France has chosen not to give up its soul and its sovereignty, which is a good thing for the people of France, not just the elites. Here is a wrap up from around the world of newsprint.
The story from the Washington Post:
Unhappy French voters on Sunday derailed plans to further political and economic integration in Europe, decisively rejecting the proposed European constitution and thumbing their noses at the country’s governing elite, which had pleaded for approval of the measure.
The turnout was heavy and the margin of defeat was wide, with about 57 percent rejecting the constitution and about 43 percent voting for it. Opposition leaders harnessed widespread disenchantment over a variety of issues, including the unpopularity of President Jacques Chirac, the weak French economy and fears that the country would lose its clout to a strengthened European central government.
The French defeat throws into confusion — for now — the campaign to fashion a constitution for Europe, since each of the 25 nations that belongs to the European Union must approve the charter before it can take effect.
“There is no longer a constitution,” said Philippe de Villiers, leader of Movement For France, a nationalist party that warned France would lose its identity if the European Union continued to expand its borders to include nations such as Turkey. “We need to reconstruct Europe. This vote says there is a real difference in this country between the institutions and what the people really want.”
In a brief televised address shortly after the polls closed, Chirac said he accepted the will of the voters, even though he had lobbied heavily for approval of the constitution. “I’ll defend in Brussels the message from the French people,” he said.
From The AP:
EU leaders in Brussels, Belgium, vowed to continue their effort to have the constitution approved.
All 25 EU members must ratify the text for it to take effect as planned by Nov. 1, 2006. Nine already have done so: Austria, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
The Dutch vote Wednesday, with polls showing opposition to the constitution there running at about 60 percent. On Friday, the constitution’s main architect, former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, said countries that reject the treaty will be asked to vote again.
France’s rejection could set the continent’s plans back by years. The nation was a primary architect of European unity.
“There is no more constitution,” leading opponent Philippe de Villiers said. “It is necessary to reconstruct Europe on other foundations that don’t currently exist.”
De Villiers called on Chirac to resign _ something the French leader had said he would not do _ and called for parliament to be dissolved.
“Tonight we face a major political crisis,” he said.
Extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who campaigned vigorously for the constitution’s defeat, also called for Chirac’s resignation.
Chirac “wanted to gamble … and he has lost,” Le Pen said, alluding to Chirac’s decision not to submit the charter to sure approval by parliament. The EU constitution can be adopted either by a referendum or a nation’s legislature.
Backers said the constitution, which European leaders signed in October, would streamline EU operations and decision-making, and make the bloc more accessible to its 450 million citizens. The text would give the EU a president and foreign minister so it could speak with one voice in world affairs.
Opponents feared it would strip nations of sovereignty and trigger an influx of cheap labor just as powers such as France and Germany struggle to contain double-digit unemployment.
The New York Times is Appalled:
Turning its back on half a century of European history, France decisively rejected a Constitution for Europe on Sunday, plunging the country into political disarray and jeopardizing the cause of European unity.
The victory for the no vote – 55 percent to 45 percent – came in a nationwide referendum on the European Union constitution after a bruising campaign that divided France and alarmed Europe.
Foreshadowed in recent polls, the no vote could doom the 448-article treaty because all 25 members of the European Union must ratify it to take effect.
The rejection could signal an abrupt halt to the expansion and unification of Europe, a process that has been met with growing disillusionment among the wealthier European Union members as needier countries like Bulgaria and Poland have negotiated their entry.
The BBC is looking for a way to save the Charter, but cannot:
The BBC’s Caroline Wyatt in Paris says the rejection by one of the EU’s founding members is a political earthquake, sending reverberations right across Europe.
Winners and losers
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso described the French rejection as “a very serious problem,” but insisted: “We cannot say that the treaty is dead.”
But the BBC’s world affairs analyst Paul Reynolds says there is no Plan B for the EU and no clear way forward, with moves towards further integration now in doubt.
And the Times of London sounds very happy:
French voters resoundingly rejected the EU Constitution today, sending a message of defiance to their own political establishment and leaving European plans for closer integration in tatters.
The result was announced by a sombre President Chirac, who had personally called the referendum and thrown his political weight behind a document meant to lay down the rules for European cooperation in the coming decades.
