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May 29, 2005 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Non (en anglais)
posted by Turtle (73 comments total)

 
I guess the Brits don't have to worry about being the sole holdouts when they hold THEIR referendum.

Actually the Dutch are said to be even more opposed than the French to the EU Constitution. We'll get to find out Wednesday whether that impression is actually correct.
posted by clevershark at 1:06 PM on May 29, 2005


so what happens now? they amend the constitution, or start over?
posted by amberglow at 1:12 PM on May 29, 2005


There is no actual plan B there, and this kinda makes all upcoming referenda pretty pointless. Let's face it, there are some countries which the EU could do without, but France is the biggest and most central country in Europe.
posted by clevershark at 1:22 PM on May 29, 2005


Is there an english-language version of this link?
posted by Jon-o at 1:23 PM on May 29, 2005


The Brits probably won't hold their referendum now.
posted by grouse at 1:24 PM on May 29, 2005


For those who don't speak or read French, here's the Beeb's take.
posted by Jim Davenport at 1:24 PM on May 29, 2005


Oddly it could be argued that though Chirac proposed the referendum, in this case it's a bigger loss for the opposition. The Socialist Party, and the moderate Left, were split down the middle over this, and a majority voted No, with all the extremist parties: Trotskyists, Communists, and all the extreme right-wing populists. The moderate Right voted Yes, following their parties.

It's also an amazing defeat for the chattering classes, who unanimously favored the Yes vote. They're in mourning as I listen to them on the radio.

> so what happens now?

Giscard (the former French president who led the writing of the proposed constitution) said France will have to vote again, Irish-style. But it's anyone guess what will happen.

Europe will muddle along, I suppose. Note it's not the first time France shoots itself in the foot vigorously asserts its democratic rights. In 1952, it proposed an ambitious European Defence Community, only to have the Parliament reject it at the last minute.
posted by Turtle at 1:28 PM on May 29, 2005


For those of us who haven't been following,
What is included in the EU Constitution and what are the ramifications of constitutionalizing Europe?
posted by Jon-o at 1:28 PM on May 29, 2005


Not surprising really. But I think it's a shame. I'm all for European integration. But I don't quite know why. Maybe it would be for the greater good, I just don't know. I think people vote emotionally, because they don't like change. But maybe I am the one being emotional. I admit I haven't looked into this.
posted by mokey at 1:36 PM on May 29, 2005


>It's also an amazing defeat for the chattering classes, who unanimously favored the Yes vote. They're in mourning as I listen to them on the radio.

Well, it looks even better on the TV. It kinda reminds me of the Le Pen kickout of Jospin, with a look of shock on the faces of some journalists and a lot of politicians.

>What is included in the EU Constitution
posted by gsb at 1:37 PM on May 29, 2005


Babel Fish translation of the first paragraph:

C ' is nonclear, frank and massive. According to SCA's, the French rejected with a vast majority the treaty instituting a European constitution: 55,6% of the voters decided against the text and only 44,4% voted for this Sunday. Whereas the last surveys of Thursday and Friday marked a shy person return of yes, it is a very cold shower, for all the ouiouists who counted on a start after the last intervention, Thursday, of the Head of the State. Not, which had caracolait at the head of the surveys for three weeks (it oscillated between 52 and 53% over the last seven days, note) A thus frankly carried.

Internet translators are funny.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 1:38 PM on May 29, 2005


Turtle writes "Giscard (the former French president who led the writing of the proposed constitution) said France will have to vote again, Irish-style. But it's anyone guess what will happen."

I really can't see that being a successful strategy, not with a 10 point spread.

France doesn't want to see Europe transform itself into a sort of "USA Light", and whether or not that impression is really justified they're not going to be much more in favor of it later on.
posted by clevershark at 1:39 PM on May 29, 2005


That's a great question Jon-o. Here's the text. You figure it out, it's about 500 pages.

Seriously, that was one of the problems. The so-called constitution (actually more of a treaty), introduced incremental changes to voting rights and institutions, a charter of rights, and a distillation of all the previous treaties. It was argued to be an improvement over what came before it, but many people either thought it wasn't enough of an improvement or just felt it was an illegible monster they couldn't possibly approve.

On preview: plus rapide que moi, gsb!
posted by Turtle at 1:39 PM on May 29, 2005


et merde!
posted by Busithoth at 1:42 PM on May 29, 2005


clevershark says: ...France is the biggest and most central country in Europe.

By what measures? Germany has a larger population and bigger economy. Right?
posted by found missing at 1:53 PM on May 29, 2005


Being dutch I was looking forward to learning the turn-up percentages for the dutch referendum: I'm really amazed how much people I know; family, friends & colleagues are discussing what to make of the constitution and how they'll vote.
But now it doesn't matter anymore and a lot of people will not make the effort to vote. :-(
posted by joost de vries at 2:19 PM on May 29, 2005


Bon.
posted by ciderwoman at 2:19 PM on May 29, 2005


The prime minister of Denmark is on Danish tv right now. He says it isn't fair to call off the Danish referendum on the constitution because "every country has the right to be heard".

