The French “no” to the European Constitution was not an accident, but the result of a debate as few of them have taken place in the history of that country. The citizens were able to know the main articles as well as the statements made by the advocates from both sides. But they failed to perform an exegesis exercise in favor or against the Constitutional Treaty due to a specific or several of its 448 articles. A constitution is a contract subscribed among the citizens and its terms are less relevant than what it promises. Rejecting the Constitutional Treaty showed above all that most of the French did not want or no longer wanted Europe. The message of “no” is the following: the causes lack of importance as long as we vote for “no”.
This voting was organized by a man that will go down in history as the Dr. Strangelove of the French policy, who used against himself the dissolution and later the referendum. The challenge was mainly linked to an idea, an idea that had to be crushed. Due to nationalism, xenophobia, dogmatism or nostalgia, the advocates of “no” wanted to get rid of this Europe that is building the horizon, disturbs habits and imposes changes. Others, who were not anti-Europeans, were convinced that it was possible to change Europe. Actually, the only possible Europe is the one that we are willing to build together since it is a fragile building based upon a commitment that France has just broken up.
The “no” was also a victory of the protest at all levels. It is just as if we should live from now on in a democracy of generalized discontent. Leading discontent is unemployment. Europe paid the consequences when it helped to save millions of jobs. It is true that the movement of companies is a fact and for the victims of these movements the consequences are terrible. However, we fail to see through which touch of magic wand the fact of having voted “no” would oblige our European friends to come up with a major plan to tackle unemployment, as indicated by Henri Emmanuelli. Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries proved that the countries could influence on their own labor market through the improvement in the cost and quality of work.
What are the elements to keep from the different protests, even the desire to have a fight as expressed by the winners on May 29? Who of the spokesmen of “no” will take most of the credits? Do we need to consider, as Nicolas Sarkozy, that the victory of “no” imposes “strong” reforms, which will not save the French “social model” through substantial changes? Or is it necessary then to have as the only slogan the status quo since the fear to changes is also part of the crux of the “no”? What part of the message to make prevail when it comes to the chapter of French identity: the one from the sovereignty advocates or socialists? The fear to unemployment caused a new denunciation from abroad. The president of ATTAC even got to come up with denunciations in his columns against Spain, Portugal and Greece. This attitude enables us to measure up the European and internationalist fervor of the “left wing” advocates of no. The left wing has been roughly affected by such result that ends the European consensus of the time of François Mitterrand. Regardless of what is said, the left wing anti-Europeans not only echoed the statements of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Philippe de Villiers, but also there were occasions in which they shared their arguments. The French left wing runs the risk of getting paralyzed for long time due to the European issue, just as it happened to the British Labour Party before the arrival of Tony Blair.
The right wing comes out less affected since it had the support of 80% of its voters. The change of government might give it a new impetus. It remains to be seen the main issue: what policy to adopt to respond to the “no”? Whatever the rebellious wave may be interpreted, it means that the French system does not work. It is high time to become aware of it and adopt a solution. If we want to find a merit to this sad “no”, let us make out of it the end of the consensus in favor of the status quo and hope that the change brings back to the French their desire for Europe.

Le Monde (France)

L’impasse ", by Jean-Marie Colombani, Le Monde, May 30, 2005.