News

    French 'No' Vote Could Stall European Integration

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Leftist militants wave placards reading "No, another Europe is possible" in Toulouse, southwestern France
    France's decisive rejection of the European Union's draft constitution in a Sunday referendum has catapulted the 25-nation bloc into a period of both political and economic uncertainty. The EU has been cast into uncharted waters as it tries to figure out how it should deal with the debacle.

    French voters, worried about unemployment and a withering away of their country's welfare state, dealt a potentially fatal blow to the EU's constitution in what turned out to be a head-on collision between the hopes of Europe's political elite and the fears of a large segment of the French public.

    EU leaders are saying the show must go on, that the ratification of the constitutional treaty designed to streamline decision-making in the 25-member bloc, must continue until every nation has had its say. Nine countries, including such heavyweights as Germany, Italy and Spain have already approved the charter. Only France has rejected it, but another referendum on Wednesday in the Netherlands is widely expected to result in a second "no" vote.

    Technically, if one member state rejects the constitution, it will not go into effect. But EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson says that, whatever the French think about it, it is still too early to declare the constitution dead.

    "France, whilst important, does not have a veto over everyone else's actions. So, whilst the French government will clearly reflect on this result, other member states will want to go ahead and consider the treaty."

    Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, says any re-negotiation of the treaty to satisfy the French nay-sayers is out of the question.

    He says that, "among those who voted against the constitution in France, there were those who wanted to stop European integration altogether and those who wanted to speed it up." He asks, "how do you deal with such a contradiction? You cannot renegotiate the treaty under such conditions," he says, adding "We have to reflect on these French and possibly European contradictions."

    Mr. Juncker is hosting a summit in Brussels next month that was originally supposed to thrash out the EU's next seven-year budget. But with the referendum results in France and a probable September election in Germany, any deal requiring sacrifices from either of those two countries, and from the Netherlands as well, seems out of the question. One of Mr. Juncker's aides says he thinks the summit will be dedicated entirely to finding a way out of the constitutional impasse.

    Another key question is whether an EU in stagnation mode will be ready to begin membership negotiations in October with Turkey. Strong antipathy to Turkish membership in France and the Netherlands is likely to pick up support from Germany, if the conservative opposition wins the national election there. And what about Romania and Bulgaria, which are due to join in 2007? Will their accession be put on hold too?

    One of the elements that played strongly in the French referendum was a sense among voters that they were not consulted by the political elite on such decisions as enlarging the EU last year to include ten new, mostly ex-communist states in Eastern Europe. Neither did they have a say in EU rules that impose discipline on member states' spending and inflation levels.

    Margot Wallstrom, the deputy head of the European Commission, the EU's executive body, says that, although the constitution was meant to make EU decision-making more democratic and open, it failed to take into account the concerns of ordinary citizens.

    "I think that we have underestimated the fact that citizens also want to have a say and want to be involved," she said. "And I think that we have to realize that the European Union cannot stay a project for a small political elite, but we have to anchor it much better."

    The reason most cited by French voters for their opposition to the constitution was that the document referred to opening the European market further to competition. That, to many of them, was proof enough that the low-cost, low-tax economies of Eastern Europe would siphon away their jobs.

    British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose country takes over the EU presidency in July, says he will try to focus more on jobs and less on the constitution.

    "Underneath all this, there is a more profound question, which is about the future of Europe, and, in particular, the future of the European economy and how it deals with the modern pressures of globalization and technological change and how we ensure that the European economy is strong and is prosperous in the face of those challenges," said Mr. Blair.

    The problem is that while Britain, the Scandinavian countries, the Dutch and the Eastern Europeans want a Europe of open markets, France has voted for a Europe in which national governments have the power to intervene to protect their citizens against open markets. Europe has reached a fork in the road. Does it choose open markets with all the painful adjustments they entail? Or does it try to preserve the welfare state where everybody has a social blanket, even though it is no longer economically sustainable?

    Dominique Moisi, of the French Institute of International Relations, says the most likely outcome is that each country will go its own way.

    "Today, New Europe is full of dynamism, energy," said Mr. Moisi. "It looks closer to Asia in terms of energy, and it is in Poland and the Baltic republics, maybe in Great Britain. And there is Old Europe, in France, Germany and Italy, trying to protect a social model that no longer exists."

    Diplomats in Brussels say one side effect of the EU's new post-French referendum uncertainty is likely to be a prolonged period of introspection that will distract it from major foreign policy questions like Iran's nuclear program and the proposed lifting of its arms embargo on China.

    One diplomat recalls that, in the early 1990s, the EU failed to deal adequately with the violent break-up of Yugoslavia partly because it was so concentrated on such internal matters as Europe's monetary union.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora