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April 10, 2005
French Still On Track To Derail EU

French popular opinion has continued to grow against the proposed EU constitution, creating a crisis for EU backers that threatens to undo years of work in creating a Continental government -- one that has ironically been dominated by France:

Yesterday the president of the European parliament, Josep Borrell, warned the French that they would plunge Europe into crisis if they rejected the constitution. Alarmed by opinion polls which show the 'Non' campaign in the lead, Borrell warned that rejecting the treaty on 29 May would have far more serious implications for the future of Europe than they imagine. ...

Successive opinion polls have bolstered the 'no' campaign - the latest, released last week, showed 55 per cent of the French public were opposed to the constitution, against 40 per cent a month ago - and the government and mainstream Socialists have redoubled their efforts to win over the electorate. They have resorted to gimmicks such as a tour of Casino supermarkets by astronaut-turned-minister Claudie Haigner, visits by foreign politicians and explanatory meetings for homeless people.

Make no mistake: if the French reject the new EU constitution, it will cause a chain reaction of rejection across the entire continent, and the entire EU project will lose credibility. The EU has already made allowances for French instransigence on debt ceilings and other economic requirements. They have stood patiently while France refused to reform its anticompetitive policies while defending its work-hour limitations and extravagant vacations, rather than addressing its productivity crises. French unemployment stands at 10.1% for several good reasons, none of which the French government has dared to address, preferring to sell the electorate on the notion that the rest of Europe will solve the problem for them.

If the French bail out on the EU, Chirac will simply keep scheduling votes until they approve it, as some people have pointed out. However, the rest of Europe will probably not wait for France. The British in particular will certainly lose interest in pursuing full integration with the EU, and some of the Eastern European members may have second thoughts about providing economic support for French intransigence. This may be a one-time deal, and if France rejects it, it will likely lose whatever credibility it has left in European politics and whatever hope it had in exploiting Europe economically for the next generation.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 10, 2005 9:29 AM

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