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Monday, June 13, 2005

Europe 2- European Union 0

Well... it looks like the wannabe United States of Europe has been derailed for the moment by the French and the Dutch. Lots of wailing and screaming from the "My EU, right or wrong" brigade all round the EU. Oh dear, I can't stop smirking thinking about it. For those who don't want this part of the world to play Isengard to the Mordor over the Atlantic, it has been a good few weeks. Anyway, here's a few articles I've seen which are very much to the point.

Scaremongering and delusions

The claim that without the treaty neoliberalism and racism will engulf us is the opposite of the truth

Janet Bush
Saturday May 28, 2005
The Guardian

With opinion polls pointing to rejections of the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands, the yes side in Britain has increasingly resorted to scaremongering. Denis MacShane, the former minister for Europe, was at it on the BBC's Question Time, hinting about the triumph of the dark side, about fascism and racism and the inexorable rise of the totalitarian right.
Fear is a tactic used by politicians of every hue, but it remains deplorable and, I suspect, counterproductive. Europe's electorates are not stupid; we tend to react very badly to threats from the political classes, and we don't like being patronised.

Labour's Chris Bryant, in a Commons debate on whether Britain should have a referendum on the constitution (before Tony Blair was forced to concede one), said that it was fine for people to vote for a Pop Idol but not on something as complicated as the EU. Blair's government has told us that this constitution is just an exercise to "tidy up" existing treaties - and then we discover that it abolishes national vetoes in 63 new areas and that our fellow Europeans are hailing the document as "the birth certificate of a United States of Europe". Maybe that's a good thing; but if so, why aren't its supporters honestly arguing for their vision? The fact that they take refuge in smear and fear arouses my suspicion.
We are told that a no vote would result in the rise of the right in Europe. But isn't it the case that the right is on the rise because of economic stagnation and mass unemployment, exacerbated by the rigidities of the euro, and a feeling of disenfranchisement as Europe has become less accountable and more politically centralised? In any case, out-and-out opponents of Europe such as Ukip got nowhere in the election (its anti-immigration message didn't resonate, perhaps because New Labour's policy was tough enough).

We are told that voting no will make Europe more racist. It is certainly deeply distasteful that Turkey's potential accession to the EU has been presented as a plus for the no side in France (I declare an interest; I work on promoting Turkey's case for EU membership). But opposition to Turkish membership is not the preserve of the no side; it was Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, in charge of the convention that drafted the constitution, who said that Turkey's accession would spell the end of the EU - a view endorsed by the new Pope.

Another argument against voting no is that it would bury Europe's social model under a neoliberal tsunami. This argument is scarcely credible. Yes, the constitution contains a charter of fundamental rights but what protection does the charter actually offer us? For one thing, it is highly uncertain how the provisions of the charter will pan out in reality because they are subject to legal interpretation by the European court of justice. What do the judges (political appointees) think? Are they leftwing or rightwing? Indeed, just who are they?

The yes side is often motivated by nothing much more than a distaste and mistrust of everything about America. I have always seen the Manichean choice offered by the European yes campaign between America (evil) and Europe (good) as woefully naive, patronising and downright dangerous. Is it sane to try to counter an imperial bully by creating another imperial bully, but not quite as well-funded? Yes, let's build a counterweight to America, but not an economically stagnant, undemocratic, inward-looking one.

Back to economics: Europe's political classes have never shown the slightest interest in turning back the Anglo-Saxon economic tide. The euro project has been built on the foundations of sado-monetarism - a European Central Bank with no mandate to pursue growth and jobs, and a set of fiscal rules known as the stability and growth pact outlawing Keynesian deficit financing, however great the economic need. The constitution not only pronounces that the euro is the currency of the European Union (however awful it has proved to be for the European economy, as Blair himself has now admitted), but also includes the pact wholesale despite the fact that it has been entirely discredited. (Remember Romano Prodi, the former commission president, calling it "stupid"?) What is dumber than to include it in a constitution? Even worse, why is the common agricultural policy also enshrined in the text, despite the fact that, the French government and the farming lobby apart, it is accepted that it is inefficient, iniquitous and must go?

There is a difference between being anti-European and rejecting a constitution that is a dog - and, like Blair's dodgy dossier on Iraq, a document designed not to inform but to further an already agreed, covert political agenda, in spite of the views of the people. Europe is precious; peace in Europe is precious; our democracies, national and European, ruled by left or right, are precious; and democracies are being hollowed out without the consent and active participation of the people. This constitution does not have their true consent (even if the peoples of France and the Netherlands, in the end, concede to fear and vote yes).

For me, Herman Daly, the progressive environmentalist and economist, sums up why this constitution - and the integrated European polity it is designed to develop - is fundamentally flawed. In Steady-State Economics, he writes: "Human institutions should not be allowed to grow beyond the human scale in size and complexity. Otherwise the economic machine becomes too heavy a burden on the shoulders of the citizen, who must continually grind and regrind himself to fit the imperatives of the overall system, and who becomes ever more vulnerable to the failure of other interdependent pieces that are beyond his control and even beyond awareness. Lack of control by the individual over institutions and technologies that not only affect his life but determine his livelihood is hardly democratic and is, in fact, an excellent training in the acceptance of totalitarianism."

· Janet Bush is director of Advocacy International and former director of the No Euro campaign.

One thing which gets me about debate on the EU in Britain is the myth put forward by the "My EU right or wrong" brigade that only people on our sceptred isle are the only Europeans opposed to the EU and the way it is going. Never mind that over recent years the Danish, Swedes and Irish have all voted against various aspects of further EU integration (and the Swiss & Norwegians have voted to stay out altogether). Furthermore, the EU fan club like to say that all opposition which does exist to the EU is "right-wing" and probably neo-fascist in nature. So it gives me great gloating pleasure to publish the article below on my blog.

Thwarted by a surge of democracy

Under cover of unification, free market liberals hijacked Europe

Serge Halimi
Thursday June 2, 2005
The Guardian

There is one tiny problem with most of the analysis of last Sunday's vote in France. Those who probe the motivations of the large majority who voted no (54.87%) forget to remind us that they, overwhelmingly, voted yes.
For more than six months, all the leading commentators in the media heaped praise on the constitutional project. France's two biggest media owners (and weapons manufacturers) endorsed the yes side: Serge Dassault, a conservative senator, did so in an editorial in one of his many magazines; Arnaud Lagardère spoke to a pro-yes rally, cheered by Nicolas Sarkozy and most of the cabinet.

Most commentators have observed that Jacques Chirac has been stung by this defeat, but the rout of France's mainstream media is even more impressive. From the rightwing television channel TF1 to the "leftwing" weekly le Nouvel Observateur, and including le Monde, Libération, the business press, the major radio stations, even women's and sports publications - they all warned and railed, they all censored and twisted. Yet, their propaganda was blunted by an unexpected surge of democracy. Thousands of well-attended meetings discussed the constitutional treaty. And, bit by bit, the sense of inevitability that it would be easily ratified by a mildly interested electorate was torn apart.
Indeed the outrage about media bias became a leading issue of the campaign - not least because it encapsulated so many of the things that this referendum came to be about: representation, the elite and class.

The problem is obvious on the political side. Last February more than 90% of French deputies had backed the constitution; it garnered the support of only 45% of the voters. The gap is no less obvious when it comes to informing the people: the leading journalists, who often live in Paris, an increasingly bourgeois city, seem to write and speak for the affluent. And the rich did vote yes by a healthy margin, just like 66% of the Parisians.

But elsewhere it was quite another story: whereas 74% of the voters earning more than €4,500 a month backed the constitutional project, 66% of the voters earning less than €1,500 a month voted against. In ultra-wealthy Neuilly (a Paris suburb where many industrial and media tycoons reside, and whose mayor is the presidential hopeful Sarkozy) 82.5% voted yes. Mining cities of northern France and the poorest districts of Marseille were equally lopsided: 84% of Avion (Nord-Pas-de Calais) and 78% of Marseille's 15th district voted no.