That's such bullshit. We can't go on with the constitution without France. The EU needs to come up with a plan b right now. This sucks.

On preview: joost: I probably won't vote now. It just doesn't make sense.
posted by sveskemus at 2:21 PM on May 29, 2005


found missing writes "By what measures?"

Geography perhaps?
posted by clevershark at 2:21 PM on May 29, 2005


sveskemus writes "The EU needs to come up with a plan b right now."

The idea of not having a plan B is the stupidest and laziest political strategy I have seen in a long time.
posted by clevershark at 2:23 PM on May 29, 2005


clevershark: I used to think not having a plan b was courageous and visionary. We are talking about a constitution here. It's about basic values and where we want the EU to go in the future. We only needed one plan as long as it was good enough.

Now I'm not so sure... :-|
posted by sveskemus at 2:31 PM on May 29, 2005


> France is the biggest and most central country in Europe

Geographically the biggest, sure. But the center of the 25-member European Union is now officially Kleinmaischeid, Germany (it was Belgium before that). And it'll only get worse for France's centrality when Bulgaria and Romania join in 2007. Unless perhaps France's overseas departments and territories are taken into account?
posted by Turtle at 2:40 PM on May 29, 2005


A plan B should I guess take in account what the 'non's, 'nee's and 'nej's were opposed to. But the constitution is so extremely multifaceted and emotionally charged that nobody could guess how to improve the constitution proposal.
posted by joost de vries at 2:40 PM on May 29, 2005


Jack Straw (UK Foreign Secretary) gave a statement a little while ago, saying that all the nations of Europe needed a 'period of reflection' before deciding what to do next.

A rough translation of his remarks (not online yet, but presumably soon available at the FCO) would be:

1. Let's just say nothing until the Dutch have voted [voted no]
2. Then we need to work out what's going on
3. Then we (as President from July 1st) will have to try and sort the mess out.

On the situation in Britain, he said that "this treaty would only be ratified in a referendum", leaving open both whether a referendum will happen, and whether a different treaty would be put to a referendum.
posted by athenian at 2:40 PM on May 29, 2005


What this means is that the EU will have to fall back on the Treaty of Nice, which is complicated and unpopular among the political elites in many EU countries (although, Aznar liked it). Basically this means stagnation in the process of political unification: things like new powers for the European Parliament, a single EU voice in foreign affairs, the charter of European Social rights also does not get constitucionalized (although it still is law in Europe...).

It may also cause problems between the Franco-German alliance that has been the trendsetter in pushing the European project forward politically, economically EU unification is still gangbusters, trust me. Ironically, it may mean that Tony Blair, of all people, will take a leading role in pushing the Europe forward along with Germany as Great Britain (Tony Blair) is about to take their turn as European President.

This is a setback, but mostly for the European Union political class and especially for Chiraq as a politician in France. Eventually, there will be a Constitution, but probably not for several more years.
posted by sic at 2:55 PM on May 29, 2005


U.S. Quietly Hopes for 'Non,' While Beijing Plays the Sphinx (Libération, translated, 5/26)
Both Washington and Beijing have reason to be interested in the outcome of the French referendum on the E.U. Constitution. The U.S. would prefer not to have an emergent European power to deal with, while Beijing just wants to know how many poles there will be in their anticipated multi-polar world of tomorrow. ...
posted by amberglow at 2:57 PM on May 29, 2005


I don't think it would have been possible for anybody to make a better constitution proposal. My impression is that this 'non' is as much about French domestic politics and punishing Chirac as it is about the contents of the constitution.
posted by sveskemus at 3:01 PM on May 29, 2005


Why not go on with the referendums and the ratification process? If, in the end, almost all countries are ready to adopt the constitution, the reluctant countries have to decide anew if they really want to be left out. Who knows what the political landscape will be in France in a year, where discontent with the current government played a big role in the "non" of the left.
It's just one of the facts of European integration, seen over and over again: It's messy, there's always something that doesn't go as expected, but in the end things work out just fine.
posted by ltl at 3:01 PM on May 29, 2005


I've posted these links in a previous thread on the matter, but here is Susan George explaining 5 reasons to say No to the European Constitution and the Monde Diplomatique arguing that "No is not a disaster", this is how it concludes:
"...There is a second fallacious claim: that a no vote in France or elsewhere would bring Europe to a standstill. In reality, post-no Europe would be the same as pre-referendum Europe: the texts that govern the EU, including the Nice treaty, would continue to apply. There would be plenty of time to negotiate a new, more acceptable constitution.

“But the governments would never agree to sit down and start negotiating again” is the reply. On the contrary. The member states would be only too anxious to create a less cumbersome system for governing the expanded union than the current one, which was designed for a six-member community.

A likely outcome is that the first section of the current constitution, which deals essentially with the institutional functioning of the EU, would be submitted for ratification on its own. The second section would be no great loss and it would be good riddance to the unabashed neo-liberal manifesto that is section three.

