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May 28, 2005

Oh Non!
Posted by Derek Chollet

Just to echo what Heather wrote yesterday regarding tomorrow’s vote in France on the EU constitution, to be followed by the vote in the Netherlands: for those who believe in a strong EU, it will not be a good week.  Having spent the past week in the Persian Gulf and UK (hence my extended absence), all anyone is talking about is how the French will vote “no” and expect the Netherlands to follow suit.  France’s leaders pretty much gave up hope a few days ago. 

It’s anyone’s guess what will happen after these votes derail the EU constitution, other than that this will set off a bonanza of business for European wonks and think tankers – for a good start, see this recent discussion among some American European specialists.  Another certainty is that we will be entering a phase of internal Euro-hand-wringing and navel-gazing that will make strong U.S.-European cooperation on a variety of important issues a lot more difficult.

Oddly enough, one person who is secretly happy about all of this is British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has committed to holding a British referendum on the constitution sometime in the next few years.  The EU constitution is even more unpopular in Britain, and most consider a British “yes” even more improbable.  One of Blair’s fears was that all other countries would have approved the constitution and that the fate of the treaty would hinge entirely on Britain.  With a French no, he’s off the hook.  And in July, Britain takes over its six-month presidency of the EU (a rotation that the EU constitution would end), which gives Blair a chance to lead the effort to pick up the pieces from this mess – which is one way to work his way back from the Continental beating he has taken over Iraq. 


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