The Great Reaction; Europe Balks at the Intrusion of Globalization

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Great Reaction; Europe Balks at the Intrusion of Globalization


Byline: Tony Blankley, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Everyone agrees that the French referendum on Sunday that rejected the proposed European Union constitution by 55 percent was a big event. But how big, for what reason and whither it points Europe remains enclouded by a storm of ideological hopes and projections.

After every major election, its meaning is immediately subject to mixed explanations. After our 2004 presidential elections, President Bush's victory was attributed to the gay marriage issue, Karl Rove's amazing get-out-the-vote mechanism, Sen. John Kerry's ineffective campaign, the public's disinclination to change horses during a war, Democratic Party urban secularism, rebounding jobs, Swiftboat Vets for Truth, the sheer likability of George W. Bush, the sheer unlikability of John Kerry and every reason in between.

Not only is objective truth probably not discernable in such circumstances, but most of the commentators and players had vested interests in pushing one explanation or another.

Even before the French vote, certain public attitudes were undeniable. The French were loudly concerned about losing control over their cushy labor and welfare entitlements. French socialists -and others - didn't want to compete in "Anglo-Saxon" free markets.

Another version of this concern has been the failure of Jacques Chirac - in office 10 years - to even begin explaining to the French that they cannot forever enjoy high social benefits as they become ever less productive and hard-working. Beyond his specific shortcomings, Mr. Chirac's current unpopularity, stories of corruption and his famous verbal sneakiness combined to make him a poor salesman for the constitution.

Although not directly related to the constitution, the anticipated admission of Muslim Turkey into the EU was broadly mentioned as a concern. But it was not clear to what extent the "Turkish question" was driven by the fear that Turkey's low wages and relative poverty would send euros to Turkey, or by the fear that Turkish entry would send more Muslims to Europe.

Some French commentators were quick to note with distress the high percentage of younger French voters who opposed the constitution. This was alternatively analyzed as either young people not understanding the importance of the great post World War II European centralization project, or that they simply take it for granted. Those different explanations point to starkly different - almost opposite - long-term implications of the vote.

If there is a consensus in the aftermath of the vote, it can be found on the lips of almost the entire European governing class, as epitomized in the words of the Belgian Prime Minster Guy Verhofstadt: "The result should not be considered as a vote against Europe.

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