Monday, May 30, 2005

French Reject European Constitution

Snippets from an Associated Press report:

In a stunning rejection of the European Union's latest ambitious move to unite its 25 nations, French voters shot down the bloc's first constitution, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the charter and humiliating President Jacques Chirac.

About 55 percent of voters opposed the treaty — the first rejection in Europe. France's repudiation came ahead of Wednesday's referendum in the Netherlands, where polls show even more resistance to the constitution, and had EU leaders scrambling to do damage control.

Why, you ask, did the French reject this constitution?

Chirac argued that the constitution would streamline EU decision-making and make the bloc more accessible to its 450 million citizens. But opponents feared it would strip France of its sovereignty and generous social system and trigger an influx of cheap labor.

That's right. It didn't guarantee enough socialism.

ChicagoBoyz had this comment:

The fact that anti-Americanism drove much of the vote doesn’t bother me at all. I don't want people to like us nearly as much as I want them to be able to govern themselves the way they see fit, have real elections with real consequences, and get the benefits and bear the consequences of those decisions. If the French don't want capitalisme sauvage or anglo-saxonisme or hyper-liberalisme, OK by me. They are free to have as much socialism as they can get away with.

But back to the AP report. As is typical of the ruling elite in Europe, options are presented to the people only when the people will make the right decision. What happens when the plebeians make the wrong choice?

The constitution's main architect, former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, said countries that reject the treaty will be asked to vote again.

Wonderful, Valery. Mark Steyn of the Chicago Sun-Times echoes a similar sentiment:

So, a couple of days before the first referendum, Jean-Claude Juncker, the "president" of the European Union, let French and Dutch voters know how much he values their opinion: "If at the end of the ratification process, we do not manage to solve the problems, the countries that would have said No, would have to ask themselves the question again," "President" Juncker told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.

Got that? You have the right to vote, but only if you give the answer your rulers want you to give. But don't worry, if you don't, we'll treat you like a particularly backward nursery school and keep asking the question until you get the answer right. Even America's bossiest nanny-state Democrats don't usually express their contempt for the will of the people quite so crudely.

Well said.

The Times of London isn't so worried about France's "no" vote:

Yet it is hard to claim that the practical implications of losing the constitution will be huge. The EU will muddle on, as it always has done, implementing only what it chooses rather than what it notionally has agreed. Even if the constitution were ratified, the EU would still ignore bits of it.

You have only to look at the scrapping, in effect, over the past 15 months, of the financial rules supposed to govern the eurozone. Although these are a central part of the constitution, France and Germany have found them inconveniently tough. They have now been watered down until they are almost meaningless.

Translation: the (unelected) bureaucrats in Brussels are going to do what they want to anyway, regardless of these meaningless elections.

And click here if you want to see a red-state/blue-state map of France for this election. It might surprise you.


Anonymous said...

France voted a big Non, but let's not get too carried away with what it means. It was a 55-45 vote, after all. And you have to assume that the average French voter is as well informed as the average American voter.

Darren said...

My experience has been that European voters are a little more informed than the average American, but I guess that point is up for grabs.

It was 55-45, but turnout was huge. And the Dutch gave it an even bigger drubbing. How many countries have submitted this constitution to a vote of the people, and how many have approved it? I think the answer to the first question is 2 and the answer to the second question is 0. The other countries that have approved the constitution did so by governmental decision, not popular vote.

Anonymous said...

hmmm. I'm thinking that much of the analysis that is being presented in the US press is really missing the point.

This is about power and control; no more, no less.

The reasons for voting yes or no vary from one European state to the next, but in the case of France, it's all about how much power is gained or ceded, and by whom.

former president Giscard d'Estaing's reponse is telling, and has been seen before: if the referendum goes the wrong way, we need to hold it again until we get the "right" answer. This particular disregard for democracy (wishful thinking in this case) exists because certain politicians want to make a play for creating ever more powerful positions for themselves. Valery has already been president of France - so what's next for him? There is a long history of retired politicians seeing the opportunity for creating new more powerful positions for themselves in a larger superstate.

All this stuff about social programs, influx of labor etc is mostly hot air. For French voters, it's all about the balance of power in the central European Franco-German axis, and particularly about the flow of money from member states into agricultural subsidies.

Bottom line: the senior politicians have one view, and the general population has another. Politicians want more powerful roles for themselves, the general population is, in general, horrified at the possibility of ceding state-level representative control to a superstate in which they have less influence.

Ideally, this result would cause a halt to the obnoxious European integration project. Unfortunately, I'm not that hopeful. We'll wait and see.


PS - I don't think the red state/blue state map actually tells you very much, other than that the vote split was mostly evenly distributed across the country. I don't think the issues involved in any way translate into a red state/blue state set of views in the way that Americans would consider them.