The magnitude of this daunting 54,67 % NON compounded by that stunning 63% NEE was not forecast. True. In part because the elite and the media had taken a yes for granted. In part because they and their respective Home Offices had all hushed the preceding days, dumbfounded by the upcoming tsunamis ( two in a row ) raised by hoards of genuinely opposed leaders, cheek-to-cheek in France with political opponents such as Philippe Villiers who kept broadcasting ‘Everyone had a reason to vote no’… So, what went wrong ?
To be sure, and despite Euro-enthusiasts’ sobs, this will not halt Europe in the long run, as past irish and danish NOs have shown. So Europeans have some room for optimism. And there are good sides to the whole shebang :
1. past colonial France and Netherlands are again centers of world attention ;
2. the French and the Dutch people both debated on the issue, a sure rare thing in otherwise amorphous democratic Europe ;
3. participation in France sky-rocketed to a near 70%, and soared to 61% ‘only’ up from 30% in previous European rounds in Holland ; both figures are all-time highs and unheard off in past decades even for domestic votings ;
4. Europe has indeed become more democratic at last : the people, no qualms, proved themselves they could freely send their leaders into E-Span doldrums ;
5. the business-minded Dutch can at times vote with the garrulous French : both deem their respective systems better than the Commission’s. Point is : the Frogs now know the Batavians can croak along their lines ;
6. President Jacques Chirac will have to do something if he wants to be sighed ever ;
7. in Holland, the vote was only consultative and the Dutch Government obliged, showing they were gentlemen as ever ;
8. both countries do not tamper with ballots as they do in Russia or in the States ( more of that some other time ), but in France the République went bananas nonetheless…
EUROPE : People’s Paradise ?
So let’s face it for once : current Europe is the result of visionary men, not crystal-ball apprentice sorcerers, just well-bred, well-educated, well-travelled and well-off enough to devote time and energy to their grandiose plan to counter almighty America, and nowadays other fast growing giants such as China and India. They share the same vision because they were trained alike and thrive in similar circles applying their exclusive club’s recipes. That’s called integration, and true enough, European integration has fared pretty well so far : all by consensus, no wars since WWI and WWII. As Communists once, Europeans technocrats boast their system is the best ( undoubtedly far better than the latter ) and hammer there are no alternatives. So be it.
But today as well, the French have troubles with credit debt payments ( lending commercials everywhere ), youngsters have a hard time finding well-paid jobs or even a single paid job ( tons of free internships around though ) and politics are nothing but a joke. Understandably, most French prefer to gossip on jetset stars ( not on politicians anymore ) or watch sitcoms and other sobering reality shows. By contrast, white collars indulge in travelling and golf courses, while french CEO’s pocket euros by the million after leaving their companies in shambles. At the other end of the income spectrum, blue collars more than ever fear low cost immigrants from Turkey and Eastern Europe : just the other day, a french company announced it was delocalising production to Romania, and generously promised to keep all its french employees if they moved there for 110 € a month… Ouch. That, must have hurt.
Then, opposite the belgian buffer the Dutch were outraged when their fellow compatriot Wim Duisemberg ( the European Central Bank’s first and former director ) publicly confessed how they had been spoliated as the Florint was purposedly under-evaluated to enter the Euro. So as always, busy technocrats and comfy Europeans were wallowing or champaining at full throttle light years ahead of their nations.
On Earth, meanwhile, your could hear Britons croaking at possible Turks pouring into the labour pond : ‘here, we’re safe, they won’t come : Brittany soaks in cider and roams with pork’… On the national level, conventional wisdom sees Europe as some remote ‘machin’ ( gizmo, that’s what de Gaulle dubbed the U.N. way back then ), an out-of-control club of 25 same vote same veto rights toddlers, where Brits and Poles would be nothing but American Trojan horses : remember how these two, supposedly European pals, shamelessly sided with W and lied unscathed to the whole World ? The Batavians, as Tory Maggie once, feel they pay too much to the European budget and want their money back, specially now they think Europe is a threat to their advanced ( and balanced, mind you ) welfare system.
To make matters worse, Brussels’ golden boys now openly show their lack of communication skills : tough luck for all Commissioners… The same stands for national Governments, but then, by Black Sunday, these had all gone for Parliament : Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Wonder why…
Only Spain underwent referendum, on February 20th.