If the electorates of 10 nation states are being asked to vote yes or no to a treaty, we are entitled to assume that either answer is legitimate, and that neither represents a danger to the nation or to the union. Otherwise it would be irresponsible, even treasonable, to call the referendum in the first place."
As for US reaction, the IHT had an article that argues the opposite of the Liberation article that amberglow posted (Liberation was trying to convince the French Left to vote Yes, so I'm kind of weary of their analysis...): If EU constitution fails, US won't be gloating. This includes the rather amusing quote:
"So the American yes on the EU referendums is not only coherent good sense, but also an investment. An [American] official, sitting in his office here, couldn't have been clearer on the European constitution: "If they think it would get them a few yes points, we've told the French we're ready to condemn the thing in minutes.""
posted by talos at 3:06 PM on May 29, 2005


Talos, do you feel that Section II of the Constitution is no big deal? That's the section that covers the fundamental rights of citizens! Well, I guess, all of those rights are already covered in earlier treaties and in member state Constitutions, but still, it would have been nice to have them in a European Constitution.
posted by sic at 3:14 PM on May 29, 2005


"I've said it before and I'll say it again: Democracy just doesn't work."
posted by funkbrain at 3:15 PM on May 29, 2005


sic: section two is*nice*, but lags behind the existing constitutional guarrantees in many (probably most) national Constitutions. Cassen in the Monde Diplo piece linked above, states (and I tend to agree):

The same user’s manual asserts that the treaty’s “most important innovation is the recognition of social rights”. These are defined in its second section, “The charter of fundamental rights of the union”. Fundamental is a big word to describe these rights, which go less far than many countries’ national legislations: the French constitution’s right to employment is replaced by the “right to engage in work”, while the right to healthcare and services becomes a “right to access” those services, there being no guarantee that the services exist.

I'd vote for it (if given the chance) without the third section, though. Easily.

BTW, I think the biggest news in this referendum is the percentage of the electorate that voted (by all accounts >70%) which is (and correct me if I'm wrong, unprecedented for any European election (in France, anyway).
Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber, makes a convincing case that the most important aspect of this election is not the outcome, but that it is the first time that a broad discussion of a major European issue has taken place. The discussion on Europe as a whole has just begun, as opposed to technical discussions that inspired noone even the bureaucrats that thrived on their unattractiveness. The turnout today, seems to confirm Farrell's views.
posted by talos at 3:27 PM on May 29, 2005


Mon Dieu! Germany suddenly follows USA's strong political savvy when dealing with the upstart French.

Yeah, that'll show em!
posted by Mr Bluesky at 3:32 PM on May 29, 2005


If the electorates of 10 nation states are being asked to vote yes or no to a treaty, we are entitled to assume that either answer is legitimate, and that neither represents a danger to the nation or to the union. Otherwise it would be irresponsible, even treasonable, to call the referendum in the first place.

That doesn't make much sense to me. Why can a 'no' not represent a danger to the union? It would not be treasonable to totally disband the union. Irresponsible maybe, but that's up to the voters to decide.

There are some political parties represented on the ballot at elections, that represent a danger to the economy and even national security, and as such represent "the wrong answer".

There might as well have been a "right" and a "wrong" answer to this referendum. It's democracy at its best... and worst.
posted by sveskemus at 3:37 PM on May 29, 2005


I can't really speak for other member states countries, but as far as Holland is concerned I get the impression that there are really three camps:

  • YES voters;
  • pro-EU NO voters who like the EU but not (parts of) the constitutional treaty;
  • NO voters who want to express their dismay with either the national government or the EU at large.

    Personally, I'm in the second camp. Not that it matters now, because indeed, the Dutch vote is less relevant now (and I can't vote anyway, being a British citizen and all). My problem with the treaty is threefold:

  • The principle of subsidiarity states that the EU will limit its legislative action to cases where national legislation is insufficent. I feel this is poorly defined, and it kind of scares me that Brussels may supersede Dutch legislation under international pressure. I don't think the sky is falling, but Holland has some (what I would call) social-legal accomplishments that are somewhat unpopular elsewhere (think drug policies, euthanasia).
  • The exit clause. Why would you give your mandate for this long-term partnership, only to be free to say goodbye at any future time? Again, I don't think this is particularly likely, but at least on paper it gives the freedom to, say, a future UK Conservative administration to say bye to Brussels and drift off further into the Atlantic.
  • Finally, it's not a constitution. A constitution is drafted by, of, and for the people, not by political leaders of 25 different countries. That's fine with me, and I love the way it starts (pdf), I just think a lot of people might have been a lot happier if they had just called it "the Treaty of Rome" or something.

    Oh and by the way, welcome Joost - good to see more Dutchies in the blue. And what a wonderful Dutch name you have.

    And, just because someone has to say it: I demand a recount.

  • posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:38 PM on May 29, 2005


    thanks talos--i'm ignorant as to which French paper is on which side of this.

    What would happen if you had pan-European voting all at once instead of national voting? (this "one country saying no kills the whole thing" sucks) If you're voting on the most basic of documents, it makes sense to have all citizens of the Union vote as individuals and not as citizens of their specific states, no?
    posted by amberglow at 3:55 PM on May 29, 2005


    The rather condescending "everyone would vote for it if they were smart enough to realize what it says" attitude is responsible for driving an awful lot of people into the "no/non/nej" camp.

