU patriotism, EU Commissioner Chris Patten could only come up with two examples: "You can already feel [it], perhaps, in the shared indignation at US steel protection...You can feel it at the Ryder Cup, too." It's significant that when Patten gave examples of this supposed European spirit, he could only define it by what it was against (American tariffs and American golfers) rather than by what it was for. It is even more striking that in both cases the "enemy" comes from one place — the U.S.
This is psychologically astute: The creation of a common foe (imagined or real) is a good way to unify a nation, even, possibly, a bureaucratically constructed "nation" like the EU. Choosing the U.S. as the designated rival comes with two other advantages. It fits in nicely with the existing anti-American bias of much of the EU's ruling class and it will strike a chord with those many ordinary Europeans who are genuinely skeptical about America, its ambitions and, yes, what it stands for.
And the more that the EU speaks with that one voice, the less will be heard from those of its member states more inclined to be sympathetic to America. And as to what this would mean, well, French Green politician Noel Mamère put it best in the course of an interview last week: "The good thing about the European constitution is that with it the United Kingdom will not be able to support the United States in a future Iraq."
Here's hoping for the UK to find its 'Anglo-Saxon' spine.