Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The French Rejection

The French rejected the EU constitution at something just short of 55 percent, which, curiously, is nearly the same proportion as Americans rejected John Kerry last November.

The proposed constitution is hundreds upon hundreds of pages long, and would put so much of the lives of Europeans under someone else’s control that the French just couldn’t abide it. The U.S. Constitution, by contrast, is only a handful of pages.

Even the French people, who appreciate the easy living under the socialist French government that provides them six-week vacations and 35-hour workweeks prefer freedom to the “slavery” of the proposed charter. The French are more like Americans than they know, or likely wish to be. Freedom everywhere, once it is introduced, is a powerful notion that people want to maintain. We see that in Afghanistan and Iraq. And now we see it in France.

As much as I dislike Jacques Chirac, he did one thing I’ll give him credit for: He put the approval of the proposed constitution up to the people. In doing so he learned a nasty but valuable lesson: The people see things differently than do the politicians. Most of the rest of the EU that has already approved the constitution has had their parliaments give the approval, not the people. It is a near certainly the remaining EU members will not leave such a serious decision to the people, now that the French have so dramatically rejected the proposal. I’d be willing to bet that the next time the issue comes up in France, if it does come up again, it will be a matter for French politicians to decide, not the French people.

What does this dazzling loss portend for the EU? London's Daily Telegraph had this to say: "It is hard to think of a graver crisis of legitimacy for the EU. If even France, Europe's most loyal daughter, wants no more of the racket, then surely the time has come to go back to the drawing board. If Europe's leaders had an ounce — a gram, rather — of decency, they would accept the verdict and change direction. For this constitution did not merely propose some new extensions of EU power; it restated the entire acquis communautaire: the accumulated pile of EU jurisdiction."

“Back to the drawing board” is good advice, but the smart money is on the arrogance of the European elites who both don’t understand the meaning of the word “no” as shouted by France last week, and also think they know best what is good for everyone.

No comments: