Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

May 29, 2005

French Vote Non

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:46 pm

Earlier today, French voters rejected ratification of a proposed European Constitution, by a vote of 55.5% to 44.5%. Part of the problem, perhaps, was that the proposed constitution is 448 articles and more than 460 pages long, which means almost none of the voters could possibly have had time to read it. Which is probably responsible for one of the other problems, which is that people can’t agree on what the proposed constitution says or would do. As Gerald Baker notes in the Weekly Standard,

Part of the confusion about what on earth happens if the treaty is rejected is due to the fact that nobody can agree on what this constitution actually does. In France, the opposition is led by socialists and trade unionists who argue the new system will usher in a capitalist nightmare of longer working hours, low taxation, and free trade. … In Britain, the opposition is well entrenched but diametrically the opposite of its counterparts in France, arguing that the constitution will produce a socialist nightmare that will saddle business with all kinds of regulations.

I think a more important factor may be that, simply, the French would like France to remain an independent country, rather than merely a component of a European super-state.

[I]t formally establishes a single European foreign minister and diplomatic service to implement a single foreign policy, a goal first laid out in European negotiations a decade ago. … The constitution also confers rights on “European citizens,” most notably through the introduction of a Charter of Fundamental Rights, which covers, among others, the “right to work.”

The principal effect of the constitution, however, is to confirm and accelerate the central tendency of the E.U. over the last 50 years to send power to the center, to the European level, while eroding national sovereignty in everything from economic policy to foreign and defense policy. The constitution is, the German minister for European affairs said earlier this year, “the birth certificate of the United States of Europe.”

Not too long ago, the ratification of the European Constitution was regarded — by the euro-elites anyway — as inevitable. Now, with one of the three largest countries rejecting it, the elites are declaring Europe to be “in chaos,” in the words of London’s Financial Times. The politicians — and the intellectuals, bureaucrats, and journalists — literally do not understand how the common people could have disobeyed them. As William Kristol notes,

It’s hard for Americans to appreciate just how out-of-touch the establishment (and it really is a single establishment) of Paris, Berlin, the Hague, and Brussels is. Its arrogance almost beyond belief. Former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the father of the 448-article constitution, early on in the campaign dismissed complaints about the document’s opacity by assuring his countrymen, “The text is easily read and quite well phrased, which I can say all the more easily since I wrote it myself.” As Ivan Rioufol of Le Figaro, writing in the Wall Street Journal, commented, “The French didn’t know whether he was simply cynical or unaware of the absurdity of his statement. And so he became a caricature of the self-obsessed, aloof politician.”

Gerald Baker also reminds us that Nikita Khrushchev once said that only trouble with free elections is that you never know who’s going to win. That’s the “trouble” in dictoratorships — in democracies, that’s precisely the point, and the benefit, of elections. Democracies have one way of dealing with elections: they abide by the results, whatever they are. Dictatorships have at least three: They can not have elections, can rig elections, or can have elections and ignore the results. Europe seems to be in danger of taking that last option, which is tantamount to abandoning the mantle of democracy. Last week, as opinion polls began to show the likelihood of a French “No” vote, it was reported in the [London] Times that,

Turmoil as Chirac plots to disregard ‘non’ vote

President Chirac of France is preparing to throw Europe into confusion and put Britain on the spot by backing moves to keep the European constitution alive if it is rejected in Sunday’s referendum.

French diplomats say that M Chirac is expected to urge other countries to proceed with ratification because France does not want to be seen to be blocking the European project.

Joe’s Dartblog:

This Ireland Online report quotes Chirac as saying, “It is your decision, it is your sovereign decision and I take note of it.”

‘Take note?’

Pejman Yousefzadeh, repsonding to the same quote:

I wonder if this comment was made with a “The people have spoken; the bastards” tone in Chirac’s voice.

And further:

If the French rejected the EU constitution simply because they didn’t understand what was so pressing about integration, then that is one issue. But if anti-capitalists and fascists are the main forces behind this rejection, then the ramifications of this vote will be quite worrisome. And those ramifications will cause us to rightfully worry anew about the state of Old Europe.

Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters:

The far left and far right in France are celebrating tonight on the streets of Paris, delighted in their rejection of the sensible market-based reforms that the rest of Europe wants. They may have won the battle, but that victory will only be temporary, and will consign them to second-tier status in Europe from this point forward.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, as part of a large round-up of blog-posts:

It’s possible that this is a mere bump in the road, although it’s a big one. On the other hand, it’s possible that this is the beginning of a significant political shift in Europe, which I suspect will be a good thing if it happens.

The EU Referendum Blog, via Samizdata:

Pending announcement of the French result, this Blog has received an intriguing document produced by the Instituto Affari Internazionali, entitled “The European Constitution: How to proceed if France or the Netherlands votes ‘no’“.

In short, the authors conclude that, in the event of one or both countries voting “no”, the ratification process should be neither suspended nor abandoned. They assert that all member states have expressed a commitment to proceed with ratification by virtue of Declaration 30, appended to the Constitutional Treaty. Member states cannot unilaterally or collectively decide to change the ratification process.

Thus, member states which have not already ratified should continue with the process whence, once 20 members have done so, the matter should be referred to the European Council.

In the meantime, the authors caution that “the European Union must not remain paralysed”. Rather, they say, “it must continue and intensify its efforts to relaunch its policies, even by implementing in advance, where possible, the provisions of the Treaty that do not meet with open opposition”.

Thus, the considered response in the event of a rejection of the constitution should be “full steam ahead”. Member states should implement it even faster than they are doing already.

So what, precisely, do we have to do to stop this thing?

There was a time when “No means yes” was used to “justify” imposing something other than a constitution on someone without that person’s consent. Perhaps that’s what’s being done to European non-elites now.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress