Vol: 44 Issue: 30 Monday, May 30, 2005
French voters dealt Jacques Chirac and the proposed EU constitution what analysts fear may be a death blow, with almost fifty-five percent of EU voters voting to reject it.
The French ‘No’ could doom the treaty, since all 25 members of the EU must ratify it in order for it to take effect. Some EU countries sought approval by referendum, others by parliamentary vote.
France was the tenth country to hold its ratification vote. The first nine members, Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain, had all voted ‘yes’.
The French vote now shifts the spotlight to the Dutch vote due on Wednesday. As in the case with France, all the opinion polls suggest that the rejectionists in that country are also leading. The French rejection reflects a growing mistrust of new European institutions across Europe.
Previous EU proposals have been rejected by some constituent countries without dooming the entire union — the Danish rejection of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 resulted in a compromise deal in which the Danes were allowed to opt out of monetary union in exchange for ratification.
No such remedy is envisioned for the French. A member state can’t exactly reject the foundational document of the European Union and remain a member.
France’s rejection advances the old ‘Core Europe’ plan — a ‘fast-track’ European Union in which the rejectionists are left behind to work out their difficulties with an eye toward rejoining later.
Another plan under discussion would leave the constitution behind, reverting back to the old model in which France and Germany took the lead through executive and judicial institutions.
President Jacques Chirac, who had predicted France’s isolation in Europe if the constitution was rejected, tried to put his best face on when addressing his nation, but he couldn’t hide his disappointment, saying in a televised statement;
“The decision of France inevitably creates a difficult situation for the defense of our interests in Europe. . . I will tell you in the very next days my decisions regarding the government and its priorities.”
For Chirac, the no vote was a personal defeat. Chirac had assumed that through the constitution, France could promote a stronger, more unified Europe that could project not only economic but also political power around the world.
He repeatedly spoke of a “multipolar world,” with Europe as one of the poles capable of counterbalancing the United States.
After the vote, there were calls among some of the most extreme opponents of the constitution for him to resign.
Among the rejected provisions envisioned by the Constitution were the elimination of the rotating six-month presidency, the creation of an official five-year term EU presidency, enshrine a list of basic rights, and delineated what functions would remain with member states and which functions would be governed from EU headquarters in Brussels.
France was one of the founding members of the 1948 Benelux Coal and Steel Community, which grew into the European Common Market which grew into the European Community which ultimately became the European Union.
The rejection of the constitution by French voters is therefore doubly stinging.
The EU has always been overwhelmingly dominated by the French. In Brussels, the working language of the EU was French. English was rejected out of French concerns that using English would discriminate against ‘other’ languages (‘other’ languages, of course, means ‘French’).
European heads of state and government will head to Brussels on June 16 to try and figure out what to do next. On July 1, the UK assumes its turn as head of the EU’s six-month rotating presidency.
If the Dutch follow the French lead and reject the treaty as well, it is probable that the UK’s Tony Blair will use Britain’s bully pulpit to declare the process dead in the water.
That way, Blair can avoid a defeat similar to Chirac’s by canceling the UK’s constitutional referendum scheduled for next year.
Article IV-443-4 of the constitution outlines the process, should it be rejected by any member state:
“If, two years after the signature of the treaty amending this Treaty, four-fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter shall be referred to the European Council.”
The two years will be up in October, 2006. That’s how long the Euro-planners have to pick up the pieces.
Today’s Omega Letter is a wee bit late . . . my friend, Captain John Kurek (USMC -Ret.) and I went to the town square at 8 a.m. for the lowering of the flag to half-mast in honor of those veterans of past wars who gave all their tomorrows for our today. Thank you to all our veterans. I pray we continue to be worthy of their sacrifice. And may God continue to bless America.