Granted, Chirac has lost. Yet it should not take long for the Socialists to wonder how well a party of the left is doing when 80% of the workers and the unemployed, 60% of the young and a large proportion of its own voters desert its official position on such an important issue.

Four years ago Pierre Moscovici, then the French minister for European affairs, wrote in the Financial Times that Tony Blair's triumph was "excellent news for the left and for Europe. For the left, it shows that a good leader, good results and a good programme can win elections. From that point of view, Mr Blair is an admirable example to other social democrats." Yet a few months after Lionel Jospin had been inspired by this "admirable example" he was humiliated in France's presidential election and sidelined by Jean-Marie Le Pen. The cause? A gulf between the Socialist party and its working-class constituency, who rarely read the English business press.

The party did not learn its lesson. By backing a constitution enshrining free-market liberalism, it again made the wrong choice and lost.

Business leaders and the wealthy journalists who write for them may bewail this: the French regularly reject Anglo-Saxon-style capitalism, and the left electorate does not want the "third way". Every new election makes this clear. Yet nothing seems to change. Chirac was first elected president 10 years ago because he had denounced a "social divide". Today it is greater than ever. In the meantime, a series of free-market reforms has hit pensions, education and industry. Unemployment has kept on rising and poverty has spread.

Some politicians - and the employers' federation - had hoped to use the constitution's obsession with markets (the word appears 88 times) and competition (29 times) as a legal wedge against France's "social model".

"Why am I pro-European?" said Sarkozy a few weeks ago. "Because I think it is a powerful lever to force France to modernise and reform. If France has twice as much unemployment as other countries it is not because we are too liberal, it is because we have the 35-hour week." But France is not yet safe for liberalism. Sarkozy's line of argument triggered such a backlash that the Socialists - but also Chirac - swore that he had misunderstood it all. "The constitution is a child of 1789," Chirac argued.

But by voting no, many French people have understood that their choice was the truly European one - that, contrary to what they were told, the constitutional treaty was not the tool that could end Europe's free-market drift. In the last 20 years, the project dreamed up by the European commission and most governing coalitions of the member states has appeared obsessed only with economic reform, an ever-expanding free-market zone, the dismantling of the welfare state, lower corporate taxes and business-friendly legislation - such as a proposal to liberalise Europe's market for service industries.

France's landslide rejection of the treaty is likely to embolden many of the progressive forces of the EU, bringing about the rethinking of a once-worthy ideal that gradually became distorted into a single market and a military junior partner for the US. Such a reappraisal bears no resemblance to the "federation of fear" that European commission president José Manuel Barroso saw unfolding after Sunday's vote.

All along, "Europe" has been an elite process with shallow roots. In France, a large turnout (70%) has tackled the constitutional project with seriousness and passion. Many politicians in Paris and Brussels probably regret this surge of democracy and will look for ways to pressure the French to hold another vote. But it is unlikely that an informed electorate will change its mind now that it has understood the links between the social devastation at home and the neoliberal policies that spread under the cover of European unification.

· Serge Halimi writes for le Monde diplomatique ( and is the author of Le Grand Bond en Arrière: Comment l'ordre libéral s'est imposé au monde (The Great Leap Backward: How the liberal order was imposed on the world)

The next piece is from Larry Elliott, the Guardian's EU-critical economics editor. One of the reasons I am a Guardian, not an Independent, reader, is the former is a genuinely liberal paper, allowing a wide range of political ops on its comment pages, while the Indie is boringly "My EU right or wrong" in its commentaries. I would not be surprised if the Indie tells its readers to boycott the south of France this year as a protest about France voting "Non" (& cut out those Amsterdam stag parties as well...).