Keen to avoid France being blamed for the death of the treaty, however, M. Chirac said tonight that the process of ratification should continue in other EU countries – including Britain.
“France has expressed itself democratically,” M. Chirac said in a televised address shortly after polls closed. “It is your sovereign decision, and I take note.”
The editorialist have entered the fray. Here are the two I have found the best this morning.
Mark Steyn is his brilliant self, here is a snippet, but the whole is much better than its parts
Hutton says that it’s his ”affection for the best of America that makes me so angry that it has fallen so far from the standards it expects of itself.” The great Euro-thinker is not arguing that America is betraying the Founding Fathers, but that the Founding Fathers themselves got it hopelessly wrong. He compares the American and French Revolutions, and decides the latter was better because instead of the radical individualism of the 13 colonies the French promoted ”a new social contract.”
Well, you never know. It may be the defects of America’s Founders that help explain why the United States has lagged so far behind France in technological innovation, economic growth, military performance, standard of living, etc. Entranced by his Europhilia, Hutton insists that “all western democracies subscribe to a broad family of ideas that are liberal or leftist.”
Given that New Hampshire has been a continuous democracy for two centuries longer than Germany, this seems a doubtful proposition. It would be more accurate to say that almost all European nations subscribe to a broad family of ideas that are statist. Or, as Hutton has it, “the European tradition is much more mindful that men and women are social animals and that individual liberty is only one of a spectrum of values that generate a good society.”
Precisely. And it’s the willingness to subordinate individual liberty to what Hutton calls “the primacy of society” that has blighted the continent for over a century: Statism — or “the primacy of society” — is what fascism, Nazism, communism and now European Union all have in common. In fairness, after the first three, European Union seems a comparatively benign strain of the disease — not a Blitzkrieg, just a Bitzkrieg, an accumulation of fluffy trivial pan-European laws that nevertheless takes for granted that the natural order is a world in which every itsy-bitsy activity is licensed and regulated and constitutionally defined by government.
That’s why Will Hutton feels almost physically insecure when he’s in one of the spots on the planet where the virtues of the state religion are questioned.
“In a world that is wholly private,” he says of America, “we lose our bearings; deprived of any public anchor, all we have are our individual subjective values to guide us.” He deplores the First Amendment and misses government-regulated media, which in the EU ensures that all public expression is within approved parameters (left to center-left). “Europe,” he explains, “acts to ensure that television and radio conform to public interest criteria.”
“Public interest criteria” doesn’t mean criteria that the public decide is in their interest. It means that the elite — via various appointed bodies — decide what the public’s interest is. Will Hutton is a member of the European elite, so that suits him fine. But it’s never going to catch on in America — I hope.
As European “president” Juncker spelled out to the French and Dutch electorates, a culture that subordinates the will of the people to the “primacy of society” is unlikely to take no for an answer. And, if you ignore referendum results, a frustrated citizenry turns to other outlets.
And again from the Times of London, we have Bronwen Maddox blamiing Tony Blair????
If he is going to blame someone, other than himself (an option he has not yet pursued), it should be Tony Blair. True, M Chirac misjudged the mood of his country on an issue central to its identity. If there is a measure of political failure, it does not come simpler than that.
But M Chirac was bounced into calling a referendum by Mr Blair’s sudden decision a year ago to call one, after having pleaded with France not to do so. It was a discourtesy of Mr Blair, to say the least, not to consult Chirac. And it was a serious miscalculation of British politics — shared by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, who urged it on the Prime Minister, although Blair maintains indignantly (as always) that the decision was his alone.
It now looks like a terrible one, for those who support the constitution. The reasoning, which even a year ago looked suspect, was that the Tories would insert a pro-referendum clause into legislation. The Lords would likely support it. The Government would be forced to overrule the Lords, looking anti-democratic, in the run-up to the European Parliament elections.
Blair’s answer should have been: that is a small price to pay. Instead, he committed himself to a referendum, embarrassing France and then the Netherlands into following suit. The black comedy is that three countries that did not need to have referendums chose to do so at what is proving to be huge political cost to their leaders.
But that is to look backwards. What happens now? Should we assume that the constitution is now dead? Probably, yes.