Saturday, May 28, 2005

Thoughts On The EU Constitution: The French Vote

Tomorrow, the French will vote in a national referendum to either accept or reject the project for a unified European constitution. The news coverage about the vote has been sounding off in recent weeks on the strong anti-treaty feelings in France and the seemingly "certain" victory of the 'NO' vote.

Despite all the polls and predictions speculating that the ‘NO’ camp is ahead several points in the eve of the referendum, I suspect that political observers are in for a surprise tomorrow. I am not dismissing the fact that the nationalist anti-Europe elements in France are strong and that large numbers of independent voters continue to be largely dissatisfied with the current state of the French economy and the political programs of the Chirac-Raffarin administration. Those are realities that no one can contend with, but I believe that somehow, the French will come to get the bigger picture and vote in a manner that is actually inconsistent with the way they have been publicly expressing themselves in the past few months. That is, they publicly express reservations about the constitution, but once alone in the voting booth; they would, although reluctantly, drop the ‘YES’ ballot in the box. Furthermore, one needs to also note that in the eve of the referendum, twenty percent of potential voters are still undecided. The fact that their neighbor and largest partner in the EU, Germany, voted on Friday to accept the treaty may have something to do with how the French vote tomorrow.

What is important to note about Europe in my opinion is that its biggest global impact will always be measured in terms of its economic and market significance. The enlargement and consolidation of Europe guarantee its continued development as a major market and economic player on the global stage. Europe, at least in the short and medium terms can not and will not be able to come together as a huge cohesive political force that would, as some in Europe hope, counteract the US as a second pole in terms of global affairs. Issues such as common foreign and defense policies for Europe are not within reach for the time being and much is yet to be done to resolve the question of national sovereignty versus continental unity in Europe. A good example of that are the nationalist passions raised by the ongoing EU-wide vote on the constitution.

Let us see what happens tomorrow. The vote in France will be close and if the 'YES' vote prevails, the constitution will still have to face a likely 'NO' in Holland and Britain. But either way, let us remember that the EU’s biggest achievements will continue to be economic and market integration and that the political integration still has a long way to go even if the constitution is ratified by all members.


Blogger Jawad said...

Did I get this one wrong or what? I guess Europe is farther away from being a political union than I thought. The political environment in France has changed since the voters there squeezed the Maastricht treaty through. Nonetheless, the vote as I said was facing rejection in Holland and possibly England as well. So, this was not going very far with or without the French. On the other hand, though, France has now big internal political problems to deal with in the upcoming months and years. What is ironic is that the country who is the strongest advocate of a Europe that can act as a second pole in global affairs, rejected the treaty that would have gotten it closer to that goal. Goes to show that nationalist protectionism and national sovereignty are heavy burdens to contend with in a world that has been telling us that integration is the way of the future.

May 30, 2005

Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

From what I hear, they had a problem with the way the Constitution was written, but since I haven't read it, I have no idea what exactly they find objectionable.

May 30, 2005


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