The week the monster turned on its creators

Eurocrats had a vision of integration that would never work. But now there is a chance to rewrite the script

Larry Elliott
Monday June 6, 2005
The Guardian

The dream is over. For the past 17 years, large parts of the left and centre-left in Britain have believed in the vision presented by Jacques Delors at the TUC conference back in 1988. Fed up with Thatcherism, Delors said to the assembled brothers and sisters: do you want an alternative to mass unemployment and attacks on the working class? Then sign up to my vision of Europe.
What might be called the "sensible left" duly signed up. It liked the talk of solidarity and internationalism, but there was more to it than that. The Delors vision also appealed to some of the less attractive traits of the left - the worship of power, the notion that there is always a big solution to the smallest of problems, and the feeling, identified by Orwell long ago, that there is something unseemly about loving your own country.

Ever since, it has been urging that Britain fulfil its destiny and whole-heartedly back the "project". It has berated Gordon Brown for allowing the Treasury to put economic obstacles in the way of political engagement. It has turned a blind eye to sky-high levels of unemployment, seen simply as transitional costs on the way to the promised land. It has contented itself with the comforting thought that euro-scepticism, fanned by the Murdoch press, is something peculiar to Britain.
The events of the past week have shattered this cosy little fantasy. In France and the Netherlands, opposition to the constitution was strongest among the poor, the young and the excluded. Even with Europe's political class scuttling around looking for scapegoats, nobody had the chutzpah to claim that it was the Sun - by some kind of cross-Channel infection - "wot lost it".

The vote in France could just about have been shrugged off as the last roar of a nation of luddites against the inevitability of globalisation. But the Dutch? For these model Europeans to vote by almost 2-1 against the constitution was a hammer blow. The Netherlands is one of the countries the British left has always admired: liberal, tolerant, prosperous, generous. And now in open revolt against its political masters.

The response from Brussels and the European capitals last week was to pretend that nothing had really changed. It was all a bit reminiscent of Eric Honecker hailing the brave socialist dawn as the Trabbies spluttered their way towards the iron curtain in the last days of East Germany.

Some big lessons now need to be learned. The first is to understand how it was that in France and the Netherlands last week, and in Sweden in 2003, a big initial lead for the yes camp was turned into a resounding no vote by polling day. The reason is that those making the case for the euro and ever-closer union do so with the arguments and language of management consultancy. They talk of "the project" making markets more efficient. The "no" camp does not talk of "projects". It taps into the things that matter to people: the urge for security, identity, a sense of belonging. Like it or not, people love their own country more than they love the abstract notion of the European Union.

A second lesson is that unless the prime minister is a secret masochist, there will be no referendum on the constitution in Britain. If the government were stupid enough to hold one, it would be lost by a landslide dwarfing that in the Netherlands. The odds on Britain joining the euro are longer than the odds on monetary union collapsing.

The sensible left should stop whingeing about that and admit that Brown did us all an enormous favour when he came up with the Treasury's five economic tests. His argument has been vindicated by the anti-euro sentiment evident in the Netherlands last week. The chancellor said that joining the single currency when the economics were not right would foster a massive backlash when things went wrong, as they assuredly would. If voters in the loyally pro-European Netherlands have turned against the single currency and the European Central Bank, just imagine what it would be like here if the economic brown stuff hit the fan.

Thirdly, the left has to wake up to the fundamental reason for the unpopularity of Europe. It is that the Delors model was perhaps appropriate for the Europe of the 1940s but not the Europe of the 21st century. Europe's social model, which was rightly envied from this side of the Channel in the 1980s, was only affordable if there was strong enough growth to generate the tax revenues to pay for the welfare state. Delors, with his rigid, inflexible command and control model, ensured that unemployment would be high, growth low and the costs of the social model unaffordable.

Europe today is only socialist to the extent that the Soviet Union in the last years of Brezhnev was socialist. This, lest it be forgotten, is what the Keynesians, the greens and the anti-globalisers have long predicted.

The non-sensible left has always had its doubts about the "project". The Keynesians said that the euro, far from leading to stronger growth, would actually become a job-destruction machine. Setting up a central bank with an inbuilt bias towards price stability in a world of low inflation would be like the British guns at Singapore in 1942 - powerful weapons pointing out to sea when the enemy was closing in from the opposite direction.