    It did in France, and usually the French are known to actually like condescending intellectuals -- certainly more than most people, anyway.

    A constitution is drafted by, of, and for the people, not by political leaders of 25 different countries.

    I'm not going to say that it's never happened, but in reality that highly romanticized view of things just doesn't jibe with reality.
    posted by clevershark at 3:57 PM on May 29, 2005


    it makes sense to have all citizens of the Union vote as individuals and not as citizens of their specific states, no?

    It would if the EU were an actual federal superstate, rather than an inter-governmental organisation of countries. Many feel that this would infringe on their national sovereignty. Not that I'm against a one-man-one-vote system; we enjoy it very much in Holland. In that sense it's kind of an ironic question coming from a USian, what with American voices rising in favour of amending the electoral college system and all. But that's not meant to diss you (I've made it clear before that I admire your interest), and an entirely different topic altogether.
    posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:08 PM on May 29, 2005


    re: the lack of pan-european voting, It should be noted that this way of thinking permeates the entire 'culture' of the institutions of EU. In effect, any decision must be taken by the individual country without interference from the others.
    This has among other things lead to the quite unhandy situation that any country can veto any new directive. The constitution would have changed this for a large part.
    posted by Catfry at 4:24 PM on May 29, 2005


    Take for instance the famous Freedom of Speech amendment to U.S. Constitution

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press

    The European Constitution equivalent in Part II says

    Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

    I remember arguing with some oppositor of U.S. freedom of speech who argued that "speech" meant "political speech" and not "any kind of verbalization by an human" ...and that one should give the "speech" word that meaning because, historically, to hold a speech means to address a number of people and that such freedom was needed to avert tyrans who try to repress dissent by repressing speeches..as much as the freedom to keep and bear a weapon was fundamental in stopping tyrans from exploiting military power.

    In EC article the "freedom of expression" is given to every individual at an abstract level (that of "expression") but the constitution goes as far as to add "freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas" which is fundamental fo communication.

    As Talos (thanks dude) points out, there are also potential shortcoming in EU Constitution..the problems being very lawyeresque in nature but extremely important for the citizens..indeed the "right to access" healthcare and services in theory does imply the existence of said services..otherwise the right would be totally empty..what isn't implied is that the service should give realistic and multiple chances of winning the fight against a disease or health problem and not just merely do a formal attempt ..like giving an aspirin to cure a cancer, for instance.

    From this point of view maybe french people is damn right when rejecting this version of european constitution.
    posted by elpapacito at 4:35 PM on May 29, 2005


    USA remains the #1 economic block, until China can overtake the USA. This 'no' basically cut Europe out the running and will now be relegated to being left behind; with little hope of catching up.

    With the amount of investment taking place in China, and the amount of debt being accumulated by the USA, the question is 10 or 20 years before the #1 and #2 position changes hands. Meanwhile, Europe will see imports rise and jobs leave.
    posted by fluffycreature at 4:45 PM on May 29, 2005


    well, do you guys elect your EU reps, or are they appointed by whatever government is in power in your country at the time? and do they have to leave when your govt. changes? (take Spain, for instance, which just had a giant change)

    I can't see any success in anything as fundamental as a constitution, which is supposed to delineate rights and freedoms and responsibilities, unless people vote for it instead of nations. This will be a binding document, no?

    goodnews, i'm hoping your system will be better than ours here--we just lucked out with our constitution, and have, with the help of the judiciary, been able to adapt it to the times and needs of successive generations--not always successfully.
    posted by amberglow at 4:49 PM on May 29, 2005


    Detailed exit polls (en francais, english by Google). Some things that caught my eye:
    * 72% are in favor of a continuation of the European construction process (57% of the "no" voters).
    * Highest participation (>80%) and most in favor (>56% "oui") among the 60+ demographic.
    * The higher the education, the more "oui".
    * Biggest reason for voting "oui" (64%): "This constitution gives more weight to Europe vis-a-vis the USA and China".
    * Biggest reason for voting "no" (52%): "Dissatisfaction with the current economical and social situation in France", followed by "The constitution is too liberal [in the european sense=capitalistic] from an economic point of view" (40%).
    posted by ltl at 4:59 PM on May 29, 2005


    amberglow: We elect our representatives in the European Parliament. Our governments elect the members of the Commission. None of them leave as our governments change.
    posted by sveskemus at 5:04 PM on May 29, 2005


    amberglow: The European Parliament is directly elected by the people in elections that are held every five years specifically for that purpose. It is therefore the only institution in the EU that (IMHO) has direct democratic legitimacy. It would not have been very difficult (nothing is easy in Brussels) to elect a constitutional European Assembly, or at least make sure that the actual text is drafted and ratified by an extended majority of the EuroParliament. Not to mention not incompatible with the constitutions of member states.

    They preferred to appoint a retired French conservative politician to oversee the job.

