A leftist militant waves a placard reading 'No to the constitution and to (French President Jacques) Chirac's government' in Paris Sunday, May 29, 2005, after early projections suggested that the 'no' bloc had gathered a decisive majority of the votes in a referendum on the European Union's constitution, a result that if confirmed would deal a severe blow to the ambitious efforts to further unite the 25-nation bloc. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
According to the Times (London), the French electorate sent,
a message of defiance to their own political establishment and leaving European plans for closer integration in tatters.Alas, Chirac isn't quitting, nor is the Constitution (much less the EU) doomed. The EU's current president, Jean-Claude Juncker, already proposed re-voting. True, French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin previously rejected a second vote. But Raffain's about to be ex-prime minister and his possible successors (Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin and Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie) might well declare a "do-over;" they've done it before.
The result was announced by a sombre President Chirac [English translation here], who had personally called the referendum and thrown his political weight behind a document meant to lay down the rules for European cooperation in the coming decades. . .
“It’s a massive ‘no’, a heavy rejection of the Constitution and a huge humiliation for President Chirac,” said Charles Bremner, Times correspondent in Paris.
M. Chirac is now expected to sack his prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, and reshuffle his Cabinet in response to the voter rejection. But leading Eurosceptics, including the far right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, said it was the President himself who should be forced from office.
Even without a re-try, the EU Constitution's like a horror movie monster: so long as a sequel's possible, neither are allowed to die. Indeed, as EU Referendum documents, Eurocrats already launched "plan wiggle-out" based on the suddenly-important "Declaration 30," as detailed in a study by the Instituto Affari Internazionali called "The European Constitution: How to proceed if France or the Netherlands votes 'no'." Though the authors admit the approval process treats "all member states [as] equal as far as ratification (or non-ratification) is concerned. All it takes is one “no” to block it," such simple logic's strictly for suckers:
Declaration no. 30 annexed to the [Constitution] reads: “The Conference notes that if, two years after the [draft Constitution was finalized], four fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter will be referred to the European Council.” This statement is important for various reasons. . .But, I hear you say, once any Member State rejects a Constitution requiring unanimity, none of its provisions -- including Declaration 30 -- is or could be binding. After France (or the Netherlands or others) vote "no," the Constitution should be unenforceable and Declaration 30 moot. But never fear, says the Italian think tank (emphasis added):
The first concerns the convening of the European Council. If at least four fifths of the Member States (that is twenty) have ratified the treaty within two years of signature, the European Council is obliged to meet to examine the situation. . . Secondly, and this is the point that interests us, no member state [i.e., the perfidious Albion] may decide to stop the ratification process because, for example, another state has chosen not to ratify. . .
From a legal point of view, the conclusions that can be drawn from Declaration no. 30 are sufficiently precise: . . .
[I]f at least twenty states have ratified the [Constitution] within two years, the member states are called on to do everything possible within the European Council to safeguard the future of the [Constitution] or at least its contents.
There is no point in objecting that Declaration no. 30, in that it is annexed to the [Constitution], has no legal value until the [Constitution] enters into force. It is obvious that there are provisions, even in treaties subject to ratification, that become effective from the time the treaty is signed. This is true of those relative to ratification and entry into force of the treaty or conduct pending the latter (Art 24.4 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties). Nor can it be said that a declaration like the one in question is not binding in that it is a mere expression of intent. The legal value of a declaration annexed to a treaty does not depend on its denomination but rather on its content.Even for the EU, this is astoundingly lawless, authoritarian and anti-democratic. Though Humpty Dumpty hermeneutics might be appropriate "Through the Looking Glass," it's hardly the stuff of representative government. And the Vienna Convention "pre-authorizes" only provisions about ratification; obviously, a country rejecting the Constitution cannot be bound by Council actions authorized under Declaration 30.
As previously noted, Sunday's rejection was ironic: citoyen Frog stampeded fearing the Constitution locked-in "Anglo-Saxon" free-market competition--Quelle horreur! The Dutch, who vote this Wednesday, likely will say "nee" because the Constitution's too statist. In fact, the Constitution -- drafted by a commission headed by former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing -- would codify, "a centralized bureaucracy, lack of voter accountability, increased red-tape regulation and the probable hostility to competition and free markets."
Who's right, the Dutch or the French? Actually, both. Opponents of all political stripes spotlighted the disconnect between European elites and Europeans. The Economist supported rejection for three reasons:
First, it cuts down on the range of political choices open to national electorates—and thus is anti-democratic and liable to provoke a backlash. Second, the EU is capable of producing some remarkably awful policies, which because of its consensual way of policymaking become almost impossible to change once established and eventually risk discrediting the whole project. . . Finally, it is more likely that good policy will be promoted in Europe by the power of example than by fiat from Brussels.The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol agrees and he's optimistic about post-rejection Europe:
It's hard for Americans to appreciate just how 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. . .The EU's better off without a Constitution, or at least unencumbered by the current, 448 article, beast. Countries still planning a vote shouldn't slip Constitutional implementation through the legislative back door. This is one monster that should be allowed to die.
Holland's Europe minister, Atzo Nicolai, a supporter of the constitution, acknowledges that "people say that too many important changes have been made without real debate--and they are right about that." So the debate over the constitution opens up the prospect for a broader debate, and a chance for wider rethinking--of Europe's failing welfare states and growth-stultifying, upward-mobility-denying economies; of its failing immigration and multiculturalism policies; of its anti-Americanism and coolness to the cause of freedom and democracy around the world; of its failure to be serious about the threats confronting it and us. All of these are now legitimate subjects of public discussion.
Sunday's vote is good news. France's rejection allows Europe to re-think their atrophied democracy and present preference for government over liberty. Should the EU try again, Americans willingly would share the first three words of our Constitution: "We the People."
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