The European Constitution would benefit Georgia businesses by harmonizing Europe’s trade policies and customs procedures, said Stella Zervoudaki, minister counselor and head of communications and public affairs for the European Commission in Washington.
Ms. Zervoudaki was in Atlanta last week to speak at the fifth annual celebration of Europe Day, held this year at Oglethorpe University.
Members of Atlanta’s international community and delegations from local European consuls gathered to celebrate the event.
Before addressing the crowd, Ms. Zervoudaki spoke with GlobalAtlanta about the European Constitution, the foundational document for the European Union that is up for ratification by member states.
“The constitution will enhance Europe’s ability to perfect its internal market,” she said, noting that American goods would flow more freely between the soon-to-be 27 member countries of the EU once the constitution is implemented.
She explained that the constitution would consolidate existing treaties of the EU, allowing the organization to operate more efficiently by clearly defining the roles of national governments as distinct from those of the EU.
The EU would also have a more defined “legal personality” under the new constitution, which would allow the organization to enter into international agreements and have exclusive jurisdiction over customs regulations, trade policy coordination and market competition rules for anti-trust laws and mergers.
“American businesses make a lot of profit in Europe… and now that we are more that 450 million people, we offer a unique consumer market,” Ms. Zervoudaki said, noting that 30 percent of Georgia’s total exports go to the EU.
The region was also the No. 1 foreign investor in the state, creating more than 150,000 jobs last year, she said.
While it has come into question whether countries such as France and the United Kingdom will ratify the constitution, Ms. Zervoudaki believes that it will eventually be implemented.
“If they vote no, it will not be the end of the EU,” she said. “[The EU] will listen to the frustrations of the people of France, and they will try to find a solution.”
If by 2006 all member states have voted on the constitution and one-fifth of the countries have refused to ratify the treaty, the issue will then be referred to the European Council, the main decision-making body of the EU.
Member states vote on the constitution either through a national referendum or by vote in their respective parliaments.
A national referendum will be held in France on Sunday, May 29, in the Netherlands on June 1 and in Denmark at the end of September. Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovenia and Spain have already ratified the constitution.
Generally celebrated on May 9, Europe Day commemorates the region’s first step toward unification in 1950 when key European countries pooled together their coal and steel productions to rebuild their post World War II societies.
Ms. Zervoudaki spoke to the Europe Day crowd about the importance of culture and dialogue in trans-Atlantic relations.
Her speech was followed by a reception held at the university’s Museum of Art where the exhibition, “Masterpieces from European Artist Colonies 1830-1930,” is on display until Sunday, May 22.
The event was hosted by the European Union Center of the University System of Georgia, the Consulate General of France and the Goethe Institute of America.
For more information about the EU constitution or the role of the EU in the U.S., visit the commission’s Web site at www.eurunion.org.