    (Some people would argue otherwise, I'm sure, but I feel that the rejected Constitutional treaty, in the balance of power between the European Comission on the one hand and the European Parliament on the other, gave too much to the Comission, which is yet another problem with the constitution.)
    posted by talos at 5:11 PM on May 29, 2005


    i'm hoping your system will be better than ours here--we just lucked out with our constitution

    I'm not sure what you mean by that; if you mean we're lucky we have such a fine constitution, I agree with you, but if you mean we're lucky we've survived with such a wretched document (which seems to be implied), I don't understand you. As an anarchist, I'm no fan of constitutions per se, but if you've got to live under one, name me a better one than ours (with the obvious exception of the bits we had to amend away). It's short, simple, and eloquent. This EU monstrosity is long, mushmouthed, and unreadable -- has anyone actually read the whole thing? I have to confess to a certain fondness for the grand opening salvo, though:

    HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF THE BELGIANS, THE PRESIDENT OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC, HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF DENMARK, THE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF ESTONIA, THE PRESIDENT OF THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC, HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF SPAIN, THE PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC, THE PRESIDENT OF IRELAND, THE PRESIDENT OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LATVIA, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA, HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE GRAND DUKE OF LUXEMBOURG, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF HUNGARY, THE PRESIDENT OF MALTA, HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF THE NETHERLANDS, THE FEDERAL PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND, THE PRESIDENT OF THE PORTUGUESE REPUBLIC, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SLOVENIA, THE PRESIDENT OF THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF FINLAND, THE GOVERNMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF SWEDEN, HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND...
    posted by languagehat at 5:12 PM on May 29, 2005


    A nice long orotund list, as you say. But I search in vain for the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
    posted by jfuller at 6:48 PM on May 29, 2005


    "Non" is a victory for freedom, if you ask me -- a chance for the EU to reconceptualize itself as what it already functions best as: a continental free trade and labor-mobility association. Centralizing public policy and otherwise compromising sovereignty was and is a terrible idea. The French ought to be free to have their 35 hour work week and 60 paid days off a year, and the Irish ought to be free to have their 10% corporate tax rates.
    posted by MattD at 6:54 PM on May 29, 2005


    The list of countries that have already ratified the look, with the significant addition of Greece and Lithuania, much like the Holy Roman Empire of Charles V. (At least the European parts of the Empire anyway.) Have they any Habsburgs handy? If Sweden and Finland try to join the Empire what will the Tsar of Muscovy do? Is the Sublime Porte happy about Greece defecting? "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." (History has always been a farce.)

    And languagehat, a Habsburg reinvestiture would greatly simplify the future "grand opening salvo": "I, Karl, Big Cheese by the grace of God, hereby...."
    posted by davy at 8:59 PM on May 29, 2005


    The list of countries that have already ratified the look

    Uh, '...that have already ratified the TREATY look...' [Emphasis added.] I hate it when that happens: someday y'all might start thinking I'm not the SuperBrain my mom says I am.
    posted by davy at 9:04 PM on May 29, 2005


    It appears that the heads of the EU countries were wrong when they wrote in the Preamble to the Constitution that they were

    "CONVINCED that, while remaining proud of their own national identities and history, the peoples of Europe are determined to transcend their former divisions and, united ever more closely, to forge a common destiny."
    posted by klazmataz at 12:16 AM on May 30, 2005


    Chirac practices suicidal politics -- that's his trade mark (and that,
    all by itself is interesting since there are books written on the fact
    that once you gain power, you make a point of practicing political
    suicide.) In the Nineties, there was a satirical show on TV (Les Nuls)
    that once said: "In France, we have the dumbest right-wind in the
    whole world" ("En France on a la Droite a plus conne du monde.")
    Chirac is a usual of the fact: early in is first investiture, he asked
    for the Assembly to be dissolved and re-approved by the people
    (following the advise from his daughter, who acts as an eminence grise
    -- she's not up to the task by a wide margin but Chirac always imposes
    her), just to set the record straight on whether people approved of
    him or not. He lost and this started a round of cohabitation,
    harboring Socialist Lionel Jospin as a prime minister for quite some
    time.

    Now, the situation is a bit different but the vein slitting is the
    same: he knows that everybody hates his pick of a prime minister
    (Raffarin) and also hates the results obtained but his government that
    he kept in place even though he lost a couple of mid-term elections
    (remember, this is France: the government you elect ought to solve
    your problems; and problems, such as hight unemployment rates, have
    been going strong unsolved since the past 50 years.) But regardless, he
    decided on this referendum knowing that the choice of the people would
    be mainly motivated by their dislike of him and his politics -- in
    other word, it's as if being an unpopular president, he made Europe
    pay the price for it.

    There's a lot more to it than that. Giscard (a drafter of the EU
    constitution) was once the President and picked Chirac as the prime
    minister. Giscard is an old aristocratic hack and despised Chirac to
    the point of pettily humiliating him every time he got a chance to --
    now the role have changed and its hard no to imagine Chirac enjoying
    Giscard's distress on the referendum's results...

