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The new Constitution for Europe is due to be finalised during 2004.

This is the moment to put the ordinary citizen at the heart of Europe, where he/she belongs!

The draft constitution is full of fine words and lofty concepts but is very short on concrete proposals for making the EU count for ordinary people.

This 'democratic deficit' is rotting the union from the inside out. All european politicians are aware of this but are afraid to rock the boat.

Any attempt to enforce rigorously the concepts in the constitution and prevent 'soft' abuses is shot down, because the British among others will cry that the Europeans want a federation of states, which would practically mean the establishment of an 'FBI' for Europe.

Europe at the moment offers the best of all possible worlds for politicians - power without responsibility. It is all too current to 'talk the talk' in Europe about human rights etc, but when asked to support concrete institutions to protect individual citizens from the excesses of their own governments, they don't want to 'walk the walk'.

It is a fact that billions of euros have been spent in Europe, but nowhere is there even a phone number to call if an individual citizen finds himself without any real rights in his own country.

This is a scandal that every European should be shouting about.

For all Europe knows or cares there could be blood on the streets of any European capital, spilt by a government 'doing its housekeeping', yet protecting by all means its good image abroad. Blood spilt from 'soft' abuses is the same color as other blood!

Democracy is about freedom. The freedom of the individual. It is all or nothing.

All the fine words in the European constitution don't mean a thing if this freedom is not guaranteed practically on the ground, not just in principle because a government says in Brussels that its guaranteed.

It is perfectly possible at the moment for a state to gain access to the EU without there being real democracy on the ground in that state. Not all states in Europe have the secular traditions enjoyed in France and Germany, where the separation of Church and state has long been the norm.

While politicians in smaller states no doubt try their best to present their countries as modern and secular, in reality they have to answer to the more traditional power centers that exist. This explains why they are obliged to say one thing in Europe and another at home.

It is up to all citizens in Europe to ensure that all individual freedoms are respected on the ground throughout the EU. The only way to ensure real democracy in Europe is to establish a body to listen to complaints of abuses in the first instance, not after being filtered through endless legal procedures, which begin in the offending country!

It is just not good enough to 'take their word for it', and so much the worse for the individual. It is democracy that suffers in the long term.

This is the key issue that will determine the future of Europe. This is what is needed to make Europe a living and breathing, dynamic body with a vigorous future.

If Europe is to mean anything other than common industrial standards, this is make or break. You are in or you are out. Europe cannot finally be everything to everyone, unless of course the european monkey sees nothing, hears nothing, and says nothing.