Monday, May 30, 2005


The French public have rejected the proposed European constitution in a referendum. Given that the constitution requires the unanimous assent of all EU members, this means it is effectively dead. So what happens next?

Well, in a way, nothing much. The current EU system, cobbled together over the past 50 years or so, will continue. France is not withdrawing from the EU. What they have rejected is progress - in particular, progress towards tighter political integration. And they've also rejected both the process of expansion which has made political integration necessary, and future expansion to include Turkey. The problem is that neither the EU's new members or the consequent need for a better and more democratic system of governance are going to go away. This doesn't mean that the proposed constitution is the only solution, but it or something very much like it is necessary if Europe is to continue down the path it has set for itself.

Much of the rest of Europe seems to want to continue along that path. Nine countries have already ratified the constitution. It is up to them to convince the French public that the European project is still worth pursuing.


I think the answer may be that the EU needs to become more democratic - e.g. by having the president and commission directly appointed. This idea is strongly opposed by Eurosceptics, as it would legitimize the mechanism, whilst they prefer it to remain undemocratic so that they can attack it.

Posted by Rich : 5/30/2005 01:19:00 PM

Well, that's not quite true. The Dutch look likely to reject it, as do the Brits, so its not as if France is the odd one out here. And the there's a large degree of Euroscepticism right across Europe, from the Baltic to Scandinavia to Britain. The Economist has some great articles about the Constitution and the so-called 'democratic deficit' it enshrines and exacerbates in Europe.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/30/2005 01:53:00 PM

To listen to the rhetoric of the various groups behind the 'Non' campaign talk last night and this morning you'd think that, rather than expressing an opinion on the draft EU constitution, the French were actually just voting about how they feel about Chirac and his government in this referendum. One thing seems certain, no-one except the UK Tories is under the illusion that the French were voting solely on whether or not they liked the look of the constitution. It was a ridiculous move to put this to a binding referendum in the first place. However, since that mistake has already been made, it will be interesting to see what the French and the other EU member-states make of it now. I can't help feeling very strongly that the French have well and truly shot themselves in the foot. But only time will tell.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/30/2005 08:08:00 PM

Anon: the solution is to make the EU more democratic. There have already been positive steps in this direction (look at the European Parliament's acquisition of a veto over commission appointments), and I think the constitution, while far from perfect, would still have been a positive step.

Frankly if the UK rejects it, I think the rest of Europe would just go on without them. They've shown time and again that they're not interested in being a full part of it, and I think the other countries would finally take them at their word.

Berlinbear: many of those who voted "non" seem pro-Europe; they just disagree on what that Europe should look like (whether it be because they want more french influence or less capitalism). But there's very definitely still support for the European project there, which is encouraging.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/31/2005 12:53:00 AM

I just noticed my typo - I meant "having the president and commission directly elected" - oops!

Posted by Rich : 6/01/2005 09:06:00 AM