Crisis in Europe
The French and the Dutch have said
'no' to the proposed constitutional treaty. Should other EU member
states continue with ratification? What broader lessons should Europe
draw from those 'noes'?
See TGA's Guardian
columns on this subject:
Votez oui malgré tout
What is to be done?
R. Rivas, Australia/Spain
I feel happy about this sharp braking of the
"EU Project". People were being asked, no, shouted at by their
political and bureaucratic elites to RUBBER STAMP a massive 400 page lawyer
and bureaucratic wet dream that nobody really understood, which was confusingly
called a "Constitutional Treaty". In Spain, a strongly pro EU
country, it was affirmed, but this affirmation should have been ruled
"off-side" as less than half the electors bothered to vote on
this historically decisive treaty-constitution-thingy-whatever! France
and the Netherlands , traditional stalwarts of the EU resoundingly shouted
NO! The reaction of the elites was that it was a disaster, that the peasants
are revolting and ignorant, and that the NO was all due to specific domestic
political issues, etc, etc.
Let's get this last suggestion straight - yes there were a lot of specific
and contrary local issues - a lot of (employed) French love their straight-jacketed
economy (wait till bankruptcy hits!) and the Dutch, though with one of
the most open economies in the world - but suffering from the hangover
of nine years of an out of control housing boom (no politician had the
guts to demand that it be controlled with specific taxes) are out of sorts,
and suddenly disgusted to discover that their ultra tolerant society has
imported an ultra intolerant foreign culture into its cities - one in
which women are definitely not equal and the killing of politicians and
journalists has become one of the risks of free speech!
But this hides a more fundamental reason - the EU, which was alway based
on economics is no basis for a state! The Euro elites seem to think that
mere economics which disregards the cultural roots of European society,
and also ignores the identities of peoples, can be the basis of a state.
This is pure moonshine. When people talk of "multi-culturalism's
success" say in Canada and Australia, they ignore a few key points
- firstly, the vast majority (about 90 percent) are of Western origin
and so have enough in common understandings to hold them together. Secondly
the relatively tiny Islamic societies within these countries number only
a few hundred thousand and are therefore unable to isolate themselves
from the wider community. From sheer daily necessity they have become
relatively well integrated. This contrasts with the huge Islamic communities
in some French and Dutch cities where many live in a parallel universe,
hardly ever needing to come into contact with non-muslims in their daily
lives, with the inevitable result of strong communal tensions with the
wider, secular, western society - which then manifests itself in extremism
and counter-extremism on both sides.
But I've diverged - the EU, which was not long ago the European ECONOMIC
Community, is essentially driven by economic abstraction which doesn't
even acknowledge the cultural basis of societies, and so cannot be the
basis of a state, which, after all, is ultimately the political apparatus
by which a society regulates its internal tensions. This is the true meaning
of the adamant French "Non" and Dutch "Nee" - these
peoples are simply not prepared to blindly handover ultimate sovereignity
to this disembodied, abstract, economically, bureacratically and legally
driven organisation of which they feel has no real connection with their
societies. To put it in practical terms: Who is sufficiently motivated
to fight, as a soldier, in defense of the EU?
Michel Bastian, France
No, the constitution should not be pushed
through forcibly. That would spark an instant mutiny against the EU in
general. Broader lessons? All governments and Brussels should listen to
the people more. And they should reform the european institutions so as
to guarantee democratic representation in EU lawmaking processes. And
they have to build up confidence in the EU again. Then we can talk about
drawing up a european constitution (a real one, not another treaty in
Robert Burnett, USA
Americans are enjoying seeing the pompous
frog and his German dachshund get egg over their pusses. Couldn't happen
to nicer elitists. What a pity others don't want to be ruled by a neo-Vichy-Prussian
axis. Dirty 'ol Anglo-Saxons.
