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June 3, 2005
It'll All End In Tears, I Tell You

The unequivocal rejection of the new EU constitution by two of its founding nations have left members of the EU elite profoundly shaken, the Guardian reports today. Even though polling numbers in France and the Netherlands have predicted substantial losses for weeks now, apparently no one prepared a Plan B. As a result, confusion has broken out at Brussels:

Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister who holds the rotating EU presidency and who was said to have been on the verge of tears when he heard news of the Dutch vote, summoned Gerhard Schrder for emergency talks. As the German chancellor travelled to the Grand Duchy, the Elyse Palace announced that Jacques Chirac would fly to Berlin tomorrow to discuss the crisis.

Such stalwarts of Old Europe, who issued bleak statements on Wednesday night after 61% of Dutch voters said no to the constitution, are still insisting in public that ratification must continue.

As he prepared to fly home, Mr Schrder tried to calm the atmosphere: "Ratification must continue. We must decide what to do at the end of that process. Every form of overreaction at this stage is wrong."

But the first cracks in this front appeared yesterday when Jose Manuel Barroso, the European commission president, pointedly refrained from calling for ratification to continue. "We're in a period of reflection," he said.

His officials went even further in private as they expressed sympathy with Britain, which wants to postpone its referendum. "A pause is very realistic, we have to recognise the realities," one official said.

The proposed constitution and the existing EU charter both require unanimous ratification among all member nations for any new constitution to be approved. Therefore, it would seem that insisting on holding votes in the rest of the EU states amounts to nothing more than an exercise in futility.

Germany's insistence on continuing with the vote even though the Dutch have rejected it by almost a 2-1 margin send an odd message. Europeans might interpret the Germans as saying that they will impose the constitution on member-nations despite their vote, or simply that the Germans and others who run the EU have a substantial hearing problem when it comes to listening to their electorate. Neither conclusion will improve the EU's chances of avoiding further rejections, especially in Britain, where it faces an already skeptical population.

The elite's only hope is for a revote in the two countries that rejected the pact. In France, that might work, as the reasons for the rejection had more to do with the leadership of Chirac and his team than the pact itself. For the Dutch, however, it would be out of the question. Their referendum had the highest turnout seen for a Dutch election in years and the overwhelming landslide against the Constitution shows that the Dutch have no desire to integrate themselves any further into an EU that is moving in its current direction. Demanding a second vote -- or worse, ignoring the referendum and having their parliament approve the constitution -- would be political suicide.

It's back to the drawing board, or maybe even a warning signal to EU wonks that entrenched national interests will not allow for the kind of political union that they envision. The EU might need to settle for remaining an economic alliance and give up what appears to be a fantasy of a European political confederacy.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 3, 2005 6:02 AM

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» EU-logie for a stillborn Constitution from The Herkimer Diaries
After fifty years of arguing fervently to convince the rest of Europe to unite around the new European Constitution, the French did the perfectly French thing: surrendered, facing the reality and chose to successfully defend the French way of life, t... [Read More]

Tracked on June 3, 2005 8:51 PM

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