The French have voted "non" on the EU constitution by a vote of 55% to 45%. By doing so they have disrupted the current version of the EU constitution but that's about all. Despite the widespread alarmism in the media about the possibility of a "non" vote, this vote has much to do with domestic French politics and will ultimately have only moderate effect on the EU as an institution. One thing is certain, this was not a vote to withdraw from the EU. I've heard many people declare that it is. I even heard a Professor from the French department tell his students a no vote would mean that France would withdraw from the EU and that this would therefore be a "blow against global capitalism." Well folks, that's why you shouldn't let French professors teach political science courses.
Another misconception is that this was the first referendum to be held. Spain has already ratified the constitution by referendum and a number of other member states, including Germany and Italy, have ratified it through parliamentary votes.
There are a number of factors that observers in Europe believe led to the no vote. Only a few have anything to do with the realities of France's relationship to the European Union. Some voters voted no because they think that the EU is a capitalist conspiracy. Others voted no because they think the EU is a socialist conspiracy. Still others voted no because they are nationalists who oppose any international cooperation on principle. And many voted no simply to humiliate a deeply unpopular President Chirac (who supported it along with the leaders of all three of the largest parties in France). From my point of view this says that the real story behind this no vote is one of protest.
France has suffered for years from chronicly bad government. Its entire welfare state is structured around archaic and inefficient professional priviledges that are jealously guarded by unions and professional associations that go out on strike at the drop of a hat. Other countries have far more efficient welfare states that are at least as generous (Denmark comes to mind). French voters are rightly upset about the stagnation of their economy. And their no vote is an expression of that general "malaise."
However, in my opinion, blaming the EU for that malaise is too easy a way out. There are too many other EU member states that have better economic performance and have been members for just as long to claim that the EU is the cause of their stagnation.
Comments? Post Mortems? (Posts Mortem??)
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 7:28 PM