Skip to comments.After French 'No' Vote, All Bets Are Off On EU
Posted on 05/30/2005 8:35:05 PM PDT by quidnunc
Paris In the end, democracy came and mocked the European mystique, its notions of ever-greater union, a European Us, its self-portrayal as the Righteous Power, its exalted but hollow pretensions to project to the world a will and a strength that is not yet and may never be its own.
If anything, the massive rejection by France of the European Union's constitution in a national referendum, says stop.
The EU can go nowhere, in its current phase, without the regenerated support of its voters, or a deep re-examination of its ambitions, largely pushed forward by elites and ridiculously out of touch, we now know, with the electorate of its quintessential nation.
France's no to this Europe, most likely to be joined by the Netherlands before the week is out, is not to be minimized. It was more than a crazy quilt of local grievances and obsessions, flecked with the normal dissatisfactions brought about by high unemployment and minuscule growth. Or the incoherent-sounding economics and politics of Jacques Chirac, telling France that the constitution assured both no inconvenient changes at home and big-hitter status around the globe.
(Excerpt) Read more at iht.com ...
In the end, democracy came and mocked the European mystique, its notions of ever-greater union, a European Us, its self-portrayal as the Righteous Power, its exalted but hollow pretensions to project to the world a will and a strength that is not yet and may never be its own. If anything, the massive rejection by France of the European Union's constitution in a national referendum, says stop. The EU can go nowhere, in its current phase, without the regenerated support of its voters, or a deep re-examination of its ambitions, largely pushed forward by elites and ridiculously out of touch, we now know, with the electorate of its quintessential nation. France's no to this Europe, most likely to be joined by the Netherlands before the week is out, is not to be minimized. It was more than a crazy quilt of local grievances and obsessions, flecked with the normal dissatisfactions brought about by high unemployment and minuscule growth. Or the incoherent-sounding economics and politics of Jacques Chirac, telling France that the constitution assured both no inconvenient changes at home and big-hitter status around the globe. Rather, with the stakes perfectly clear a French no would kill the European Constitution French voters signaled that even at absolutely no real cost to them, when it came to matters of the heart, Europe doesn't matter enough to say yes to. Bam! Pow! After all, think of the context: a united, integrated Europe, acting largely as one, had been a near spiritual conviction for the generation that grew up after the tragedy of World War II. Now go and find that belief and sense of European mission today. France has laughed at it. Angry with Europe's refusal to adopt its questionable social model, and unwilling to meld French identity into a greater European whole, France said to hell with the noble undertaking stuff. Adding the rationale that it was all the elites' Big Fib anyway. But the truth is that this was no bolt from the historical blue. If the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's Humboldt University speech in 2000, advocating a genuine federalist future for Europe, is taken as a high-water mark for the ambitions of European integration, then the path since has been straight downward. Culminating in the referendum, the trail was one of dysfunction, hubris and delusion. Over the last years, Fischer backed off from his integrationist preaching. An EU draft constitution came to life, written not with a hand of a Locke or a Montesquieu, but as if slapped together during a six-week conference call by actuaries.
Ouch. This is all pretty harsh fare, but quite accurate. Let's take a quick step back as the dust begins to settle ever so slightly and take an initial look at the historic events of yesterday. We might begin by looking backwards a bit. Recall that French political elites have been intimately involved in cobbling together this project of European unification for over half a century now. I mean, it's not as if little Portugal or Denmark said no thanks. France did! As Vinocur says, perhaps the "quintessential" European nation. What a crushing (if not fatal, at least yet) blow to the European project. Think about it. The name Jean Monnet, for instance, is synonymous with the very cause of European unification. All this started way back in 1950, when the French and Germans agreed to put their coal production facilities under common administration. Adenauer had then told Monnet: "If this task succeeds, I will not have wasted my life." How crushed he'd be today (as Schroder must be, the leader for whom the "non" vote is doubtless the most devastating the day after save Chirac himself, perhaps). Or Valery Giscard d'Estaing. This grandee of the French political scene, and the drafter-in-chief of the now failed Constitution himself ( "The European Constitution is as perfect as that of the United States, if perhaps a bit less elegant".) Heh. Giscard d'Estaing must have been thinking of provisions like the surely heavily negotiated Article III 184 concerning deficits linked here. All the talk about 'blocking minorities,' 'excessive deficit procedures,' 'reference values,' 'ratios'-these sound pulled more from a heavily negotiated merger document at Wachtell Lipton than from some grand Constitutional exercise meant to unify and excite a storied continent behind a major supranational enterprise.
Titans of French political life like Monnet and Giscard d'Estaing aside, the entire mainstream political class in France (excepting "non" advocates like Laurent Fabius) emerges discredited and spurned. None more so than Jacques Chirac, of course, his approval rankings already dismally low in the 30 percent range. But these figures are higher than Prime Minister Raffarin's (in the 20s!), however, and we will likely now see Chirac lamely sack Raffarin in a prime ministerial reshuffle. It is likely Chirac loyalist Dominique de Villepin who will get the nod and replace Raffarin, though the crisis is so grave one wonders whether Chirac might actually bite the bullet and hand the post to his former protege and now bitter rival Nicolas Sarkozy in some recognition of the stunning scale of this setback (he's likely too petty to, however). Meantime, a schism may loom in the Socialist Party, with Laurent Fabius spearheading a rejectionist harder left flank. And, of course, nationalists like de Villiers and neo-fascists like le Pen emerge emboldened. Quelle mess!