    Bref, France loses because they just don't get it. If French people
    traveled a bit more and saw the world, they'd realize how much unity
    and a strong Europe is important to the survival of their
    values. There was once a poll inquiring on what the French were so
    depressed about: close if not number one was the realization that
    France's role in the world isn't and never was all that great. Yeah,
    well, Bingo! Here's is a country that has been told for centuries that
    they were the greatest that came to realize that it's not true. Tough
    landing I guess (don't tell them that there's equivalent to even
    better cooking to their's.)
    posted by NewBornHippy at 1:22 AM on May 30, 2005


    Talos is right, the European Parliament is the only EU institution with direct democratic legitimacy. Unluckily, is also true that most parties regard it as some sort of golden retirement for their political has-beens (the EU parliament president José Borrell, for instance, is a former prime minister candidate whose career was marred by his alleged links to a corruption scandal in the Spanish IRS).

    The whole elephant cemetery feel surrounding that parliament -or the Commission, let's not forget about people like Peter Mandelson- contributes to the voters lack of enthusiasm for EU elections and the EU integration project itself.
    posted by blogenstock at 1:28 AM on May 30, 2005


    The media in the UK has concentrated on the Anglo Saxon plot angle in the past few weeks, although God knows what the UK is supposed to gain from it. Will Hutton has discussed the build up to this in detail and offers an excellent resource for anyone wanting to read further background on Europe, its machinations and it's relations to both China and the US.
    posted by ClanvidHorse at 1:35 AM on May 30, 2005


    "Non" is a victory for freedom, if you ask me -- a chance for the EU to reconceptualize itself as what it already functions best as: a continental free trade and labor-mobility association. Centralizing public policy and otherwise compromising sovereignty was and is a terrible idea. The French ought to be free to have their 35 hour work week and 60 paid days off a year, and the Irish ought to be free to have their 10% corporate tax rates.

    Public policy is already centralized. All of the member states have to accept European directives. That means if tomorrow there is a directive that nobody could have more than 10 days off a year, France would have to create a national law reflecting that (not that such a directive would ever exist). One of the important things about the Constitution is that European Parliament would have greater power in affecting those directives, this is important because it (theoretically) directly represents the European People. Personally, I disagree with Talos that the majority of the member states have Constitutions that surpass Title II of the proposed Constitution, France and Germany do, but there are things in the EU version that are not in the Spanish Constitution, and the Spanish Constitution has been pretty damn good for democratic Spain. I also imagine that there is a lot there that the new member states could benefit from. But Talos is right that there are always going to be semantic arguments over how to interpret whatever Constitution is passed that is why, eventually, it is going to be more important WHO the European voters send to the Parliament, because it will be those politicians that decide the tenor of the directives: just as they do in national politics.

    Which leads me to blogenstock's comment: first of all, Josep Borrell's only link to the scandal you mentioned was that he was part of the government that named the men who committed fraud. There was no direct connection and the opposition party never implicated him. He resigned because he felt that the buck should stop with him, as leader of the PSOE at the time. It was a classy move in a time where political leaders insulate themselves from any blame even when they are directly implicated in a scandal. While it's true that many 'older' politicians get sent to Europe, so do many up and coming politicians. The real reason that nobody cares about European elections is because nobody knows what the European Parliament does. Not even the Parliament is sure, that is why the Constitution would have been useful.
    posted by sic at 2:44 AM on May 30, 2005


    so what happens now?

    All EU members must ratify the Constitution, but renegotiations about it will only be opened when five states object it.

    So, if the French and Dutch are the only ones saying no, it is still possible those countries must hold a second referendum. Or a third, fourth, fifth, etcetera until they have a yes.
    posted by ijsbrand at 2:48 AM on May 30, 2005


    For the ninth year in a row the EU court of auditors has failed to give the the accounts a clean bill of health. And what does the commission do? It suspends one of it's main critics whilst another quits in despair. I'm pro Europe, but until the commission can be cleaned up is it any wonder that people remain sceptical of handing it more power?
    posted by ciderwoman at 4:12 AM on May 30, 2005


    to sic :
    Section II is a trick, full of void.
    It cames from previous treaties signed under European Council, but in a declarative way, with no constraint, no new rights and quite no substance.

    Judge by yourself here (french, but just visually you could compare the weight of the two versions)

    A kind of mocking chart, no more... not enough to gain a vote, for sure, unless for a very gullible guy
    posted by BastilleWanderer at 4:54 AM on May 30, 2005


    ahh...thanks ijsbrand.

    And now the Dutch politicians are making it more political: ...Balkenende called Dutch voters to vote ’yes’. We should not our laws to be made by the French.--Fistful of Euros
    posted by amberglow at 5:41 AM on May 30, 2005


    BastilleWanderer: it's a shame that I can't read French, I'd really like to understand what people don't like about Title II. Perhaps you could explain to me what you specifically don't like about it?

    I still think that the fundamental rights represented in Tit. II are written well enough, and even better in some member state's founding documents. But - and this is what is really important - the laws derived from and the interpretation of any Constitution depend on the type of Parliament and Tribunals that are created. The Spanish Constitution is interpreted all the time. The recent law to allow homosexual marriages in Spain depended on an inclusive interpretation of the Spanish Constitution instead of a narrow interpretation. The Constitution itself didn't change, just the interpretation of it.

