The French and Dutch rejection of the European Constitutional Treaty (ECT) is still being analyzed in the media. As usual, the supporters of the Treaty widely monopolize the right to comment; they impose their interpretation of the ballot.
As we saw it in our edition of June 7, a part of the Atlantist and neo-liberal circles in favor of the text has stigmatized the French describing the vote as an identitary and xenophobic withdrawal. At the same time, they invoked a new policy which should be led by Nicolas Sarkozy. Supported by the opinions expressed by French voters on polls made on May 29, the French Minister of Interior and chairman of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) has started again the immigration and unemployment debate in France. Thus, he might have lead people to think he was responding to the fears regarding foreign workers that led to the “no” of the ECT, according to the dominant media. He also focused on issues that enhanced Sarkozy if compared with his adversaries and taking into account his functions. So, he entered Le Pen’s fields though he inverted the terms he has used in regards with the rejection of immigration. For the National Front, denouncing the immigration was denouncing the arrival of Algerian to France who had expelled the French colonists when Algeria became independent. The development of the French extreme right was the consequence of the frustrated decolonization which was not welcomed by the ruling class. This topic, which was reintroduced by Sarkozy tends, in a very different way, to import the “clash of civilizations” since the moment the April 2003 veil debate was begun. His logic was not against the populations developed during the colonization, but against the Muslim population; it was not an expression of the collective traumatism of the underprivileged but the slow infiltration of an imaginary fear to mold a society. This pusillanimous and xenophobic French “no” image appeared again in Le Figaro thanks to Jiri Pehe, former adviser to Vaclav Havel and researcher of Freedom House. For him, by rejecting the text, France made a terrible mistake similar to the signing of the Versailles Treaty or the Munich Agreement! Due to its pusillanimity or disregard for Europe, it lost its opportunity to guarantee peace in the continent. Who knows if in the future, Germany, feeling itself betrayed, recovers its expansionist ambitions towards Central Europe.
In Die Tageszeitung, Aleksander Smolar, chairman of the Stefan Batory Foundation (the Soros Foundation Polish subsidiary), sustained the French rejected the text because they thought it was too liberal and the Dutch because it was not. He pointed out that, for sure, both peoples showed their fear of immigration. By considering the term “Constitution” was not very elaborated, he urged the leaders of the European Union to work taking into account the mistakes committed. In the magazine he directs, the Weekly Standard, neoconservative editorialist William Kristol expressed his satisfaction for the double rejection of the ECT: it was a slap in the face for the European elites and consequently, Jacques Chirac. The disputes that have opposed the European liberal elites and the Gaullist president since his duel with Edouard Balladur seemed to have escaped from the author’s astuteness who also offered his readers an aberrant view of the debate previous to the referendum. For him, by voting “no”, the French and the Dutch voted against the welfare state, the “obstacles to growth”, bad immigration policies and anti-Americanism. In order to meet the expectations of the readers, only a name was mentioned: Nicolas Sarkozy! Thus, he reached to David Ignatius and Jean-Marie Colombani’s conclusion too, who did not welcome the rejection of the text. All roads lead to Rome.
Strangely, it was in Le Monde where the former National Security adviser for European Affairs, Philip H. Gordon, contested Kristol’s analysis. Why should the United States be glad for the result of the referendum? It is true there was a rejection to Jacques Chirac’s policy but his opposition to George W. Bush was still appreciated. The wished-by-Washington-European Union- policy of expansion to the East will be slower and it won’t be possible to count on the Europeans to “democratize” the “Great Middle East”. For the democrat, it was an opportunity to strengthen the Atlantis Europe. Now, the big problem for the European elites is to find something to make electors accept what they have rejected and to implement their conception about the European construction.
While commenting the publication of his last book in an interview granted to Die Welt, Joschka Fischer, the German Minister of Foreign Relations, showed no signs of alarm. It was true referendums on the ECT should not have been made but these are unavoidable difficulties of a historical process that won’t stop the European construction. The European trade commissioner, British Peter Mandelson, was much more worried. In a text published by The Observer, and reproduced by Taipei Times, he said the discomfort between the Europeans and the European Union was deep and made a call to his former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to calm down the Europeans who fear an “Americanization” of the European Union. It’s obvious the British Prime Minister, who will become the president of the Union next July 1st. is not the right person. On the other hand, for the ex French Minister of Foreign Relations, Hubert Védrine, the French voted “no” for they believed in a chimera the other European states do not want: the social Europe. For a long time, the “pro-Europeans” deified Europe for they believed it could solve all ills and ridiculed its contradictions. If Europe should go on, it must first abandon this logic. French former Minister of Interior, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, has been one of the few supporters of “no” who has been able to say his opinions. In Le Figaro, he affirmed the French voted “no” to preserve their social rights, but also their nation, a fact the right and left wing liberal elites can no accept. He reiterated his call to the European institutions to make out of the Union a wall against globalization.
However, for American economist Jeremy Rifkin in Die Zeit the rejection showed in Europe was not a rejection against a reform in Europe but against the excesses of capitalism, excesses which incarnate the United States in a ridiculous way. Europe must build a counter-model.