Thoughts from Dublin
Tuesday 31 May 2005
May I send you below for your information a copy of an article by the undersigned from today's "Irish Times" on the consequences for the EU integration project of France's No vote of Sunday last.
May I also send you an article by Jens-Peter Bonde MEP from today's Euobserver.com news service. This article makes the important point that continuation of the process of ratifying the EU Constitution in other countries depends on French President Jacques Chirac telling his fellow EU Heads of State and Government either to respect the French people's vote of Sunday last, or else to ignore it so that they can go ahead with their ratifications on the assumption that President Chirac's Government will make the French people change their minds at a later date, so that France can still ratify the "Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe".
If the Netherlands also votes No to the EU Constitution tomorrow, as is widely expected, Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende faces the same choice: either to tell the EU Member States that have not yet ratified the Constitution to go ahead with ratifying it, because the Dutch people's vote will be ignored or reversed in due time; or else that the Dutch vote should be respected and the ratification process should now halt.
In June 2001 Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern took the cravenly contemptible course of siding with his 14 friends among the EU Presidents and Prime Ministers and spurning his own people's vote, when he told his colleagues that they should go ahead with ratifying the Nice Treaty despite its rejection by Irish voters. The Danish Prime Minister acted in the same way when the Danish people voted No to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.
Will Jacques Chirac and Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende tell their EU colleagues that they must respect their own peoples' democratic vote, so that the EU Constitution ratification process must now cease? Or will they chose the undemocratic course the Irish and Danish Prime Ministers did before them when their peoples rejected the Nice and Maastricht Treaties in their respective countries?
It is unlikely that the French or Dutch leaders will show the contempt for their own people that the Irish and Danish Prime Ministesr showed; but we shall know definitely soon enough.
Secretary, The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, Ireland
ARTICLE 1: Irish Times, Dublin ... Tuesday 31 May 2005
SOUNDING THE DEATH KNELL FOR EU FEDERATION
The EU integration project is unlikely to recover from the French vote and without a State behind it, the euro cannot survive, writes Anthony Coughlan
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The French people's rejection of the proposed EU Constitution is a blow for democracy in France and and the whole of Europe. It should open the way to a saner, more rational way of organising our continent.
The reason is that the new EU treaty was an attempt to give the constitutional form of a supranational Federal State to the 25 countries of the present EU.
One can only be a citizen of a State. This Constitution aimed to make us real citizens of a real EU Federation for the first time, such that we would owe this new entity thereafter the prime duty of citizenship, namely, our obedience and loyalty. To attempt to make the citizens of 25 to 30 countries with their different languages and traditions into real citizens of one country called Europe, when there is no such thing as a single European people except statistically, has never been realistic.
Yet to create such a European Federation has been the central aim of the European Movement since Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman in the 1950s.
Each successive European treaty - Rome 1957, the Single European Act 1987, Maastricht 1992, Amsterdam 1998, Nice 2003 - has been "sold" to citizens as being necessary for jobs and growth, but has been politically designed to lead to ever closer integration, a shift of ever more power from Nation States to the supranational Brussels institutions, and a continual erosion of the national democracy and political independence of the different peoples of Europe's many countries. This has been "the great deception" of the EU integration project.
This process was meant to culminate in this EU Constitution, which would have clamped a rigid politico-economic straitjacket on 25 or more different countries. As people found out more about it,and they had a thorough debate on it in France, they have revolted at its implications.
That the French people who have been at the heart of the EU integration process for so long should reject it in this way is a shattering blow to the project, from which it is unlikely to recover. France's vote will surely come to be seen as an historical watershed.
One long-term effect is likely to be on the euro. A central aim of the supranational Federation envisaged by the EU Constitution was to provide a political counterpart for a single European currency. What we have at present is 12 countries, 12 Governments, 12 budgets and 12 tax policies, all using the same euro. Yet without one State behind it, the euro cannot survive in the long run.
Countries need maximum flexibility, not rigidity, in the modern world. The euro has been a political project from the beginning, aimed at reconciling France to German reunification,but using economic means quite inappropriate for this purpose.
Germany and France's high unemployment rate is significantly due to the euro. The euro imposes a one-size-fits-all interest rate policy on quite different economies, and an inflexible exchange rate that prevents States restoring their competitiveness by changing their currency's value.
France's death-blow to the Constitution means an EU Federation is now unlikely to come into being as a political counterpart to the euro.
... It is untrue to say that there is some legal obligation on the Netherlands or any other EU country to proceed with ratifying the EU Constitution, despite France's rejection. There is no such obligation. Where could it come from? There is a political Declaration annexed to the "Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe" which says say that if four-fifths of States do not ratify it, they will meet to discuss what to do.
