May 30 2005

France’s EU Dead, Will Another Rise Up

Published by at 9:25 am under All General Discussions,EU Constitution

I think the resounding defeat in France of the flawed EU constitution was a very good thing indeed. Chirac is hopefully going to be politically crippled and some fresh conversation and debate may be possible.

Some good coverage linked to at Drudgereport. What will be intersting is the difference between the EU coverage and that of the US Media. I think the US media will be taking this the hardest.

Drudge had this BBC report:

Almost 55% of people voted “No”, with 45% in favour. Turnout was high, at about 70%.

That is a very high turnout and therefore a solid statement.

In the UK, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the result raised “profound questions” about the direction of Europe.

What will be the question is whether the EU political class is brazen enough to go where the people are not ready to go. The concept of the future EU is in question, not the EU itself. A serious leader will recognize that.
A Washington Post article replays the myths about the EU constitution:

Backers said the constitution, which European leaders signed in October, would streamline EU operations and decision-making, and make the bloc more accessible to its 450 million citizens. The text would give the EU a president and foreign minister so it could speak with one voice in world affairs.

I wish it was like that. It had some elements to step toward opening markets (what the radicals latched onto) but there was no direct election of EU leaders. And who in Europe wants or needs one voice in the UN?

Another WashPost story had this tidbit:

But it will freeze efforts to give more authority to the central European government in Brussels, such as the power to set foreign policy as well as to regulate fisheries, housing and myriad other issues.

Why would Europe try and regulate housing at the EU level as opposed the nation/state level? This is exactly why this failed. The folks in Brussels overreached.

But David Ignatius has it right:

Living in France for four years, I came to appreciate what a wonderful country it is, with a quality of life that is truly the envy of the world. Not surprisingly, it is also an intensely conservative country, for all its reputation for liberality. Whatever their class, age or political orientation, French people want to conserve what they’ve got. They want to maintain inflexible management and labor unions, six-week vacations, a 35-hour workweek — and also to be a growing, dynamic, entrepreneurial economy. Chirac never had the guts to tell the French they couldn’t have it both ways. He never explained that rigid labor rules had led to a high unemployment rate, currently 10.2 percent.

Interestingly enough, Blair is soon to become the head of the EU and he is just the type of leader Europe need right now. At least he sounds like it:

But I think that underneath all this there is a more profound question, which is about the future of Europe and, in particular, the future of the European economy and how we deal with the modern questions of globalisation and technological change. And how we ensure the European economy is strong and is prosperous in the face of those challenges.”

He said the constitution was a “perfectly sensible set of rules to govern Europe”, but there was a “bigger debate now in Europe”.

“The question that is being debated by the people of Europe is how do you, in this era of globalisation, make our economies strong and competitive? What is the European social model, the social protection in today’s world?

He added: “With the emergence of powers like China, we have a very, very competitive global environment; how do we ensure that the living standards of our citizens rise?

The Dutch vote is next on Wednesday. And already there are signs the political elite and media eilte (is there really any difference?) are separated from the spirit of the people:

The response to last night’s vote has revealed a clear split between the Dutch political establishment and the mainstream media on one side, and the majority of the people on the other.

“Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch Prime Minister, reacted with genuine disappointment. He has been quoted as saying that the French vote makes it all the more reason for his people to vote yes. He is arguing passionately that the Dutch should ignore what the French have done and make their own minds up.

“The Dutch media has also reacted with disappointment. The media here is generally pro-Europe and the central point being made this morning is that the constitution is now effectively dead.

“The most important reaction, however, is the reaction of the people. The most recent opinion poll has now pushed the ‘no’ vote up to 60 per cent. This would be an incredible, resounding ‘no’ – far more emphatic even than the French result.

The EU is losing the support of the people, it is that simple. The EU needs to change direction, that is obvious.

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