Monday, May 30, 2005

French say No

Yesterday the French people called a halt to the high speed train that was European integration. Personally I'm confused and conflicted about the whole idea and direction of Europe. However as each new treaty goes by I am gradually drifting into the Euro skeptic camp, so I think yesterdays result was a good one. Somehow we seem to have gotten into a situation where an economic trading block has suddenly turned into a new government that for the most part is unaccountable to the voters and seems to be proud of its unaccountable status.

France was the second referendum on the European constitution. Spain already voted and the result was "largely positive" (that's the phrase used in the press release but 77% in favor seems Very Positive to me). The rest of the nations that have ratified the constitution have done so at government level and not by putting the matter to the public vote. Therefore the EU press statement following the French result states that 49% of the population of the EU have ratified the constitution.

To me the French result actually devalues the Yes results in those countries. The French government was willing to ratify the treaty, it was the French people who were against it. How do we know the true opinions of the people in the countries that have ratified the treaty already if they haven't been allowed vote?

One commentator on TV last night (I believe it was Louis Michel one of the EU commissioners, but I may be mistaken there were so many commentators on last night) said that the treaty process could only be stopped by a unanimous vote. That is not how it is supposed to be. The treaty was supposed to be passed by a unanimous vote.

While I am basically in favor of the EU I am growing concerned at the way those in Brussels seem to have become disconnected from the people. They are pushing ahead with EU expansion and integration, with the best of intentions, but without fully understanding that people are not an enthused. People are still nationalistic, they like to protect what they have and they want to maintain their own individual identity. Pushing them now to accept a more integrated EU may actually end up undoing previous work and set the whole process back years.

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