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May 30, 2005

EU Constitution - Que Sera Sera
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

There will be weeks and months of analysis over what's happening in Europe and why. 

By and large the progressive and modernizing forces in Europe were behind integration and the Constitution, and for good reason:  the Union has helped bring struggling European economies to prosperity and has proven a powerful liberalizing force throughout Eastern Europe and now approaching the borders of the Soviet Union and the Arab world.  It has strengthened Europe's role as a player on the world stage which, by and large, has meant another loud voice in support of values similar to our own.

The opposition movement ginned up the likes of Jean-Marie Le Pen and was in some ways frightening.  I know less about this than Heather and Derek, but would love thoughts from them and others on a few issues:

Will this amplify pro-U.S. voices in the EU? One of Chirac's major fears with a no vote was lessening French influence in the EU.  This presumably means a larger role for Britain and the new members, all of which tend to be more in sync with U.S. policies.  Although the French no was a victory for the forces of insularity, these countries tend to be more outward looking. 

Though we've long sought it, are we really better off with a "single number to call" in Europe - I believe Kissinger coined the demand for a single number to dial for a coherent European foreign policy.  But solidly unified European positions are great only insofar as we agree with them.  When we disagree, or when a position is still under formation, it may be easier for the U.S. to have influence when its acknowledged that the Union's position is the sum of its parts.  That way, by lobbying individual countries, we can influence the whole.  It's a slow and painful process, but easier than bumping our head up against a wall.  A rock-solid, totally cohesive European policy-making regime would presumably be more resistant to U.S. influence.  A looser regime may be easier to work with.

China card - My guess is that in the coming months China tries to take advantage of confusion in the EU to extend and solidify their trade relationships and influence in their own region and in Latin America.   My guess is Beijing views this as a clear win.


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The most obvious but often overlooked consequence for U.S. national security of Europe's gradual unification has been to check nationalism and pacify this historic cockpit of conflict. On this Memorial Day, let's not forget just how many American soliders have perished on that continent in the last century. France's rejection of the EU continent again raises the specter of resurgent nationalism and xenophobia that not only undermines our Alliance, but raises the possibility of future wars on foreign shores.


France's rejection of the EU continent again raises the specter of resurgent nationalism and xenophobia that not only undermines our Alliance, but raises the possibility of future wars on foreign shores.

Claptrap. Actually quite the contrary. Because it was the result of too many compromises between too many countries, this treaty has become the focus of all the resentments. Once implemented and allowing a bypass of national democracies, it would have been a factor of strife rather than a mean to prevent it.

The so-called democratic improvements offered by the treaty were not much more than lipstick on a pig with a Commission that remains unchecked and uncontrollable and a grotesquely ineffective Parliament (and who would want to give any more power to this complete joke). The Constitution treaty did not significantly alter this situation and, in many respects, made it worst.

The problem of the European institutions as they stand today is that they have been imposed from the top, which was fine as long their scope of action was very limited and there were few enough members so it remained reactive and workable under the full veto rule (which ensured that each member remained in control). What was workable, effective and legitimate until the early 90s has become bloated and fundamentally illegitimate.

The current European structures are imperial in essence, just without a clearly defined emperor. We all know what happens to empires, especially the weak kind.

As Jean Monet once said "If we were to start over Europe, we should start by culture". Europe will not go much further until a truly European political culture (and not only political), that spreads beyond a few elite circles, and it is alas nowhere to be seen, not between the 2 founding countries, France and Germany. Actually, it seems that things have been going backwards over the past 20 years by some measures such as the knowledge of one another’s language within the populations.

The French Non is going to enforce a pause on a runaway process and prod each member into truly thinking about its own project for Europe. It will most likely result in a significant shrinkage of the missions of the EU, those for which a consensus really exists, and more clarity, legitimacy and, hopefully, efficiency, in those fewer missions. It’s also going lay bare the reality of European weaknesses and crack the illusions that Europe has been "moving forward" all along when it was just spinning around its navel.

Ugly reality comes calling. Ain’t pretty but it’s much better than carrying on delusions and hitting the wall at the full speed.

PS: The US don't have anything to fear from Europe, nothing at all. Don't worry.

Fifi - I cannot defend the craft onstitution, and readily concede that it has flaws. And perhaps your optimistic reading of events will unfold, and I certainly hope it will. In the best case scenario, France's rejection will result in deeper introspection that yields stronger institutional reforms that advance the European project. But don't dismiss the potential security threat posed by European fracture and disunion. The break-up of one European state - Yugoslavia - facilitated genocidal nationalism that was presumed to be an anachronism but ultimately led to the risking of American military materiel and manpower. The uneasy unity achieved over the last fifty years in Europe could be still be undone with dire consequences for U.S. national security.

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