Antti Vainio, Finland
Even though the xenophobic noises are disgusting
who can blame the Dutch and the French? Concentrating the power in Bruxelles
and neoliberalism is not what majority of Europeans want. The Scandinavians
have shown that you can have both, a market economy and an independent
wellfare state within the union. I'm refering, of course, to Denmark and
Sweden. Finland is becoming a sad example of illfare state run by the
chosen greedy ones, mostly from abroad. Yeah, we didn't vote about the
constitution, it's just accepted by the wise
Charles Warren, USA
The French goal of transforming Europe into
a sort of Third French Empire able to confront America as a geopolitical
equal has foundered, as I knew it would, on the sheer fact that the people
of Europe (even the French !) are not willing to pay the cost in sovereignty
and lifestyle to bring it about.
When someone puts a 400 page contract and a pen in front of you, don't
sign unless you are absolutely confident of the motives of that person.
In 1787 the American people were given a concise, dry, but readable four
page document that they understood completely and signed off on after
full public debate. The American people knew what they were getting into.
Nobody understood the European 'constitution' and nobody had ever been
sold on what exactly the European people stood to gain from "an ever
The people of Europe do not want a constitution because they do not want
a unitary state. They understand that the only level on which politicians
can actually be held accountable, on which democracy can actually be exercised,
is that of the nation state. They have no wish to be governed by a mandarin
class utterly removed from democratic accountability.
Michel Bastian, France
To R. Rivas:
> To put it in practical terms: Who is sufficiently motivated to fight,
as a soldier, in defense of the EU?
(Antti, stop reading or get some coffee, this is going to be a long one
again ;-)). You mean personally put their life on the line for the EU?
I would be, no questions asked. "Why?" do you ask? After all,
the EU is just a bloated bureaucratic monster, right? Wrong. The EU is
an ideal. It´s the concept of 25 different nations not only living
in peace with one another, but actually cooperating closely for the greater
good without losing their national identities. The EU is more, much more
than just the sum of all its parts. It´s the prototype for a global
Oh, yes, I can hear all those eurosceptics saying I´m a hopeless
dreamer and that it´s never going to work. All I can say to them
is: it works. How do I know that? Because I experienced it first hand.
You see, I was fortunate enough to be brought up in an inconspicuous small
town in Flanders (Belgium) that had one particularity: it had a european
school. These are a few schools drawn up by the first EEC member states
all over western Europe. The object is to provide education for the children
of EU civil servants. For information you can go to http://www.eursc.org/
. The educational concept of these schools is to provide the pupils with
a broader view that is not restricted to their own nation. In practice,
that means you have a fairly normal scholar curriculum (starting with
a nursery cycle, a primary cycle and a secondary cycle), but you´re
in school with pupils and teachers from all over Europe. Most lessons
are taught in one primary language (depending on what section you´re
in; there were english, german, french, dutch and italian sections in
my time; it´s bound to have changed a bit since then, because I
left school in ´82), but from day one you learn at least two foreign
languages from native speaking teachers. Also, at least two of your major
non-language subjects in the secondary cycle are taught by native speakers
from another section. Myself, I had a choice of getting history and geography
taught in english or in french by english or french teachers. I chose
french at the time. I also took classical greek classes, taught by a french
teacher (we didn´t have Greeks in the school back then). So in my
case I had a french geography teacher, a belgian history teacher, german
teachers for maths, biology, chemistry, philosophy, latin, german (mother
tongue), art, a dutch music teacher, a dutch dutch teacher, a french greek
teacher, an englishman for english, a frenchman for french (as a foreign
language, which I admit was a bit unfair in my case ;-)) and last but
not least a scot for physical education (depend on a scot if you want
all-weather outdoor sports, believe me ;-)). The director of the school
was an englishman, the sub-director was german and the director of primary
school was a belgian (nowadays they´re irish, spanish and swedish
Sounds like a right jumble? Well actually no, it wasn´t. Since you
didn´t have to worry about languages (everybody could speak at least
three languages more or less fluently in there), the whole thing functioned
just like a normal school.
And that´s the reason why despite all the cultural differences,
I know the EU can work if people just give it half a chance.