This is not the same as an obligation on States to proceed with ratification either individually or collectively if one country says No. The decision of Ireland or other EU States to proceed with ratification as if a French or Dutch No could be reversed or over-ruled at a later date, would be a political matter, but not a legal imperative. The political rationale for such a course would be that the Irish Government envisaged engaging in an act of collective pressure and bullying vis-a-vis France, similar to what Irish citizens had to put up with when they voted No to Nice in 2001. The French however are likely to prove less malleable than we were.
The two possible future for our European continent are either integration into a supranational State Federation or cooperation among States on the basis of the balance of power and influence between them.
The balance of power is fine as long as it stays balanced, which is the art of statecraft. Europe of the balance of power is now reasserting itself again. That great political realist, France's Charles De Gaulle, who once said that "Europe is a Europe of the Nations and the States or it is nothing", would not have been surprised.
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Anthony Coughlan is Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin, and Secretary, The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre
ARTICLE 2: CAN THE FRENCH REJECTION BE REJECTED?__________________________________
by Jens-Peter Bonde MEP
Author of the "Reader-Friendly Edition of the European Constitution" and President of the Independence and Democracy Group in the European Parliament
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The French have rejected the proposed Constitution by 56% No-votes with a surprisingly high 70% turnout. Therefore the proposed Constitution is no longer a formal proposal.
It has been proposed under the rules of Nice demanding unanimity for EU treaty change. The only possibility to revive the document is a new proposal from a new Intergovernmental Conference, deciding by unanimity - including the support of the French Government. That could happen on 16/17 June when the Heads of State and Goverment meet for their next fixed summit in Brussels.
RESPECT OR IGNORE
But it is up to the French to decide if they will respect their referendum or ignore it. On 2 June 1992 the Danish voters rejected the Maastricht Treaty. Two days afterwards the Foreign Ministers met in Oslo in the fringe of a NATO meeting and decided formally to continue the ratification process in spite of the Danish people's No.
It was legally possible because the Danish government ignored the Danish referendum result and promised that they would come back with a ratification at a later date. And they did, after a new referendum on 18 May 1993 in which the Danes were offered some permanent opt-outs from the Treaty, which was then formally ratified by the Danish Government.
When Ireland voted No to the Treaty of Nice the Irish Government also ignored the No vote and came back at a later date with a new referendum. The Nice Treaty continued to exist as a formal proposal because the Irish
Government revived it formally.
It is not an obligation on other governments to decide if the position of a country is fair or not on this matter. But they need the formal go-ahead from the French President before proceeding.
The ratification process cannot continue in good faith if it is not revived by the French.
DANISH AND IRISH EXAMPLES
The Netherlands will vote on tomorrow, Wednesday 1 June. The Dutch referendum is a voluntary referendum. It has no legal value - but it certainly has a political. The Dutch can therefore hold the referendum or cancel it according to their own choice.
The Danish referendum envisaged for 27 September is different because it is a legally binding referendum. There has to be a referendum in Denmark if the EU Constitution is not adopted by 150 of the 179 members of the Danish Parliament.
The majority in the Danish Parliament must decide to hold the referendum in a law proposing the ratification of the EU Constitution. Since this Constitution is now rejected there is no possibility of a binding referendum being held in Denmark unless the French President informs the Danish Government that France intends to ratify the proposed Constitution at a later date.
The Danish Government envisages the adoption of a law on 7 September that would pave the way for a 27 September referendum.
The draft Constitution has attached to it a non-binding declaration, No.30, about a possible summit to discuss the consequences if 20 of the 25 EU States have ratified the Constitution after 2 years and one or more countries have run into difficulties.
This Declaration does not alter the fact that the European Treaties as amended by the Treaty of Nice demand unanimity for new EU treaty ratification. There is a new article in the proposed EU Constitution with a similar content. But this is not law, yet.
The ratification process has to respect the requirement for unanimity amongst the 25 States as set out in the Treaty of Nice. After the French referendum the EU Constitution is therefore dead - unless the French authorities decide to revive it.
SPLITTING INSTEAD OF UNITING EUROPE
Politically the proposed Constitution does not unite Europe. Instead it splits it.
Politically the idea of a state constitution is dead.
A better way forward could be in establishing a working-group with an equal number of members in favour of the Constitution and against it and then seeing if they could agree on proposing ideas for common playing rules
instead of the existing European Treaties as amended by Nice and the proposed EU Constitution.
We need a simple basic treaty of 50 articles or so in some 20 pages covering the necessary aspects of European cooperation. We do not need a Constitution so complex that even the French President does not know its precise contents.
President Chirac proved his lack of knowledge of the Constitution's contents on French television for everyone who can read to see. Now he has the chance to respect the French vote or reject it. Or perhaps elect a new French people!