The greens said forcing the pace of integration from the top down was not only economically daft but also anti-democratic. It would, they said, lead to political disengagement. The argument of the anti-globalisers was that despite all the talk of creating a social Europe, monetary union was actually a Trojan horse that would be used as a means of spreading neo-liberal ideas and big business values across the continent.

The events of the past four years, culminating in the no votes of the past week, suggest that the Keynesians, the greens and the anti-globalisers were right. Europe has not grown; it has stagnated. Unable to see the damage wrought by the Frankenstein's monster they have created, Europe's elite argues that the solution to the problem of mass unemployment is for people to work longer hours and accept less generous benefits. Those on the receiving end have hoarded their money and nurtured their resentment.

Finally, the left needs to realise that the priority now is a set of policies that will raise Europe's derisory growth rate. There is a lot of talk about Britain taking over the leadership of Europe, much of which sits oddly with a £5bn a month visible trade deficit and the loss of a million jobs in manufacturing since 1997.

In macro-economic policy, however, there is no doubt that the British model is superior. Take Italy, which would be far better off outside the eurozone, with the flexibility to set its own inflation target and a floating currency to compensate for its lack of competitiveness. It turns out that there was a point to all those small currencies after all. They were the shock absorbers that allowed countries that were structurally very different to rub along together.

Expansionary macro-economic policies should be combined with active labour market policies that have been shown to work in keeping the jobless total down in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and, until recently, the Netherlands. But that means accepting European countries should be able to pursue the goals of full employment and prosperity in their own way, rather than submit to a catch-all blueprint that lacks economic sense and political legitimacy.

Those who say a retreat from the integrationist approach would mean Europe failed to punch its weight globally could not be more wrong. Influence is a function of success, not size. The only time Europe has had a real impact on American policy was in the 1960s, when Lyndon Johnson's Great Society was a homage to the generous welfare state made possible by rapid post-war growth in the nation states of western Europe.

Europe will only wield influence once more when it gets its economy right. It now has the chance to do just that.

Now an American in Paris view. This comes from the ezine Spectre run by those well known right wing xenophobes, the Socialist Party of the Netherlands...

Why they voted No

June 12, 2005 18:51 | by Matt Reichel

The French and Dutch "Non" and "Nee" weren't votes against Europe or against progress or "togetherness" argues American in Paris Matt Reichel. Reichel made a valiant attempt to explain the No vote to the folks back home: "That's what the political elite has wanted you to think, but, in all reality, the 'no' vote is little more than a demonstration of European capacity to see through the lies that have been constantly slung at them by politicians and their pals in the media."

Lie #1: "A "no" vote will throw Europe into complete chaos.

This is one of my favorites: like the political elite would offer a vote where one of the possible options would result in anarchy, confusion, and complete disorder. My friend at Spectrezine, Steve McGiffen, phrased this one fittingly in conversation by evoking the metaphor of the "four horsemen of the apocolypse" to describe what presumedly happens if one votes "no" in this referendum.

This is democracy in the neo-liberal era: "get out there and vote everyone!, and, most importantly, vote correctly! nothing stupid!"

Lie #2: "A "no" vote is stupid."

The image left by this oft-flung accusation is something like this: The "yes" supporters have spent long hard working hours in libraries poring over thick volumes of legal and trade documents followed by rigorous application of the appropriate scientific methodology to arrive at the perfect cartesian conclusion that: "we need this constitution."

Meanwhile, the "no" supporters are the base, idiotic masses. Images of Marx's "rural idiocy" are conjured up: where all of the French farmers arrive in Paris with shovel and hoe in hand, half their teeth missing, making wild proclamations about French "Grandeur": seemingly lost on all the Euro-progress that has gone on over the last few decades.

Lie #3: "This constitution strikes the perfect balance between market and social principles."

Firstly, the word "market" appears over 100 times in the text, trumping the words "social," "environment," "welfare," and any of their cognates some ten times over.

Secondly, either one of these principles is the stuff of politics: to be decided by democratically elected representatives. Why the hell is the constitution having this discourse? Even the constitution presiding over the Land of the Free doesn't make mention of market. America's capitalism is not pronounced in its constitution: nor should it be. Leave it up to right wing nut jobs who manage to receive a governing mandate by skillfully putting themselves in bed with big business and the media to institute free market reforms to their own glorious benefit. Don't need the constitution to make these decisions.