Tony Earnshaw, UK
Constitutions in general are a good thing,
as they codify procedures so that we all know where we stand. Even my
local bowls club has one.
None of the critics of the proposed constitution ever seem to specify
which clauses they are against. But it's only by citing the clauses they
don't like that we can ever get a rational, non-veto, EU off the ground.
EU ratification should continue, if only so the individual clauses (yes,
all of them) can be debated by commentators and politicians alike. Once
we know what clauses we all like, we can return to the drawing board.
I think there can only be a 'no' vote. I also
think the French voted no for the wrong reasons and the Dutch for the
right ones. The essential problem of the EU are it's & it's roots.
The latter you can safely identify as Hitler and the Nazi's (what Hitler
could not achieve with his armies, the EU has now realized), the former
is fundamentally undemocratic. Had Schumann & Monnet but adopted or
written something similar to the American Constitution, there would be
no problem today.
I think there is a clash between 'popular' values and those of elites
and the governments. Popular here means the Enlightenmentpropaganda we're
bombarded with on the Big and the Little Screen. Governments of course
adhere to completely opposite values: they have to. (for enlightenmentpropaganda
and the attack on modernity by the neocons in the US, I'd advise you to
read the blog of David Brin, an American writer/scientist). Governments
failure to acknowledge to shift in values (or to properly deal with it)
is leading societies all over Europe into disaster. Because, if we want
to have a future - believe in one, I mean - this will require the adoption
of certain values. But this can not be proscribed by governments. That
is the great problem.
There was a short note in La Libération
on June 9th, that fits into the discussion about a "crisis":
So now we finally learned that Washington thinks that there is an "European
crisis". It took obviously some time for the Americans to find out
if the "noes" in the French and Dutch votings are good or bad
for their imperial plans for a unipolar world. However, the fact that
the US seem to be so interested in the results of the plebiscites should
ring some alarm bells on our side of the pond.
Actually, Europe is in the good position that it doesn't need to care
if the World Bully is happy or worried about what is happening on the
path of development of the EU. Europe as such is big enough and its member
states are strong enough to cope with the process all by themselves, and
also with temporary setbacks that are completely normal and might happen
The United States are certainly interested in a united Europe; in a Europe,
though, which corresponds to the plans that Pennsylvania Avenue has for
it. In that picture, it would certainly not be a strong Union but rather
a satellite to America: Economically strong enough to be the playground
for their corporations, the raiders of their hedge funds and equity funds,
but politically weak enough to obediently fulfill the wishes of the masters
in Washington in the global game of influence and pressure.
The recent "noes" to the European "constitution" have
brought politicians back to earth; it has given us the opportunity to
lean back for a little while and ponder what exactly we want to do with
the partial successes that we have achieved so far. We have to remember
the European values: They are ?still-- humanistic, meaning that the human
welfare stands in the center of our thinking. Europe stands for dialogue
and the resulting consensus in social matters, in contrary to the dictate
of predator capitalism that unfortunately rules in the US.
"Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus", said neocon
thinker Robert Kagan a few years ago. We should really be proud of that
estimation. It's a compliment. Europe stands for tolerance, America stand
for bullying. Europe stands for negotiations, America stands for missiles.
Europe stands for Kant and Rousseau, America stands for Adam Smith and
Hobbes. Europe is Mozart, America is Mike Tyson. Perfect ? all that is
reason enough to be rejoycing.
Europe now has the big chance to build a strong entity out of the loose
conglomerate that it is right at the moment. The most important prerequisite
is, though, that it must not admit any meddling into its internal errands
from outside. This is going to be an extremely difficult task, considering
the political configuration that it will be facing during the next years:
In Britain, there is Tony Blair, blindly convinced that there can only
be a unipolar world, subject to the United States; in Germany, from September
onward we will most likely see Mrs. Angela Merkel happily receiving her
orders from Washington; and both will be strongly backed up by the "New
Europe". France's Mr de Villepin will then have a really tough job
to hold the European Union's course on the independent path. The proceedings
in Brussels are likely to slow down because of the neoliberal opposition
and he will probably have to stand against some severe attacks from lobbyists
and pressure groups. But that is nothing else but a normal process on
the way that leads Europe to its goal: To be par inter pares on this planet
and not a colony of Wall Street.