Well, Zapatero could afford it then as he was still busy honeymooning with the country, which perhaps explains why participation was a mere 42,32% and why only 27% of the young ( 18-24 years ) cared to show up. In any case, for all three countries that consulted the people, the people basically said they didn’t care or that they were very much against it. Specially the younger generation, save those few that attended the continent’s best schools and cast in the elite’s moulds ( such as myself ). Few however admit having thoroughly read the ‘European Constitution’ : I for one didn’t, and not that I don’t care… Well then, whatever the social layer, Europe is obviously and definitely not popular whichever sense you take it ; more so the elite’s pet project to keep themselves busy with wonder deeds and dreams yonder.
And with the campaign, it finally became clear how the Constitutional Treaty was neither a true European Constitution ( technically, it isn’t ) nor a real Treaty ( as the Belgians found out by following the situation in neighbouring France and Holland ). The reasons thereof were plain enough when exposed on TV, but then quickly blurred out : gee, another legal hibrius by those darn technocrats up in Brussels ! French politicians, most of the big parties in fact, said the Treaty was a good thing and a legitimate text because it took 44 months of consulting and writing with all 25 countries round the table. Now, as France’s current Vft Constitution took only four months to write specially tailored to suit great Charles de Gaulle, then four years was surely seen as a sign of a political conundrum thinned down to contend everyone.
In short people thought the Treaty useless while offering more technocratic burden and less democracy : well, how’s that if you were to vote ( be honest ) ? Also, people deem the European Mammoth has grown wayward and way too fat, in fact so much it doesn’t move nor defend them : 25 heavyweights fed on their taxes though always eager to point its tusks if tugged… Put otherwise, NO seemed to them the only smart move and was thus to be expected.
The King’s lost his Crown
Besides, the french referendum appeared as Jacques Chirac’s whole idea, and the man is less popular these days with ministers sacked or sued on embezzlement charges, and unemployment rising : hear his ousted PM ( Jean-Pierre Raffarin ) last public positive thinking : ‘unemployment’s rising trend is slowing’ ). Dear ol’ Jacques himself is reportedly suspected of clinging to power to avoid standing trial. Plus he has this annoying knack of systematically and blatantly forgetting popular campaign promises like care for the ‘France from below’ or ‘weld the social fracture’, et caetera et caetera et caetera… So betwixt the King and I, the French this time thought a frank NON would serve him right, or his government, same thing.
Well, that’s just about what they did, regardless of what the Treaty offered ( but they did see what it took from them ). And that’s something the French are getting very good at : confuse the stakes and vote on something else… And don’t you dare to even try to tell them what to do : they know ; or so they say. In their 2002 presidential elections for instance, they voted with their whims instead of their wits : scattered their votes on 16 candidates letting by the same token Nationalist Le Pen score a handsome second position that whacked Socialist PM Jospin out of the race. Small wonder Gaullist Chirac won by that awsome people’s democratic 80% populist Soviets had always craved for.
Now, Monsieur le Président de la République has been struggling for decades to match grandpa De Gaulle’s and archrival Mitterrand’s political acumen, whose sarcastic shadow still haunts his dull presidency : before passing away, Jacques Attali’s Verbatim states François Mitterrand saying ‘Jacques can well get himself elected after me, he’ll get laughed at’… With this referendum, King Jacques once again comforted his image of sound decision making : last time he called for general elections, in 1997 when he still had another year to go with a first 80% majority, he dissolved his party allies instead and brought the Socialists back to power. He also twice turned down Germany’s proposal to both further their bilateral ties and strengthen European institutions before letting in new countries ; guess King Jacques wanted to rule alone. Now 25 kinglets are ruling out any possible hegemon in Europe. Then he cast off his advisors’ call to have the referendum held earlier to ride and gain on Spain’s own pro-Europe momentum.
Last, as the French only paid lip service to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty referendum, you would have expected some basic teachings drawn :
1. the Government don’t take chances, specially if that may cause trouble, big trouble ;
2. the Government don’t let ignoramuses vote on what swooshes well past their grasp, much less if they also ferociously oppose your enlightened politics ;
3. the Government must never ever forget it’s not just their own folk, but also their buddies’ elsewhere in Europe who, guess what, knew from start they would resort to Parliament to pass their so-called European Constitution ; why, Europe’s too serious a thing to be left to leftists, idealists, nationalists and other right ‘sovereignists’ ; right ? ( guileful Tony Bliar knew that and on June 6th decided his referendum was not to be put to his people, after cautelous Slovenia went through Parliament on June 2nd ) ;
4. and while that’s not politically correct nor very democratic, congressmen are there for that as well you know : a smart and legal alternative to the mob, especially when 80% of both chambers fully sympathize with the Président’s European agenda… So no one can tell this republican monarch is a fraud : that’s the third time with his reelection he surfs on such a high 80% figure.
