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Washington Forum Analyzes EU Constitution Votes

Analysts from Europe and the United States say the rejection of European Union referendums in France and the Netherlands reveals a European political elite out of touch with ordinary people. Experts analyzed the vote Thursday at Washington's American Enterprise Institute.

David From, whose conservative views often appear in the Wall Street Journal editorial page, says the resounding defeats in France and Holland send a message to politicians who assume they can impose their beliefs on the people at large.

"[They say, the elites] We just can not trust them [the people] with these ultimate decisions about the shape of their societies. Those are elites that are going to be replaced. Elites who think this way are not going to be elites for long," he said.

Mr. From and other conservatives on the panel applaud the defeat of the EU constitution. It was, they say, an excessively wordy document that would have transferred too much power to an already overly bureaucratic EU administration in Brussels.

The opposite, pro-constitution view was expressed by Dutch diplomat Wim Geerts, who laments the no votes in his country and in France.

"Does it weaken Europe to have a common foreign policy and have an EU minister of foreign affairs [as the constitution called for]? Does it weaken Europe to have an executive branch called the commission that would be smaller than it is now? Does it weaken Europe to have European contributions to cross-border problems, to have competences in the fields of health care, asylum and terrorism? And to have a charter of European human rights? We don't think so," he said.

Both Mr. Geerts and the conservatives agreed that the no votes were a protest against globalization and the EU expansion to include the poorer countries of eastern Europe that is thought to threaten the comfortable way of life in western Europe.

Radek Sikorsky, a conservative Pole who is a scholar at the Enterprise Institute, advocates a looser EU confederation, where the 25 member states do not have to cede more powers to Brussels. He wants EU members to have more authority over matters within their own countries.

"In Europe, by consensus of elites, the death penalty [for criminals, for example] has been completely banned without any debate on it by the public whatsoever," he said. "And without any chance for nation states to have a different opinion."

All agreed that while the drive towards more centralized decisionmaking has probably been halted, the current structures of the EU have not been undermined.

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