It is time to spring clean the European Constitutional House. To do so, I will divide the main arguments in two domains: law on the one hand, economics on the other.
The legal domain deals with several issues. Part 1 of the EuConst concerns the institutional arrangements. Part 2 concerns the charter of Fundamental Rights. Finally, Part 4 concerns various legal disposition, including the issue of revision of the constitutional treaty.
The domain of economics is dealt with primarily in part 3 of the EuConst. An observation is in order to dispel certain basic problems. Part 3 does not say anything fundamentally new: it gathers and organises previous texts and principles, which are part of the European construction.
If we compare the two domains, the first observation we can make is that the legal/constitutional domain introduces the major innovations. For the rest, the constitution makes the previous texts more transparent in that it unites them in a single text.
In this blog, Raphael argued against the constitution mainly because of its committment to a neo-liberal ideology. Raphael insists that this ideology, which is encapsulated in several articles, is at odds with a genuine left wing stand point. As a result, he argues, he wants to reject this neo-liberal ideology, which the constitution rigidifies.
Since we said that part 3 of the EUconst doesn't introduce anything new, we can safely conclude that Raphael wishes to reject the principles and the practices of the european economical order as they stem from previous treaties and practices. Thus, striclty speaking, he has no argument against this constitution. At best, he can say that the constitution rigidifies the past practice. But this is not a good argument, because the constitution does not rigidify things anymore than a treaty does. If anything, the Euconst makes it slightly more flexible, since it introduces few simplified revision procedures requiring the qualified majority as opposed to unanimity.
The core of the debates that is raging in France, therefore, doesn't concern the legal/constitutional domain, but the domain of economics. I'd like to put it this way: A French 'dirigist' political economy is competing with an UK liberal political economy. This opposition has been distorted in debates. First distortion: the French dirigist model is associated with a leftist position (see Raphael). But, as a commentator to this blog noted, this argument "rests upon the unwarranted assumption that a more integrated European market is at odds with “social justice” (or some other set of left-wing values)."
Coming from France, a country which strenuously protects its farmers through the CAP to the detriment of african agriculture, this is at least ironic. Now, moreover, France would like to protect its expensive services to the detriment of eastern competitors. The Bolkenstein saga is there to prove it. I personally challenge every Frenchmen to tell me why they do not like the directive on services. In any case, I honestly do not think that France has the monopoly of the definition of leftist values.
The second distortion to the dirigist/liberal debate is nicely captured in Srdjan's contribution: "To criticize the EU for being a neo-liberal construction tout court, undermines the complexity of this polity but also implicitly advances a fallacious argument that nation-state (EU Member States) have greater legitimacy than the EU. This argument is based solely on theoretical prejudicing in favour of the nation-state centred classical political theory."
To conclude, the EuConst is far from being an ideal document. On this, everyone agrees, including the very authors of the text. The arguments against it are, however, very weak. Unless you espouse a Franco centered vision of Europe where France (together with Germany) decides what part of the european budget goes for agriculture, and which public services should be screened off from competition, you'll find the opposite model (UK-liberal) more appealing. It is not the most appealing, it has its own defects which can be modulated and corrected.
I wish to end on a personal note. As a young European, who speaks Italian, French, and English, and has been trained in these countries, I could only find a good job in the UK market. It's not everything, but it is a great thing. My choice was between being unemployed in the continent or employed in the UK. I made my choice. What do you choose?