    This will be true as well with the European Constitution.
    posted by sic at 5:50 AM on May 30, 2005


    A further thought, if the French Constitution already has better fundamental rights (in the sense that they are better worded), I assume that they don't lose those rights if the European Constitution is ratified. In Spanish Law, the Spanish Constitution is still at the top of the legal pyramid, but there is an inclusion that allows for the primacy of European directives over Spanish laws. The EU treaties are kind of parrallel to the Spanish Constitution, not superior to it.

    If a citizen's fundamental rights are violated in Spain, they need to follow the normal procedures: 1) Ordinary courts 2) appeal to the Constitional court. With the EU, we now have a third option: an appeal to the European Court of Justice (people can already do this). So theoretically, if your fundamental rights are already better protected in France, you would never have to go beyond the French version of the "Supreme Court" or "Constitutional Court". However, in other member states whose constitutions don't do as good a job of defending fundamental rights as the European Constitution, the citizens will have a third recourse.

    Am I wrong about this?
    posted by sic at 6:04 AM on May 30, 2005


    I think a very wise and funny man has already summed up the situation quite well.

    "All of Europe, you will do this!"
    France : "No. We're going to eat a sandwich."
    posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:15 AM on May 30, 2005


    A more persistent link to the exit poll data, as the other one is already broken.
    posted by ltl at 7:48 AM on May 30, 2005


    I for one salute Europe's new Habsburg overlord!
    posted by davy at 9:21 AM on May 30, 2005


    interesting (related?) thing about a French baby boom, compared to other western European countries-- ...The country's neighbors should take note. After all, few European leaders are prepared to enthusiastically embrace the alternative, less-dynamic populations, and its corollaries—less-vibrant economies, more immigration and shrinking pensions and health care. Says Gerard-Francois Dumont, Sorbonne professor and editor in chief of Population & Future magazine: "Every time I am at a conference, people want to know what is going on in France." ... The difference apparently comes from policy and social supports that lessen pressure on would-be parents. Those who work fewer hours, have more job security, free day care and medical coverage are less likely to feel anguish over their children's basic needs. And more than most European countries, France offers all that, not to mention generous parental leave. ...
    posted by amberglow at 9:44 AM on May 30, 2005


    davy: I like the idea of a restored Habsburg empire, but I disagree with the suggestion that it would simplify the opening salvo, which would instead read:

    We, [Your Imperial Name Here], Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, of Dalmatia, of Croatia, of Slavonia, of Galicia, of Lodomeria, and of Illyria, King of Jerusalem, Archduke of Austria, Grand Duke of Tuscany and of Krakau, Duke of Lorraine, of Salzburg, of Styria, of Carinthia, of Carniola and of the Bukovina, Grand Duke of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia, Duke of Upper Silesia, of Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, of Auschwitz and Zator, of Teschen, Friuli, Ragusa and Zara, Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Goritz and Grandisca, Prince of Trient and Brixen, Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in Istria, Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg, and so forth, Lord of Triest, of Cattaro and of the Wendish Mark, Grand Voyvode of the Voyvodie of Serbia, and so forth, Sovereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece...

    —His Excellency Cappello di Lingue, Grand Kaimakam and Hospodar of Upper and Lower Blogovia
    posted by languagehat at 9:51 AM on May 30, 2005


    Sic :

    The Fondamental Rights, (part II) are provided with an "explanation" annexed to the (IMHO defunct) treaty.

    Constitution Summary (english) here

    Explanations here

    about 90% of the article in the part II are explicitely related by the explanations to articles coming from 2 treaties already ratified by almost states of UE which are :
    -European Social Charter

    -Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

    So, we have for each and every article in the part II, the "original" article which has "inspired" the contitution version.

    Let just compare one of them :
    European Social Charter Article 2 – The right to just conditions of work

    With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to just conditions of work, the Parties undertake:

    to provide for reasonable daily and weekly working hours, the working week to be progressively reduced to the extent that the increase of productivity and other relevant factors permit;
    to provide for public holidays with pay;
    to provide for a minimum of four weeks' annual holiday with pay;
    to eliminate risks in inherently dangerous or unhealthy occupations, and where it has not yet been possible to eliminate or reduce sufficiently these risks, to provide for either a reduction of working hours or additional paid holidays for workers engaged in such occupations;
    to ensure a weekly rest period which shall, as far as possible, coincide with the day recognised by tradition or custom in the country or region concerned as a day of rest;
    to ensure that workers are informed in written form, as soon as possible, and in any event not later than two months after the date of commencing their employment, of the essential aspects of the contract or employment relationship;
    to ensure that workers performing night work benefit from measures which take account of the special nature of the work.


    Ok, now let me introduce the corresponding article in his Constitutionnal Treaty version

    Article II-91 Fair and just working conditions

    1. Every worker has the right to working conditions which respect his or her health, safety and dignity.

    2. Every worker has the right to limitation of maximum working hours, to daily and weekly rest periods and to an annual period of paid leave.

    Anybody else, here ?
    No. Finish

    Pretty slim isn't it ?