In this sense, there is not really a crisis going on; maybe a few lobbyists
in Brussels are panicking, that's about all. No one ever thought that
building the EU would be a straight highway without obstacles. What we
are facing now is the opportunity to think, and it were the French and
Dutch citizens who gave us this chance. They made it clear that Europe
is supposed to be a Union for every single human being, based on democratic
and humanistic principles, and not a playground for the élites.
We should be thankful for it.
As for the recent crisis in Europe, I strongly
disagree with anyone who claims that the current bickerings among EU leaders
will eventually lead to an end of the EU. They certainly differ on a number
of issues, yet to describe the state of the EU in the midlle of 2005 a
far more appropriate terminology is necessary. The current crisis is a
crisis of two or three leaders on their way out of politics, and we, the
people who elected them simply have to come to terms with it.
Robert Rivas, Australian/Spain
There may be a day when an inspiring, to the
point and short Constitution may be voted for - but I ask the question:
are you prepared to sacrifice your life to defend Europe? Until people
can answer anambigiously "yes" to that question, there is no
point in a constitution, since something that entails a binding "qualified
majority" vote implies statehood, and statehood implies a single,
indivisible society. And the individuals within that society have a commitment,
body and soul, to the preservation of that society. This is why, given
its present state of development, not only is a proper constitutional
referendum grossly premature, but so is the European Parliament.
Note, that one of the great complaints within France and Netherlands was
the lack of consultation of The People in the eastward expansion of the
EU into the former Warsaw bloc. The political and economic and legal elites
would say that the ((ignorant, reactionary)) people would of said, ((selfishly,aheem))NO
regardless of all the great benefits! That they just don't get it - look
at that "Polish Plumber" populist nonsense in France.
But its the elites caught in their disembodied managerial flow charts
that don't get it (haven't they studied John Ralston Saul's "Voltaire's
Bastard's?). Oh those peasant, um, I mean ordinary people, are confused
and ignorant. NO THEY'RE NOT. The EU has, without their sovereign permission,
achieved quasi statehood. Many of its laws are already trumping those
of national states. Ohh goody! say the philosophically challanged Euro-(e)lites
- this is progress (that is, THEIR PROGRESS). But let's look at that Polish
Plumber so called populist "nonsense". What it implies is that
the "ordinary" French are saying, "if you want to be part
of our Federation, you first must achieve certain minimal standards"
and then ask us, LE PEUPLE, for permission to join - in other words so
as not to undercut the way of life of our "ordinary" people
by suddenly upsetting the existing social balances. So what the French
"populists" are in fact insisting on is a kind of "apprentiseship"
period, at the end of which the "ordinary" SOVEREIGN people
and not the econometric and legal managers decide. Put it another way,
why this unholy rush at giantism - I mean many successful European enterprises
like Airbus and CERN are proceeding nicely and don't need it. The Euro
elites will say it'll be good for Europe's economy. The "ordinary"
people opposing it will say "but is it good for me, my family, my
local community?" and are quite rightly concerned with being lectured
at by econometric philistines.
Sure, the French (and German, and Italian) economic sclerosis, (where
the costs of hiring and firing of workers so limits French businesses
ability to take risks and innovate) may very well be a railway accident
waiting to happen - but when it does, the French will deal with it in
their own innimitably Gallic way - just as the British dealt with their
problems their own way under Thatcher. This will happen when politicians
like Chirac can no longer blame the UK, Globalism, the Euro, China and
any other convenient scapegoats for France's economic troubles. But at
least the French public will feel it has some control of its destiny through
the French political process.
If the EU wants to succeed, hasten slowly in expansion, and first put
its current house in order!
