May 29, 2005

C'est Non!

A rather resounding non. In transit airport blogging, but commenters are invited to ponder the ramifications of this "stinging repudiation." I mean, what next?

UPDATE (flight delayed): More from Le Figaro:

Le non historique du 29 mai

...selon les première estimations, près de 55% d'entre eux ont dit non au Traité constitutionnel européen lors de ce référendum qui a largement mobilisé les Français. Le chiffre de participation atteint des records à près de 70%, largement plus que pour le précédent référendum européen sur le Traité de Maastricht. Ce non massif résonne comme un coup de tonnerre au-dessus du paysage politique français, dont les principaux courants s'étaient engagés pour le oui.

Translation (a hasty one!): According to the first estimates, close to 55% of [French voters] said no to the European constitutional treaty during a referendum that largely mobilized the French public. Voter participation reached records approaching 70%, significantly higher than the previous referendum on the Treaty of Maastricht. This massive no resonates lack a thunderclap across the French political landscape....[emphasis added]

It sure does. And it's certainly not a great day for Jacques Chirac, is it? One might say that he's now completely damaged goods. Pity. Meantime, let's now keep an even closer eye on Sarkozy as '07 looms. Truth be told, it's silly and sophomoric to emptily cheer-lead this historical repudiation of the EU constitution solely because it's such tremendously poor news for Jacques. This story, after all, is much bigger than him, and the ramifications of the "non" vote are not necessarily all positive from a U.S. perspective (much of the opposition to the treaty was from gauchiste free market skeptics; or rightist bigots like Le Pen). What is quite clear, however, is that this referendum is a massive setback to the prospects of a cohesive Euro-zone taking form in the near term (Henry Kissinger would have been able to call a single European Foreign Minister per the rejected Consitution!). Is it a death knell? Oh, who knows? There will doubtless be yet another referendum a few years hence on the issue. Giscard d'Estaing, for instance, is already on the record stating there will have to be a re-vote going forward. But this is a tremendous setback indeed to the entire process of European integration, of course, and it also showcases a massive failure of leadership by the Chirac Administration. They simply were not able to convince their country on the merits of their vision of Europe's future. And carping on about "multipolarity" and the big, bad Anglo-Saxon meanies didn't do the trick, it seems. Tant pis.

Clarification: Yes, I realize that a soundbite for the "non" camp was fear mongering about the savages of Anglo-Saxon style capitalism. My last point above, really, was more to say that Chirac's tactics of drumming up support for a "oui" vote by speaking of a resurgent, unified Europe squaring off against the U.S. didn't bear fruit. In the context of proponents of the "non" vote using the "Anglo-Saxon" soundbite I apologize if my choice of words was confusing to some readers (I've gotten some E-mail on this score). This said, given the massive Germano-French love-fest of late--what with all the bear hugs between Gerhard and Jacques these past years--it was not a stretch to suggest that Chirac's "oui" campaigning often had the look and feel of an attempt to create a German-French union that, in turn, would lead the 'lesser' Europeans. And if the Anglo-Saxon Brits wanted to stay out, so be it. The motor of French-German leadership would have provided the requisite 'multipolar' counterweight against the much pilloried American behemoth, or so the thinking went. Hope that's clearer, and apologies also for a somewhat clumsy translation as a commenter points out. That's what happens when you hastily blog between flights!

Posted by Gregory at May 29, 2005 09:23 PM | TrackBack (8)

In fact France is not split in Right or Left but rather
Working class and a part of middle class
and the rest.
Working class of the left (twho thrid of the left) and of the right (one thrid) vote NO. the rest vote yes.

The far right was for no too. Most people who vote for no came from working Gaullist (Right) or communist.
I think that a No vote is may be rather good for Europe because the way Europe is building now is rather bad.

I mean at the beginning we try to build a Europe trying to copy the most developped country, ie Portugal imitating sweden.
Now it looks like Netherlands must copy Poland.
In fact it's a Europe with an american model.

I mean in the fifties Mississippi trying to have wages of Massachussets.
Now since the 80's the aim is for Connecticut to be like Arkansas.

Posted by: JLS at May 29, 2005 10:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've never understood the logic of returning to voters with an unchanged referendum. It has always seemed to me to be the politicians telling the voters "You don't know what's good for you, we do. Shut up and swallow the pill." It's certainly not limited to Europe, either!

I wonder just how much of "old" Europe the "new" Europe is going to be able to stomach? Vote on the new Constitution... but it you reject it, don't worry, we'll make you vote again until you do pass it. Budget limits? Hey, those are for little countries or new countries like you-all. You pay the penalty and the price when we big countries bust the caps...

