The French vote on May 29th and President Chirac is panicked about faltering public support. Pro-Constitutional forces -- particularly the Brussels bureaucrats the Constitution empowers -- have become Chicken Little:
Former European Commission president Romano Prodi has warned that a French No to the European Constitution would mean the "fall of Europe".Luxembourg Premier Jean-Claude Juncker frets, "France will lose its pride of place in Europe if it rejects the constitution." And in Britain, debate about the draft Constitution is dominating both Tory and Labour campaigns for the May 5th general election.
In an interview with French newspaper Journal du Dimanche (24 April), Mr Prodi said that a French rejection of the document on 29 May would result in "no more Europe".
"We will go through a great period of crisis. The problem will not only be a catastrophe for France, but the fall of Europe."
Opponents of the constitution complain of empowering a centralized bureaucracy, lack of voter accountability, increased red-tape regulation and the probable hostility to competition and free markets. Quite unintentionally, French Justice Minister Dominique Perben revealed the principal problem: "This constitutional treaty is an enlarged France. It is a Europe written in French." Christopher Caldwell agrees:
Ever since France, Germany, Italy, and the Low Countries united in a common market half a century ago, Europe-wide cooperation has taken place on France's terms.That can't be good.
Surprisingly, the French opposition disagrees, says Daniel at Bloggledygook:
The No campaigners, ironically, have been able to portray the constitution as giving the "Anglo Saxons" too much influence. . .Indeed, that's why the French government favors ratification:
Presently, the EU has in place protectionist rules that make it difficult for individuals and businesses to sell their services outside their home market. This is a big deal because this sector accounts for half of the aggregate economy of Europe. French businesses and labor unions are worried that removing the restrictions would damage their businesses because the comparatively high wages and benefits currently paid to French workers would mean that businesses and jobs would be lost to countries with lower-wage employees.
- President Chirac: "This text is the crowning of what one could call the French vision for Europe, against the Anglo-Saxon vision, purely free-trade, intergovernmental and souverainiste. This Constitution was wanted by France, and is largely inspired by France."
- Budget Minister Jean-François Copé: "To vote 'yes' is to show one's attachment to the French model and one's refusal of the Anglo-Saxon or Polish model."
- Minister for Transport and Tourism Giles de Robien: "A 'no' vote is an open door to an Anglo-Saxon Europe."
It's all quite mysterious. Perhaps French logic relies on untranslatable idioms. Alternatively, the French might be insane. Still, a "no" vote won't change much: The EU has a history of disregarding democracy, says Lancelot Finn:
Why did the Irish referendum [on the 1992 Maastricht Treaty] have to be held twice? Because the first time, the Irish didn’t give the answer that Euro-elites wanted. This has happened before: Denmark, too, held a second referendum after they rejected the Maastricht treaty. When the Euro-elite wants something, “no” is considered a temporary answer, “yes” a permanent one. Repeated referendums are the only tip of the iceberg of “democratic deficit.”The reason for Europe's autocracy? Paternalism: "The Euro-elites, like many visionaries, are reluctant to let their plans be contingent on voters. Voters are unreliable. They do things like vote for Le Pen." Put differently, in Europe, the ends justify the means.
More evidence Europe's no role model. Unless you enjoy the falling sky.
MaxedOutMama further analyzes Europe's "democracy deficit" and also links to this must-read article by Charles Wyplosz:
The French regard with great sadness their declining status and prestige - not only in world politics, but also in culture, science and, importantly, language. Europe, in their view, was always a way of reclaiming world influence. . .And in his Weekly Standard piece on the new Pope, Joseph Bottum is pessimistic about Europe:
[But] successive EU enlargements over the decades have brought in other powerful contenders, chiefly Spain and the UK, as well as smaller countries that are unwilling to bow before French-German leadership. In short, France has lost control of Europe. This is not new, but it has only recently started to sink in, and it hurts.
France is also economically wounded. Here is a country that has long cherished its "exception" from the normal rules of market economics, a foggy view that rejects both central planning and free markets and claims to offer a well-balanced middle ground. The French do not care that they have never been able to articulate their vision of a "third way," for they remain deeply convinced that the state has a key role to play in steering markets in order to defend "higher" values from the single-minded pursuit of materialism.
This view, propagated since World War II by a quasi-Marxist intelligentsia, is so ingrained that the French do not even bother to understand how markets operate. They look upon economics as an ideological battleground, where all views can be entertained without being confronted with logic, much less with facts.
Does anyone doubt that Western Europe is tumbling downward? It cannot summon the will to reproduce itself. It has aborted and contracepted its birthrate down toward demographic disaster: perhaps 1.4 children per couple across the western end of the continent, when simple replacement requires a rate around 2.1. It can discover neither how to absorb nor how to halt the waves of Islamic immigrants swamping its cities, and it has proved supine in the face of those immigrants' anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism, and even anti-Europeanism.Sixteen hundred years ago, a magnificant and unified culture disintigrated because, among other things, "the long period of peace and the uniform government of the Romans gradually extinguished the industry and creativeness of the people, as well as the military discipline and valour of the soldiers [and] the multiplication of oppressive taxes was countered and evaded by the rich, who shifted the burden to the poor, who in turn also dodged them and fled." Sound familiar? If the EU was aiming for empire, there's a job opening for a new Gibbon to chronicle its decline and fall.
Meanwhile, Western Europe's economies are soft, its unemployment rates are shocking, and its emerging continent-wide government is elitist and antidemocratic. Its people are hedonists and materialists, its soccer clubs are nativist militias in waiting, its churches are empty. . . The newly elected Pope Benedict XVI has just inherited the world's greatest pulpit, but, on his home continent at least, there's hardly anyone in the pews to listen.
The view from Holland, in the April 28th London Times:
Europe, for the Dutch, has lost its allure. Few politicians now call for an ever-closer union. Even fewer see in Brussels a model of efficiency, probity or accountability. The Dutch are to vote on the European constitution three days after the French referendum. Disillusioned with EU bureaucracy, resentful that they pay a disproportionately high share of the EU’s rising costs and fearful of losing their national identity, the Dutch may vote decisively against. . .
Several factors contribute to this unease. The first is disgust at the way the French and German governments conspired to destroy the Stability Pact, revealing that in the EU some animals are far more equal than others. Dutch enthusiasm for the single market has also been tempered by the feeling that other Europeans have taken advantage of, or abused, Dutch liberalism, which was the cultural cornerstone of the country. However, the Dutch have come to realise that its generosity has been abused in Brussels, where true liberalism is seen by many as weakness.
Nowhere has this issue been more controversial than in the field of immigration. The large number of recent immigrants has strained Dutch social security budgets at time when economic retrenchment has forced painful cuts. Some immigrants have not only failed to integrate into Dutch society, but even actively oppose, as sinful and corrupt, its liberal values. With the murder of the right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn, and the more recent killing of a controversial film-maker by Muslim extremists, many Dutch fear that their hospitality and tolerance have been exploited by the intolerant.