May 30, 2005

SYLVAIN CHARAT looks at the aftermath of France’s E.U. referendum:

Immediately after the vote, European Commission President José Barroso acknowledged this was a serious problem for the Constitution. The UK now wonders whether it should even both to hold its own referendum. The Netherlands is bolstered in its intention to vote No. Poland is puzzled by such a result, especially when the French vilified so much the “Polish Plumber”, a character created to frighten French workers and make them believe the Constitution would open the doors to foreigners who would take their jobs. The Czech Republic can now be more opposed to the treaty. And Italy is wondering if it was too hasty in ratifying it.

Aside from this immediate reaction, a political trend has strengthened. The French referendum was not only about the European Constitutional Treaty, nor Europe itself. It was just a pretence to confirm a widespread feeling in the French political class, to spread fear among workers, to provide a life insurance policy for a close-to-bankruptcy welfare state. It was a referendum about the kind of society France wants. That is why the outcome was already known to most of us: It was No to free trade, and Yes to a collectivist society.

That doesn’t sound promising.

UPDATE: Greg Djerejian has much more, and predicts a political crisis in Europe:

The ultimate answer, at the risk of sounding too simplistic, is that not enough French people believe in a Greater Europe deep in their bones. Great leaders might have persuaded them through honesty and passion and charisma, but such leaders were manifestly not present. Now an era of confusion and flux looms for Europe. It is not a happy result, perhaps. But it is the reality that must be forcibly understood by European leaders if they can hope to turn around this debacle. If instead they insist on saying: “these were but French domestic troubles”, “the show goes on after a spot of reflection”, “it was but a plebescite on Jacques” and so on–it will mean yet again that no one is fundamentally addressing the basic issues that must be confronted head on.

I know which way to bet, based on recent performance. Meanwhile, The Belmont Club notes that it takes a theory to beat a theory, and, weak as the pro-EU arguments are, opponents will have to come up with an approach of their own.

And EurSoc rounds up winners and losers.