There's nothing like democracy in action.

Greg too

Posted by: Greg Brown at May 29, 2005 11:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The EU has the distinct disadvantage of being formed at a time whenpolitical process is much less important than economic performance. Not that economics were not behind the U. S. Constitution, but the evaluation of it transcended the then current economic woes. One of the primary criteria this time semed to be what will it do for unemployment. Based on how Old Europe wants to address this issue versus the way New Europe wants to head, I wonder if European leadership can ever get a document together again to present to the people.

Posted by: Mrs. Davis at May 30, 2005 12:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think it's also important to keep in mind that the EU population is much larger and more diverse than that of the colonies in the late 1780s. (And even the relative homogeneity of the colonies wasn't enough to prevent a civil war 80 years later!) It's not surprising that at this juncture, only 5 decades after the experiment got off the ground, Europeans have doubts about further integration. (Said integration has made some impressive progress over that time span.)

Posted by: Guy at May 30, 2005 12:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That's, "this massive 'no' vote resounds like a thunderclap across the French political landscape, where the leading figures have been committed to a 'yes' vote."

Posted by: David Gillies at May 30, 2005 01:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Don't you love the irony tho ? The Brits who were supposed to be the bad guys for their opposition to surrendering their "individual" rights are usurped by the French Left who want to sacrafice their rights to the good of the State (just that the State wasn't "nanny" enough for them)

Posted by: MaDr at May 30, 2005 01:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Most of the arguments for the European Union are bogus.

For example, some argue that Europe needs to stand together to have more influence in the world, or to stand up to America. But member-states would have limited influence in Europe. And they disagree on whether they want Europe to be a partner (the British preference) or a rival (the French preference) to America.

Or again, some argue that free intra-European trade benefits Europe. Well, sure, but free trade doesn't require a political union. Moreover, free trade within Europe, combined with the common external tariff, may be worse than having each nation set its own tariffs. If Spain, say, wants to form a free-trade bloc with Latin America, it cannot do so thanks to the EU-- even though this might be more valuable to Spain, as well as more humanitarian, since it would benefit development.

It is said that the European Union is necessary to secure peace in Europe. But peace in Europe is over-determined. European countries are democracies, and there has never been a war between democracies. European countries used to fight over territory, but now they are in demographic decline with no need of any more Lebensraum. European countries are still to some extent under American hegemony, and America is willing and able to intervene and prevent, say, a French-German war. The most likely cause of war in Europe would be something related to its federalist aspirations, akin to the American Civil War.

Europe is sometimes considered a worthy transcendence of nasty old nationalisms. Eurocrats seek, so to speak, to create a "new European man" who feels a European, rather than a British or French identity. Yet even if they could succeed in this, what would be morally gained thereby? There is some merit, perhaps, in embracing mankind as a whole, in feeling that all men are brothers. But why Europeans only? Where is the virtue in that? If anything, a European identity merely makes the form of identity seem more racially-based, as if the white nations of Europe, having lost their pre-eminence, are banding together to muster what is left of their strength. It would be better and nobler if Europeans devoted less attention to ties with one another, and more to ties with poorer countries or perhaps Asian countries-- "bridging" rather than "bonding" social capital.

The European Union was inspired in part as an effort to emulate America's bigness. But is bigness so useful or necessary in the world today? What is bigness really good for? Some very small countries, like Singapore and Hong Kong and Dubai, and somewhat larger ones like South Korea and Australia, have thrived. Globalization creates opportunities for small countries to find niches for themselves and to thrive through shrewd policy and trade.

While some aspects of the EU, such as free trade, looser migration, perhaps even the common currency, have been beneficial, in general the Euro-elite's obsession with ever closer union has had a high opportunity cost, and now all their efforts have led nowhere. They say there's no plan B; for now, that may be true. But Europeans should start to think about plans B, and if they're smart, they will find appealing alternatives to which the Union irrelevant, or an obstacle. I don't hope or expect the EU to die. I hope and expect that it will retreat a bit, and what's left of it will be taken for granted as European countries move on to new ideas.

Posted by: Lancelot Finn at May 30, 2005 06:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As has been pointed out, many in France rejected the constitution because they believe that it reeks of 'Anglo-Saxon capitalism' and they would like it to be more socialist.

The fools actually blame the free market for the current decline in their economy.

Here in the UK, we are unlikely to ratify the constitution (if we're given a vote on it). Making it 'more socialist' would make it even less appealing to a post-Thatcherite Britain. In fact I cannot conceive of any variation of this constitution that would appeal to both Britain and France.