    And so for for aged person welfare, pregnancy 14 weeks paid off, forbid children work below 15 and so on... in the original treaty engagement by the states who sign, minimun values given by figure. In the Constitution, Rien, nada, nothing !
    just vagues phases, no commitment, just words...

    Well, I'm a little bit piqued on this issue when politician argue about social progres refering on this text... in french we would say : "on nous prend pour des cons..."
    posted by BastilleWanderer at 10:00 AM on May 30, 2005


    One more for sic :

    -On the process of appeal, I'm not jurist, I don't know. But on the opportunity to go in ECJ, arguing on Constitution, here the general interpretation is : the rights described in the part II, are to be considered by UE institutions when creating new laws, and that's all. It don't give any new right to go to justice for citizen.

    - Relation btw national and EU constitution. I guess you are wrong. They are not side by side. The treaty said :

    Article I-6The Constitution and law adopted by the institutions of the Union in exercising competences conferred on it shall have primacy over the law of the Member States.

    - Last one : I've recently learn that Spanish referendum was a non-binding one. Well, what is a non-binding referendum if not faking of democracy ?

    I could imagine spanish voters not so involved for reading and discussing this 800 pages monster, going from fundamental law to "Guts, bladders and stomachs of animals (other than fish), whole and pieces thereof "
    (ANNEX I LIST REFERRED TO IN ARTICLE III-226 OF THE CONSTITUTION
    )


    If they are sure that their choice won't be respected
    posted by BastilleWanderer at 11:01 AM on May 30, 2005


    Sic you're right; who gets elected as MEP should be really important but truth is that most of them are has-beens or have a difficult future in national politics or are regarded as "rebels" that don't toe the party line and sent to the European parliament as some sort of exile.

    Same goes for the commission, not long ago we had in it brilliant politicians like Jacques Delors but, sadly, that seems now a thing of the past.


    As for Borell, regardless of how classy you consider his resignation to be, his political career ran off the tracks as a result of that scandal even if he had no direct implication (I did say alleged remember). Also, no need to bold his name since the guy himself doesn't seem to be that fussy about how it is spelt.
    posted by blogenstock at 12:12 PM on May 30, 2005


    merci, Bastille.

    So, the Dutch will vote No too. Who else is leaning towards No? Will they get 5 Nos?
    posted by amberglow at 12:47 PM on May 30, 2005


    Article I-6The Constitution and law adopted by the institutions of the Union in exercising competences conferred on it shall have primacy over the law of the Member States.

    The key to that sentence is "excercising competences conferred on it". In the Spanish system, the Spanish Constitution remains at the apex of the legal system, what we have done is incorporate the idea that European laws take precedence over Spanish laws (when there is a conflict) when they pertain to competences that have been conferred on it by the Spanish Constitution, but reservering the power to revoke that right (article 93). That way there is no conflict with the supremecy of the Spanish Constitution. I imagine that France has done something similiar.

    I have never read the French Constitution but the Spanish Constitution does not get into specifics about how many days a woman gets for pregnancy leave or workers vacation days. These things are regulated in laws. For instance art. 41 of the Spanish Constitution says (roughly translated) that the Public Powers will mantain a Social Security system for all citizens that assures sufficient assistence and social benefits for those that need them, especially for unemployment.... What this sentence means is defined in laws and by the Constitutional Court (if need be). The European Constitution, like most constitutions will only ever draw broad strokes, it is the laws that make up the details. This is why it is so important to get a viable Parliament that truly represents the people more involved in the creation of the European regulations and directives.

    As for the ECJ, it has been hearing appeals from citizens for several years. I did a quick google, here is a site that talks about some of the recent cases the ECJ has ruled on, you have to read the description of the cases but it is evident that citizens have appealed to the court to uphold their fundamental rights. This is a good thing!

    Blogenstock: touché (but he is Catalán, and I've always heard him referred to as Josep) and I still think you are exaggerating the 'elephant's grave yard' aspect of the EU Parliament, but perhaps not too much. One thing is certain, once the EUP has a more defined role and more people start paying attention to it, the candidates for MEP will be much more important.
    posted by sic at 1:13 PM on May 30, 2005


    BastilleWanderer: You sort of forget that not all EU countries are under the Social Chapter (which would not have been superseded by the constitution). And besides: all those social rights, are they in the French constitution? I'm pretty sure they aren't. As sic points out, regardless of whether you are for or against strong social legislation, a constitution is not the right place for such detail. As it happens, the main fault I see in the constitutional treaty myself is that it is already far too long.

    The French left has shot itself in the foot, again. Its lack of sense of reality and inability to compromise only harms its aims. I'm quite sure that a lot of left-wing no voters are just the same who also voted against Jospin in the first round of the last presidential elections, thus setting the stage for the Chirac-Le Pen second round. Folks, just as you got stuck with Chirac, so you'll be stuck with an even "less social" EU, mark my words. Only, this time, me and the rest of Europe will be stuck with the fruit of your stupidity too. France famously used to have "the most stupid right wing in the world" (de Gaulle dixit). Now it can claim the most stupid left wing too!
    posted by Skeptic at 3:26 PM on May 30, 2005




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