This Day in International Law: February 20

By: Aaron Voit

On February 20, 2005, Spanish voters approved a treaty establishing a European Constitution. The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, as it was also known, would have given full legal force to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, guaranteeing European Union (EU) citizens and residents certain political, social, and economic rights. The Treaty also would have expanded Qualified Majority Voting, the system of voting used by the Council of the European Union that assigns weight to votes in accordance with country population, to other policy areas previously decided by unanimity among member states.

Facing low voter turnout from an apathetic electorate, the Spanish government hired celebrities to promote the treaty. The National Electoral Commission later denounced the Spanish government’s promotion of the treaty, requiring that the government’s campaign be purely informative. The European Constitution was ultimately approved in Spain with a historically low voter turnout, but despite approval from eighteen EU countries, the rejection from the French and Dutch brought the ratification process to an end.

However, two major substantive measures of the treaty have since been implemented. The Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding across the EU when the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force in 2009. The Treaty of Lisbon also implemented a new system of Qualified Majority Voting known as “double majority” which took effect in November 2014.

Aaron Voit is a J.D. candidate at Berkeley Law.  He is a student contributor to Travaux.

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