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French 'non' - now what?

5.29.2005

Well, that is it for the constitution; our debate is over before it even has begun. I am aware that governments are considering whether to run there’s anyway or not. However the overwhelming feeling coming from the French voters is that the old political adage rings true, all politics is local. The debate never got off the ground regarding the pros and cons of the EU it was always a vaguer vote against the vagaries of capitalist evil and foreign invaders, typified by a deeply tainted and unpopular leader.
Though I am beginning to wonder whether the ‘non’ is a far more comfortable option clinging to the status quo. It seems unlikely that the nice treaty is going to suffice as a means of securing a social democratic European vision. As I said earlier the constitution is a framework all constitutions are. It made more provisions and options but ultimately we need control of Europe in a democratic manner to affect the social/progressive change. I am still unsure how I would vote if called to do so.
None of the debate in France actually helped to shed any light on the broader EU debate that needs to happen. I myself believe that governments have never, and purposely so, framed the European debate. A clear approach was never taken to debating the EU and it was most certainly never debated in a public space. EU debate is very easily hijacked by Far Left/Right and the awkward anti squad who are anti everything. The result is that fair and reasoned debate about the EU cannot take place. This vote is a wake up call for many of the governments who have coyly used the EU as political cover.
Debate should have taken place long ago about the direction of the EU, to do his there must be a clarifying of what the EU does. That is a vast and technical issue but broad sweeps of issues can be a good start. In effect it is only now that this 60 year-old institution is trying to explain itself and its existence. No one in the EU has really worried about the connection with its citizens until the negative of its democratic deficit began to manifest themselves. This negative is broad popular disassociation with the union and above all a hijacking of the debate by those furthering different agendas altogether. Thus the EU debate is beginning in an area where it really shouldn’t be required to go yet, namely in areas of immigration and nationalist concern. These are secondary issues to the EU's agenda and raison d^etre. The EU no more than ever is required to explain itself and why it requires our loyalty. However this cannot be done in good faith by local politicians and this is the key to current popular drift away from the EU project.
I mean by this that the EU will need to make full use of national politicians and media in order to connect with the people, much like it uses a national civil service to exercise its decisions. In using these politicians to elucidate the power and role of the EU as a growing regulatory and economically powerful body citizens are inevitably going to conclude that any EU project will undermine the legitimacy of the national politician as they exist presently. This process is occurring at the moment but likely to worsen should the EU expand and progress as expected. In effect the EU is a third layer of our governance i.e. local, national and European levels. This squeezes the role of our national politicians as the EU can increasingly relate directly wit the local governments. It’s an embryonic trend which would become more apparent the more we got to know the EU.
Thus any debate that we have, as is now necessary to have, must take place in the centre ground and start from first principles, it will need to be fronted by our own politicians but they will in effect only underline their growing illegitimacy/irrelevance in thing economic as the debate progresses.
I am not scaremongering but it does explain the increasing obsession in tinkering with social behaviour and local legislative issues as most of our economic, global, issues are tied up in the hands of the EU. What we need to begin doing is asking, what are these issues, is the EU competent to safe guard our interests, is it accountable to us or do we require reform, change and progress.
The EU should have done this a long time ago. It is a body that is not of the nation state it is not of the status quo and if it wishes to progress in any manner or form the debate must be framed and won by the centre. This debate must be clear and related not to local but truly European issues. We are big enough and smart enough to know our minds but we must be given our chance to have a grown up debate on the EU. Only when we are coming to grips with first principles will we move to the passionate and subjective topics of globalisation, capitalism and immigration for these are truly topics Europe facilitates in both directions-protectionist or free and open.
The French vote holds lessons for the EU that it will do well not to ignore. It needs to relate it needs PR and most of all it needs to convince us of its necessity. I am ready and waiting for debate on a horizontal plane where we are all equals in our opinion not a vertical one where we think what we are told. Europe must descend from its bubble and live in a world of ture competition. it msut compete with our nation for our loyalty and our support. For an institution in love with competition it doesnt fight its corner very well. it needs to
Red Rover

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