For a long time, the unification of Europe was a direct responsibility of the political elites whereas the citizens had nothing to criticize for their interests were not affected. In the Europe of the 25, not all countries can have responsibilities and the citizens refused to be led in a bureaucratic way. Even in the most Europhile States the population is less prone to accept everything.
The French government has been brave enough to call a referendum on the ratification of the Constitution. As German, I admire this decision. The Germans depend on the French vote as well as the French depend on the British, Polish, Czech and the others’ vote. The European Constitution could only be the result of the adherence of the 25 peoples and not of the conceived will of the joint European citizens. The risk lies in the fact that the electors express their decision based on national basis and not in favor of a document discussed in the heart of a European public space. At least, it would be necessary that the elements for and against other nations be known as well as the access to each and everyone of our national public spaces. This is my explanation to the invitation I have been made to give my opinion on the French electoral debate.
I think the French Left would make a bad choice if it tries to “bring” capitalism under control by saying No to the European constitution. It is true there are valid reasons to criticize the path taken by the European unification but I think a Left proud of being a Left should not react by hiding behind the nation-state issue. It’s been a long time since the regulation of the State stopped being enough to counteract the ambivalent consequences of the economic globalization. Only at the European level we’d be able to recoup part of the capacity of the lost State economic regulation. An active and lucid Left in its European policy would have demanded a much more exhaustive harmonization long ago. The European Union must recover its action capacity after its extension and this is what the Constitution is trying to do. If the text is rejected, the Union would be sunk into powerlessness which will make the neoliberals happy.
Thanks to this text, the European Union would be able to develop a “soft power” capable of opposing the ambitions of the neoconservatives. Thus, George W. Bush would be happy if the European Constitution is rejected. The only way we have to offensively face the challenges and risks related to a breaking world is the strengthening of Europe instead of trying to exploit, at the expense of a former populism, the very understandable anguishes of the population. We can’t afford to wait for hypothetical renegotiations. We need a tool capable of influencing the world.
If France rejects the treaty; Europe would be prone to depression. If the British say No, the European Union would then force this country to assume its responsibilities, but being France one of the founders of Europe, the whole building would collapse. Besides, imagining, as the followers of NO within the Left do, that the Constitution would be renegotiated only because in the French-NO-twisted coalition there are some Europhiles who think the political integration is not radical enough, would be a grotesque act of overestimation.

Nouvel Observateur (France)
Left wing weekly newspaper. Circulation: 550 000 copies.

«Le non illusoire de la gauche», by Jurgen Habermas, Nouvel Observateur, May 5, 2005. This text is also available in German, here.