Thirdly, the constitution proclaims that Europe will be defined by open markets, minimal government interference, and free trade. The first two have generally come to mean shrinking social benefit packages, and greater fiscal constraint on the welfare state. Already, France has been feeling the squeeze on its prized Social Democracy: as the Eurozone cap on defecit spending has forced blanket cuts on rent and housing assistance, holiday time and pay, and even threats of putting a fork in the ol' 35 hour work week. By locking countries in to "shrinking government" commitments, eventually the squeeze will win, and voila! we have a brand spanking new Land of the Free ready for mass consumption by whoever manages to pull off a decent wage.

Fourthly, the language with the market reforms tends to be exact and well nurtured: marking the accumulation of decades of trade treaties driven by market logic. Meanwhile, the social protections that exist tend to be watered down and vague. Take the one on environmental protection: "Union policy on the environment shall aim at a high level of protection taking into account the diversity of situations in the various regions of the Union. It shall be based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay."

Terms like "high level of protection" and "diversity of situations" are never explained, nor is the spirit of "priority." In sum, this safeguard acts like it has a lot of meaning, but, in the legal sense, it doesn't mean a god damn thing.

Lie #4: "Europe needs to be stronger in order to counter balance American hegemony."

Wait. I'm suddenly horridly confused. Is Europe supposed to go to war with the United States? Is this going to be happening soon? Because, I will re-locate myself to somewhere safe like, maybe, Japan if this comes to fruition.

The constitution also commits countries to increasing their military capacity in order to pursue a common military policy. Technically, it says "foreign policy," but I've noticed through several years of being on this planet that there is little difference between foreign and military policy when we are talking about Great Powers. If countries strictly abide by this regulation, then they will all eventually spend 100% of their resources on military: increasing their expenditures year after year until they are eventually perfectly fascist.

Lie #5: "You can't turn your back on Europe now!"

This sort of argument is laced with the Catholic commitment logic: once you find a girl you like, you stick with her for life. I tend to operate more under the logic of: "If the girl goes crazy, then it's time to move on."

Either way, politics tends to work quite differently than romance. In politics, there is generally a handful of sneaky bastards roaming underneath ready to take advantage of whatever framework they can in order to institute more power for themselves. There's never just two: "us" and "Europe." In fact, there's the hodge podge of "us" that mostly don't know each other but can pretend, and "Europe" which is a political construction vaguely resembling a geographical entity in the physical universe, then the wide array of interests that want to make "Europe" work for their own good while pretending to be working for "us." Because the latter have begun to really fuck things up between "us" and "Europe," I really think that we are going to have to break things off for the time being.

Lie #6: "The No Campaign is led by right wing nationalists."

I am not a right wing nationalist, the "Association pour la Taxation des Transactions pour l'Aide aux Citoyens" (ATTAC), a wildly popular group pushing for a redistributive Tobin tax in Europe, is not a group of right wing nationalists, France's largest trade union, the Confédération Général du travail (CGT), is not a right wing nationalist group, the European Social Forum (ESF) is not an enormous collection of right wing nationalist groups, and over 50% of France and the Netherlands are NOT right wing nationalists.

Sore losers tend to make arrogant remarks like this out of desparation. It's time that the power elite realize that the problem is not the opposition, but rather themselves.

So the French people have picked through the lies and voted their conscience, and produced a fairly unpredictable result on the heels of hard effort by grassroots groups through France.

The apocolypse will never come, Europe will not disintegrate, Europe will not be obliterated by the American military machine any time soon, and quality of life will not suddenly plummet.

Europe will keep on truckin' as it has since the last round of treaties: sans constitution, and packed full of hope for a progressive future. The constitution will be re-worked, and the power elite will attempt to take into consideration what voters are concerned about, and then a re-vote will likely occur in France, and maybe in the Netherlands where the vote is not binding, but "consultative."

