Monday, February 21, 2005


The Spanish public has overwhelmingly voted "si" to the EU Constitution in a public referendum. While turnout was low - only 42% - it's still not a bad start for the next stage of European unification. Hopefully the other countries which have scheduled referenda will get this sort of result.

The problem is what happens if they don't. In order to come into effect, the EU COnstitution must be ratified by all 25 member states. And actually, I don't think that's likely. Every country has parties opposed to greater European integration, or nationalist sticking points which stand in the way of ratification - and one of them is almost certain to win some time. What happens then?

The short answer is "nothing" - the process stalls, and Europe continues as it is. But this is unlikely to satisfy the unifiers, and they are likely to seek a way forward for those who want to travel it. The problem is what that way forward would look like, as the natural institutions of governance for a unified Europe - the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers - are already used for governing the not-quite unified Europe, and can't really serve a dual role. Either they'd need to start throwing people out, set up parallel institutions, or find some way of splitting the institutions so that a subset can make decisions which apply only to the unifiers (but then how do they deal with contradictory decisions?)

Ultimately, it's going to come down to numbers. If only one or two nations reject further unification, then they may very well find things going forward without them. If there's a wider rejection, then the whole European project may very well stall for good.


I'm sure the EU will work something out - they always do!

The Eastern states will probably ratify (those that have to - not all countries need a referendum). They rightly see being part of the EU as vitally important.

Some states might not, either through anti-european sentiment or general grumpiness, like Ireland last time. If this happens, the EU will probably convene, make a few cosmetic changes and hold a re-vote.

If one or more states staunchly hold out, then the "nuclear" option is for the core states to leave the EU and reconstitute it as a new body without the rejectors.

In some ways it would be good for Britain for this to happen - the resulting economic disaster would possibly bring them to their senses - but then I don't live there anymore!

Posted by Rich : 2/22/2005 12:13:00 PM

"In some ways it would be good for Britain for this to happen - the resulting economic disaster would possibly bring them to their senses"

hmm Im not sure why the economic disaster if the EU would make the UK want to join.

But more seriously if being part of the EU is such a huge economic advantage then one must wonder how terribly their governments have run their economies to have squandered that advantage in order to achieve snail like growth. Besides - the EU is unlikely to try to destroy the economies of non joining members.

I do beleive the less industrialised states will agree and benefit - it is generaly good for a poorer country to join a richer country. Of course in the long run teaming up with the EU is like chaining your boat to the titanic. Europe has been sinking for the last century or so (more so in the later half) and I find it pretty hard to believe it can stop that trend.

Posted by Genius : 2/22/2005 06:16:00 PM

"teaming up with the EU is like chaining your boat to the titanic".
Is that why the East Asian countries are re-evaluating their currency links to the US$ (S Korea's Reserve bank musings on diversifying its holdings into more Euros caused a wobble on today's exchange markets)? is that why the Central and Eastern European accession states have been growing at 4.6% last year, forcing the big laggards like France and Germany to rethink their welfare working hours laws? Is that why there is a current race to the bottom in flat tax rates, something that even the UK (and US) is baulking at? I can't wait for NZ to join the EU, then we will have input in their rule-making rather than just be rule-takers.
Re: the Constitution: if it doesn't get ratified, they just start again.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 2/23/2005 01:17:00 PM