Look at the Small Victories

By Moravcsik, Andrew | Newsweek International, September 29, 2003 | Go to article overview

Look at the Small Victories


Moravcsik, Andrew, Newsweek International


The Swedes reject the euro by the resounding margin of 56 percent to 42 percent. Politicians and pundits proclaim the European Union has reached a crisis. Well, yes and no. The Swedish vote was no isolated bout of Nordic crankiness. To the contrary, it was sign of the deep disillusionment sweeping Europe. Yes, Estonia just voted overwhelmingly to join the Union, and Latvia probably will do the same this week. But note how, in a recent referenda, a slew of existing members have either voted down a variety of proposed community reforms or approved them by only slender margins. In Sweden's case, a broad coalition of female, working-class, poor and rural voters rose to defend the welfare state against what they perceived as collusion between neoliberal business and government elites in Stockholm and distant and unaccountable technocrats in Brussels.

It's hard to interpret this as anything but a resounding sign of the times. Over the coming year the leaders of at least five countries have promised to submit the landmark new European constitution, currently in the final stages of negotiation, to national votes. Even a single no could consign the whole lofty enterprise to failure. It will be a rough ride, underscoring the EU's accelerating fragmentation. In Britain last week, Tory euro-skeptics watched gleefully as government officials admitted that adopting the euro is "completely off the radar screen" until 2007. In Brussels, the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, warned that the EU might split, relegating Sweden (along with fellow Eurozone holdouts Britain, Denmark and some East European members-in-waiting) to a sort of second tier of financially less- influential countries. Acrimonious splits between "old" and "new" Europeans over the Iraq war have undermined any semblance of unified foreign and security policies. And when it comes to common economic policy, budget-busting fiscal "unilateralists"--France, Italy and Germany--have all but killed the EU stability pact. …

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