King Jacques is either a master mind or has been very lucky.
Either way, he’s loved by the gods.
How La République went Bananas
So why go public ? After all, France is not Switzerland where referenda are something of a national sport : the French prefer loud arguing to friendly compromise, they favour public gatherings to prior negotiations. And they’ve only had four referenda in forty years… So Parliament was in line, and that for once would have been astute : but Jacques Ace went free lance. Perhaps because he wanted to pin a referendum up his curriculum as the other two ladies’ men did in their own time : public consulting is trendy nowadays and always sexy if you want to sleep with the media. But most probably because he thought the People would embrace and understand all of the Constitutional Treaty’s 448 jargon-free articles, because they would know by now how European institutions worked, because they would analyse the dire consequences of a negative vote ( Chirac himself was a staunch opponent to Europe before being elected ), because they would surely share his enthusiasm and vision for a European grandeur. And above all because Europe needed to assert herself ( yes, Europe’s feminine in French, piloted much as fine ships were to her native Phoenicia before she eloped with Zeus ) and specially so since Jacky and W have ceased to be pals and pat each other’s shoulders.
Because of Chirac’s strong insight, the NON is now held as the people’s fault, not his though it is he who blew it all : so first thing Monday morning ( May 30th ) he blew faithful PM Raffarin out of his socket to save himself from getting singed worse ( i.e. beheaded, you know how hot-headed the French may get sometimes ). Then he played his last trump and called in a brand new fuse out of the blues, his personal secretary Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin esq., a dedicated European better known in Brussels and at UN headquarters and, quite remarkably, the fellow is clean : has never been elected to public office. To assure continuity, his new government ( as of June 1st ) is Raffarin’s own copycat : same chaps minus all former Foreign Office’s pro-European and competent ministers. In that respect, King Jacques heard his people’s call for economic stability against Brussels. And so did the Socialist Party ( the PS in French ) : on June 4th, they fired No.2 in charge, former PM Laurent Fabius, because he and a handful of other party figures had campaigned for the NON ( but not against Europe they claimed ) while Secretary General François Hollande ordered his party to all chorus oui, like in the old days.
Trouble is 80% of the left electorate bypassed Hollande’s call and went Holland’s way. The referendum thus not only shook the ruling right, it also tore a left aghast. What a twist of fate compared to when the PS was ruling in the 1980s and 1990s ! The Socialists then were the lads who built Europe, while King Jacques’ & Co courted to other cards busy vociferating against or dismantling it. In 2002, the PS lost both the premiership and a probable presidency because their ruling coalition went democratic ( part of the local folklore ) with four spin-offs no less, plus three other Communist candidates, two of which scored unexpectedly nice. So where Mitterrand’s PS used to score above 30% in first round elections ( the French then vote on a second round between the two candidates that fare best ), it only got 16% in 2002. With Fabius shunned, Hollande’s insight may even halve that. No wonder opposition parties told King Jacques a favourite ‘draw the consequences’ to take after his founding father, patriarch General de Gaulle, who princely abdicated when the Françaises and the Français slapped him on the face with a memorable insolent NON in their first 1969 referendum ever…
Finally, why should the people bother with Europe at all, when even major French companies are looking elsewhere these days ? Labour-caring Renault has invested heavily in Japan and South America instead of France, Dassault has sold master designing softwares to Boeing instead of Airbus, Moulinex is producing in S-E Asia, and so forth… To be fair, the people prefer japanese and chinese goods, sexier and cheaper than shoddier for what is left of items ‘Made in France’, not to mention they deem they have little money to waste on pricy BMWs, Maybachs or even Mercedes class A ( Twingos are twice as cheap for the same volume ).
So really, what good(s) can Europe bring us, they think ?
Why learn foreign languages when everybody speaks French ?
And why open negociations with Turkey which is not only NOT in Europe, but is muslim and nodds all to much to grumpy Uncle Sam who always seems toying more with NATO and its huge, no, humongous military base hid somewhere in the Balkans ?
So hear ye ! hear ye !
Hear us out :
We The People N-E-V-E-R built Europe !
Be it said.
And never will either, as long as it is not a welfare entity.
Brussels ? Oh, that’s all these Eurocrats’ doing, they’ve all attended some prestigious school and now parrot trendy clichés and savage market paternosters alike…
see the market failures.
At our own cost.
At our expense.
So NO it is…
Alea jacta est.
( bow )
What was that ?
Say NO !
Say what ?
Say NO !
Tell ya, stormy weather ahead :
the Frogs have been croaking out loud these days…