Finally: SHAME ON GERMANY'S POLITICAL ELITE IN USURPING THE SOVEREIGN
RIGHT OF HER PEOPLE TO VOTE ON THE EUROPEAN CONSTITUTIONAL "TREATY".
A couple of thoughts on the issue of the EU
constitution. First of all, I find it pathetic that the current debate
on the EU constitution has literally been highjacked by the no votes in
France and the Netherlands. Nobody, I repeat, nobody mentions the fact
there are ten European countries that have already ratified the constitution.
Ironically, we seem to linger over the two countries which said no to
it, without even bothering to include the view of those who already accepted
it. Would it not be better to wait and see how many countries eventually
ratify or reject the constitution? Finally, is it really sensible to think
that such a big issue would be decided by twenty five countries without
one or two dissenting voices? Wishful thinking!
The current state of the European Union has
been seriously complicated, not by the CAP, UK rebates or enlargements,
but by the consequences of the end of the Cold War. The lack of co-operation
among the EU leaders on major issues manifests itself in the fact that Europe,
temporarily, does not face any immediate external Œenemy‚. Russia
is there no more and China will probably need another twenty years to couterbalance
the US. By that time, however, Europe needs to seriously get its act together
as the stakes are extremely high and the cost of inaction even higher. So
what is to be done?
The EU constitution in one form or another has to be adopted. What shape
it will eventually take remains to be seen. Nevertheless, efforts aimed
at the adoption of a single document for the whole of Europe should not
be scrapped. In the global world of the twenty first century, Europe not
only needs to specifiy its future objectives, but also enshrine its ideals
and values in the form of a written document, not a set of unwritten and
ambiguous rules. This is necessary when we consider that there are currently
twenty-five members in the EU club, and that number may rise to thirty something
in the next two decades.
On the issue of the current squabbles over the EU budget, let&
Ross Gurung, France
To R. Rivas, Australia /Spain,
I dare giving you baffling cut-and-dried opinion:
The American dream is worth Œdying‚ for it, whereas
The European dream is worth Œliving‚ for it.
Excerpt from „The European Dream‰
-By courtesy of the Author, Jeremy Rifkin.To Charles Warren, USA,
The EU is none of your business. Keep yourself off!!
Michel Bastian, France
To Antti Vainio:
>The Boss of the Central Bank of France Christian Noyer says in Financial
Times that Scandinavian way seems to be quite clever. No shit, Sherlock,
maybe your leaders should do something instead of whining about the food
the leaders of Italy and France had to suffer when they agonized couple
of hours in the precidential palace of Helsinki.
Hey, Antti, sorry for Chirac´s temper. Perhaps you´ll best do
what us french do when dealing with this kind of verbal diarrhoea: ignore
it. I´m like the 49% in the US: I have to live with a president I
don´t really like (despite one or two things he did right). Next election
Phil Karasick, Seattle, Washington, USA
Michel Bastian wrote: " Just to put things
straight: I´m not an EU official or in any way employed by or associated
with the EU. I´m self-employed, together with four other people I
built up my own business (without any subsidies or help from whomever, especially
not from the EU) and worked hard for the last 10 years to keep it running.
Oh, and my firm also employs an (albeit small) number of persons that would
be out of a job otherwise. I did use the language skills I learned at school
quite a bit though. Sorry if that´s too 'european elitist' for you.
Let me see if I get this straight: You're self-employed? You created your
own business, together with four other partners? You worked hard and scrimped
and saved and sacrificed to keep your business running? You created employment
and income for people who would otherwise be on the dole or otherwise unemployed?
And.. and.. you DIDN'T take a dime or franc of subsidies from anyone, ESPECIALLY
not from the EU?
Michel, are you SURE you're not an American small-business Republican? You
sure are doing a great job of talking and sounding like one. Maybe I should
send you an invitation to join the local Chamber of Commerce here. People
like you are exactly the kind of hard-working, risk-taking, job-creating,
subsidy-scorning, business-friendly Republican-leaning capitalist Individualists
that the Chamber proudly support.