It also seems that it is now unlikely that we will be allowed to hold our referendum. This is very unfortunate. We in the UK should be given a chance to discuss and vote on a deeply unpopular EU. I can see much resentment arising otherwise.

Anyway, I very much hope that this is the beginning of the end for the EU Federalist juggernaut and the start of a move toward a looser affiliation of free-trading nations.

Posted by: Steve M at May 30, 2005 09:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Don't assume that French and American people are so different from each other. There is a growing disconnect between political/judicial/economic elites and ordinary people on issues such as trade and immigration and other matters. The intensity of battles over judicial nominations in the US is because political elites on both sides want judges to make all the significant political decisions. These issues have to be dealt with in a more transparent manner or we are in for some ugly politics. Were I a European I probably would be against the EU because it is so elitist in practice. That said however, those who say "non" have no vision except mean-spirited protectionism.

Posted by: jimbo at May 30, 2005 09:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

guys, the idea "EU is so elitist in practice" is not entirely correct. you often disregard the fact that "in practice" EU has real, concrete effects on the ordinary lives of europeans. some of them are negative, many of them are positive. if you don't like the hospital next door you can go abroad for instance, and you may be treated better than you are at home without paying a cent more. and many people do that. you can easily study abroad if you like. you can easily work abroad, no visa required. you can travel without crossing any border. ask the french whether they would like to go back to a pre-maastricht treaty situation, or even to a pre-euro situation, and you would have a resounding vote in favour of europe.

Posted by: zuavo at May 30, 2005 10:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gee, Gregory, what happened over the weekend ???

While you correctly predicted that there would be a NON vote in France, you also seemed not particularly disturbed by any effects likely to flow from that result -- a point I made in my comment, contrasting it with what we said on Friday:

"If Europe now begins to manifest serious structural difficulties, then ALL BETS ARE OFF, and the Millennium Crisis – whose severity has ratcheted up with the various aspects of the Ides of May –

"will become even MORE widespread and all-encompassing than it has been already, which can ONLY spell trouble for a world already reeling with instability and crisis in both the US and the umma Islamiyya"

So obviously, I think your new line is more appropriate -- but I'm wondering why none of this seems to have occurred to you BEFORE the vote you correctly predicted ??? Just wondering, dude ...

That noted, this blog is good ... altho I DO think you might think about making your paragraphs a bit shorter ...

Posted by: Grok Your at May 30, 2005 11:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes, there is a growing gap between the political establishment and the people. Today, 98 percent of the statements explain that a) the vote of the French was not about the constitution (it was about Chirac, fear, whatever), and b) the vote will not stop the constitution. They exactly continue in the manner that the French have opposed with their "no". To put it more shortly: The political elites say that the political elites are right and the people is wrong.

Posted by: ulrich speck at May 30, 2005 12:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Exit polling data can be found here:

They are worth a look, even if your French is all but non-existent.

In Giscard's defense, the alternative to the position he is taking now is to admit that the entire approach of his drafting group was wrong and that the whole draft needs to be rewritten. That's not tenable, even overlooking the fact that nine EU countries have already ratified the thing. A rewrite if it were possible would be a massive undertaking that might not be completed for years.

Posted by: JEB at May 30, 2005 05:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Not entirely good news for US interests. OTOH, it's pretty clear that the EU eilte will finally heed the concerns of the EU public and focus more on internal problems. Which means less attention and resources for grands projets in the international sphere, not only but especially the attempt to challenge the US in areas and regions that have no impact on the EU's growth rate or its ability to protect jobs.

OTOH, where EU foreign policy can indeed protect jobs by bashing the US, we can expect more Gaullism, more German hyperbole about US "bloodsucker" capitalists and the like. So all in all, I think this means less EU meddling in the middle east and less pretentious rhetoric and posturing as the "moral superpower" (Kyoto, debt relief, bashing Israel etc) but also a distinct turn toward both protectionism, esp in the service sectors, and toward much more aggressive trade promotion of big ticket items sold to third world governments like Airbus planes, construction projects by Bouygues, telecom and auto plants etc.

In short, whereas the EU foreign policy used to be a mix of short-term opportunism and more fundamental idealism, the balance now will be very sharply tilted toward opportunism. Less irritating, but not necessarily less harmful to US policy, esp re Iran and China.

This is very, very bad news for cooperation with the EU vs the mullahs. The pressure on France and Germany to get a quick boost to exports by caving in to the mullahs will now be intense. Ditto for EU military exports to China.

Posted by: thibaud at May 30, 2005 07:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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