In Central Europe, the French disapproval of the Constitution is well received by those who are skeptical towards Europe, but most of the population are the prey of uncertainty and even feel betrayed. The project of European integration is, to a great extent, a French invention and the European Convention was presided over by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. For the smaller European countries, European construction was a kind of compensation for all what France did wrong during the first half of the 20th century: the Treaty of Versailles and the Munich Accords. The European integration supported by France aimed at dissolving and democratizing Germany in Europe. The European integration under France’s direction created an irresistible model of prosperity and democracy for all Europeans who had remained locked behind the iron curtain.
That is why today we are upset by France’s decision to turn its back on European construction for selfish reasons that are not fit for a country with global ambitions. The referendum about the European Constitution was somehow a referendum on the EU expansion. That is why it is so hard to accept the selfishness hidden behind the French “No”. Over the last 15 years, the new EU member countries imposed dramatic reforms upon themselves to become part of the Union. France and the other members of the “old Europe” encouraged them in this process but demanded that they fulfill the integration criteria. However, France refuses to accept these reforms. If we analyze the issue from the Central European point of view, the European project lost its charm for the French when they realized that an extended European Union would not be able to co-finance its social State.
By rejecting the European Constitution, the French also turn their back on Germany, which continues to arose fears among many central-Europeans. Central Europe has the right to wonder if such a humiliation of Germany could not bring about a change of its policy. What would happen if Germany now decided, after the French slap in the face and its economic situation, to reduce its contribution to the EU budget?
The new member countries that supported the war of Iraq were humiliated by France but most of them will eventually overcome the humiliation. The France-Germany duet offered them certain guarantee of finding prosperity and security in a Europe united thanks to the project of the European Constitution. France proved that its own interests are more important than European interests. It will be hard to overcome this disappointment.

Le Figaro (France)
Circulation: 350 000 copies. Property of Socpresse (founded by Robert Hersant, it is owned today by planes manufacturer Serge Dassault). This is the reference journal of the French right.

« Pourquoi le non de la France est difficilement acceptable », by Jiri Pehe, Le Figaro, June 10, 2005.