(Not that I meant to insult you or anything, so please don't take it that
Phil Karasick, Seattle, Washington, USA
Let's see, so far I've seen Antti Vainio in
Finland refer to "gooks", "niggers", KKK, triads, Asian
sex slaves, etc. etc. You seem like a pretty racist guy there, Antti. Must
be from living in a country that's basically a single-cell gene pool with
a history of interbreeding. Pretty easy to be racist when you never see
anyone but people who look just like you, and who are probably all related
to you at one time or another.
Phil Karasick, Seattle, Washington, USA
On the one hand, Antti Vainio wrote: "...believe
or not, our standard of living is not at all as bad as your GOP say. We
are having it quite dandy..."
Yet, on the other hand, Antti Vainio wrote: "In Finland and generally
we pay highest taxes. In Finland our food is most expensive. Our wages are
lowest in Europe."
Now, let's see if we can make some sense of this, if that's possible.
On one hand, Mr. Vainio claims that the lifestyle in Finland is "just
dandy" and that their standard of living "is not at all as bad
as" our GOP members (names unknown, he doesn't say) claim.
On the other hand, Mr. Vainio candidly states that he and others in Finland
pay the highest taxes in Europe, pay the highest food costs in Europe, and
earn the lowest wages in Europe.
I would suggest that Mr. Vainio try attending school in some country other
than Finland. Apparently the schools in Finland need significant improvement,
since they have apparently brainwashed Mr. Vainio.
Anyone who would actually, seriously think that earning the European Continent's
lowest on-average wages (his claim, not mine), having the continent's highest
food costs, and having to pay levels of taxation that would send an American
into cardiac arrest, somehow equates to having a standard of living that
is "just dandy", is in serious need of some remedial education.
Antti Vainio, Finland
Ok, this is what pisses me off in the new Europa:we
in Finland have been building this wellfare state since the Big War. Now
the communists in all of the former eastern bloc have turned into capitalists
who are even worse bastards than Margaret Thatcher. The Estonians are laughing
to us because the greediest over there are having it quite fancy while we
are generally doing just ok. Their poor are starving but who cares. They
are cheeky enough to say we as well in Finland should have their flat 20%
tax which made them rich. Fuck this new arrogant right:Finland, Iceland,
Sweden & Denmark are good places to live exactly because we pay huge
taxes and put them in things like education, hospitals, libraries and the
care of the elder. The Dutch do likewise. Money talks and bullshit walks
is probably nice idea if you've been under a communist regime but the European
constitution should not support any of those ideas
Regarding the EU constitutional crisis: It's
perfectly ok for people to vote against things from time to time - it's
normal in a democracy.
As for those who compare the EU constitution with the American one - I grant
you that the American one had fine prose - but does it work in practice?
Only look at Katrina and her aftermath - part of that is a result of muddled
lines of authority between federal and states and the muddle stems directly
from their antiquated constitution. After Katrina is there anyone on earth
who would wish to be American?
Their budget farce is also a result of their antiquated 18th century way
of doing things - get this - the White House comes up with a budget, the
senate comes up with a completely different version independently, and the
house of representatives comes up with a third version, again independently
- then they try to reconcile the three versions. And the preferred method
of reconciliation? They bribe each other with pork projects so that the
budget swells to at least three times it's size - no wonder they are going
bankrupt in a hurry.
Message to the Americans on this board: fine prose is not enough to run
a country - much better to have a dull document that actually works. It
might be time you rewrote your document before you go down the tube entirely.
Don't be like those medieval Islamists who claim that these documents are
sacred and therefore can't be touched.
One of the benefits of the EU is that it operates on a process of evolution
- there is improvement and a new treaty every decade, it evolves, it adapts.
So the constitution got rejected. No matter, we'll come up with a new improved
version. America by contrast has been drawn up by people who believe in
Intelligent Design - designed on the vision of a fixed unchanging future
- only life is not like that in practice, as they are finding out.