They could possibly decide to take a page from previously existing constitutions wherein the dense political language is left out, and what remains is some psuedo-inspiring dribble drabble about Posterity, Freedom and Liberty: three things discovered on this very land by White Men with a flare for the dramatic.

More likely, a few more watered down passages guaranteeting social protection will be added, and all of the same problems will remain.

What needs to happen now is a concerted effort by ATTAC, the CGT, and other trade unions and grassroots groups throughout Europe to band together and make clear what changes they want: staying principally opposed to all language demanding the "removal of government" from the economy, and vanishing barriers to trade. Those are not healthy things to have locked into a constitution: it is the job of governments to responsibly suit tariffs and monetary policy to the constantly changing reality of the world around them.

Furthermore, it must be remembered that no compromise can be made between social and free market guarantees at the constitutional level: thus grassroots groups need to accept absolutely no language on the market and trade barriers.

Then, Europe will be well constituted and suited to take care of her children for the coming centuries. This is where the only guarantees are those that protect the citizenry from soiled interests: from the heavy hand of government, from the greed of corporate interests, from the tragedy of inequality, from the fickleness of war, and from the cliche nature of consumer-driven society. Education, housing, health care, safe and sound working conditions, and a thoughtful political discourse driven by concerns of equity ought be the focus of a constitution. These are the needs of society that governance has the capacity to help with.

Enormous corporations need no further guarantees than those already contained by their extroardinary wealth and power.

Now that the Right-wing assault on liberties termed the "European Constitution" has been justly shot down, let us begin work on something resembling an equitable construction of principles grounded in concern for human dignity for a Europe that is strong in the moral sense of the word.

Matt Reichel is a postgraduate student who lives in Paris.

Finally, a Dutch Socialist perspective on the votes, also from Spectre.

Nee means No!

June 12, 2005 19:11 | by Kartika Liotard, MEP

The overwhelming Dutch NEE against the European constitution is a serious 'wake-up call' for The Hague, Brussels and as it now seems, London. It's a wake-up call for Europe: time to stop dreaming, time to face reality. Years of ignoring the discontent of the people about the pace and direction of European integration have led to derailment and stagnation of that process. The only way out is to listen to the worries of the people and act accordingly, argues Kartika Liotard, Member of the European Parliament for the Dutch Socialist Party

A resolution put forward by the Socialist Party in the Netherlands and supported by the Dutch parliament calls for an immediate and broad civil debate on the question of what we want with regard to further corporation in Europe, and what the goals and means of the EU should be. Before these questions are resolved, there is no room for further forced integration.

The Dutch NO was not a NO against Europe or European co-operation. On the contrary, stalling the constitutional process and slowing down the pace of the process of integration as well as questioning the direction it was going were the only ways to guarantee a stable future for Europe. The NO was a NO against the further development of an arrogant neo-liberal super-state that would inevitably lead to disintegration of the Union.

After the French and Dutch NO, there is no way back. The only way is forward, but this time with the people. The Netherlands will not accept a new referendum on the same proposal. Any attempt to repeat the vote would represent total disrespect of the loud outcry of the people who voted by 62-38 percent against the constitution.

Focussing on simply negotiating some minor benefits or special protocols for our country, as our minister of finance will certainly attempt in the near future - trying, for example, to bargain his way to a reduction of the Netherlands' EU contributions - would also completely ignore the reasons behind the massive NO-vote. The message is: it's too much, too soon and too fast. The way forward for Europe is to take it easy.

The day after the referendum, the Dutch government withdrew it's proposal to ratify the treaty. There was no need for parliament to vote on it, because the negative outcome was all too obvious. The UK will not have a referendum, the Czech referendum will be postponed and the Portuguese referendum is pending on the outcome of the Council meeting next week. Maybe it's time for the European Council to withdraw it's proposal for a European constitution as well, because after the Dutch and French NO, there's no way this proposal will ever become the European constitution. If you take the member states and it's people seriously, you can't simply allow them to vote on a proposal that no longer exists.

Kartika Liotard was elected to the European Parliament last year.

See also
More gloating on request!!


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