What's more, it appears wider European elites, rather predictably, have been stunned into denial and are continuing forward somewhat divorced from reality. Witness:
The European Union's embattled leaders rushed to shore up confidence in European integration on Monday after France's overwhelming dismissal of the constitutional treaty pushed the EU toward a period of crisis and uncertainty. EU officials braced as well for a second rejection in a referendum Wednesday in the Netherlands. Saying the treaty's ratification process must continue despite the French no, Europe's leaders sought to deflect what appeared to be the referendum's strong message of gathering hostility toward the Union. "The treaty is not dead," said Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg and current holder of the European Union presidency, at an emotional press conference late Sunday night in Brussels. "The European process does not come to an end today," he said. [emphasis added]
Wasn't it another Luxembourgian, former Foreign Minister Jacques Poos, who had famously intoned in the early 90s that: "[T]his is the hour of Europe"? Except it wasn't, as all the Presidents, Ministers, Royalty and Assorted-Euro-Notables couldn't stop the genocidal violence occuring on their very doorstep. This task was instead left to a relatively lowly American Assistant Secretary of State, plugging valiantly away in a remote Air Force Base in remote Dayton, Ohio far from the pomp and pageantry of the palaces of Luxembourg and Versailles. Well, ten or so years on, another memorable utterance by a Luxembourgian pol. No, perhaps the "treaty is not dead." But it is on life support now, and lame denial-ridden soundbites are not what will get it off the mat.
Finally, at least for now, there are the delicious ironies. Take French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier's comment to Eastern Europeans that they lacked a "European reflex."
The relationship between France and Eastern Europe has sometimes been compared unflatteringly to a professor and his students. Poles are quick to remember the infamous incident during the run-up to the American-led invasion of Iraq when Jacques Chirac, the French president, advised U.S. allies in the region to keep quiet. More recently, Michel Barnier, now the French foreign minister, lectured east European governments for lacking a "European reflex." So as reports of strong French opposition to the European Union's constitution have filtered out in recent weeks, the students have become restless, confused and smart-alecky. Some in Poland were baffled by the idea that Europe's constitution, a document that was drafted by a former French president and codifies laws in a Napoleonic style, could be undone by the French themselves. It was roundly defeated Sunday, with more than 57 percent voting against it, according to Interior Ministry projections. "This is beyond the possibility of understanding for the typical Pole," said Tadeusz Iwinski, a member of Parliament reached by telephone as he toured his constituency north of Warsaw. "They say, 'How can the people who invented the EU and even to some extent who imposed the text of the constitution on us, now be against it?
That's a very good question. The ultimate answer, at the risk of sounding too simplistic, is that not enough French people believe in a Greater Europe deep in their bones. Great leaders might have persuaded them through honesty and passion and charisma, but such leaders were manifestly not present. Now an era of confusion and flux looms for Europe. It is not a happy result, perhaps. But it is the reality that must be forcibly understood by European leaders if they can hope to turn around this debacle. If instead they insist on saying: "these were but French domestic troubles", "the show goes on after a spot of reflection", "it was but a plebescite on Jacques" and so on it will mean yet again that no one is fundamentally addressing the basic issues that must be confronted head on. Why a Greater Europe? For what end? What does it mean, really, for the man on the street? Why should he support it? Because the old demons of intra-European wars could be resucitated if he doesn't? But this scare mongering falls flat. This is too unthinkable in today's Europe (though, of course, who knows what the future may hold...). To face off against the dastardly Americans and Chinese? Perhaps, but first how about a steady job, frank talk about crime and immigration issues, better than anemic economic growth, etc. etc. seems to be the retort.
Never in recent European history has the need for fresh leadership and real statesmanship cried out as it does today. It's well past time to shed the tired nostrums about "multipolarity," and "humanism" and the savageries of les Anglo-Saxons. What is needed now is courageous leadership, frank talk, significant economic reforms. But there are too few leaders willing or capable of bringing this about, I fear. In the alternative, then, more drift and discontent appear to loom. This can only really help the hard left and hard right, over the long term. No one should wish this. In the short term, I guess, many will simply keep their fingers crossed and await the emergence of potential saviors like Angela Merkel in Germany or Nicolas Sarkozy in France. Should they assume power in the coming months and years, they will certainly have their work cut out for them. The task of putting the European project back on track will be monumental (This wasn't a mini-hiccup. It was a massive setback). And must likely first start with putting right the stagnation afflicting the two continental European behemoths Germany and France. Yes, all politics are local. Get your hands dirty and fix up here first, the voters seemed to say, before turning to the grand and utopic designs of constructing a 25 nation-bloc Euro-zone. They said this loudly, they said this in large number, they said this quite convincingly. Do the removed European political elites, huddled in conference rooms in Lisbon and Brussels and Strasbourg, do they get this? I'm not convinced they do, but I certainly hope so. If ever there were a time for reinvigorated, intelligent leadership the time is now. And especially in France and Germany. The current leaders there have simply failed their peoples. They need to go. Soon.
(Greg Djerejian in The Belgravia Dispatch, May 30, 2005)
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Next time there's a war in Europe, the loser has to keep France-Boycott all French products!
"In France, Chirac, whose term is up in 2007, teeters on the threshold of lame duck status. He has a rival in Nicolas Sarkozy, president of their Gaullist party, who argues that the glorious no-risk, no-change, no-growth French social model for Europe is a non-export product that has meant more than 10 percent French unemployed. As for Chirac's view of a multipolar world, divided into irreconcilable groupings like Europe, China and the United States, Sarkozy dismisses it as confrontational and artificial"
I've been crying all day, Crockydile(tm) tears for jockstrapchirac :)
Well then, they are the French.
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