June 2, 2005
FRENCH 'NON' CLOUDS FUTURE OF EU INTEGRATION
** Rejecting new EU constitution, French voters "changed politics" and stalled EU integration.
** Disdain for Chirac and "reaction against social and global insecurity" propelled "non" vote.
** "Diminished" by result, Chirac reacted with a "defensive" reshuffling of cabinet.
'The End of Illusions'-- Editorialists termed French voters' rejection of a new EU constitution "a political earthquake" that will probably "stall the unification drive" in the EU. Given its status as a "founding member and engine of the EU," France dealt the "European construct" a "severe setback." France is "not just any old founding member of the EU," said Luxembourg's socialist Tageblatt, and its 'non' "will have to be reckoned with." Optimistic dailies like the Czech Republic's center-right Pravo called the vote "a mishap but not a tragedy" and insisted that "integration is, and will remain, the fate of Europe if it intends to survive in the modern world." Other writers lamented that the EU had no "plan B" and averred that many EU leaders did not "know where to go" now. Euroskeptic British dailies, in contrast, lampooned the constitution as "an incomprehensible, self-indulgent tome that has been mercifully put down" and asserted that "any future treaty that attempts to deepen integration has not a hope in hell of being ratified."
'Fear has manifested itself'-- Writers opined that disenchantment with Chirac was a major factor behind the "non" vote. With unemployment and insecurity the "leitmotif," one editorialist stated, the French voted "not so much against the constitution as against the government they are sick and tired of." The electorate feared the effects of further EU integration and expansion--exemplified by the "ubiquitous Polish plumber" who works for lower wages and the prospect of Turkish accession. Voters rejected further drift from their social-welfare-oriented model towards "a frenzy" of neoliberal "hypercapitalism." The referendum "brutally revealed the extent to which France has been unable to adapt itself to modernity," observed Belgium's left-of-center Le Soir. Another leftist Euro outlet agreed that the result had laid bare "a country...deeply divided...fearful, and mistrustful of its own political leaders."
Chirac 'limps on'-- Analysts agreed that the "bruising" referendum defeat left French President Chirac "diminished" and "weakened." They characterized Chirac's replacement of Prime Minister Raffarin with the "loyal" Dominique de Villepin, and his decision to bring political rival Nicolas Sarkozy back into the cabinet, as "a defensive reaction" to buy time while offering voters "an illusion of change." As Israel's left-leaning Ha'aretz saw it, "France's pretensions to lead Europe...as a counterweight to the Anglo-Saxon axis" of Britain and the U.S. "have been badly damaged." Having lost one "wheel," commentators speculated that the Paris-Berlin "axis" would be wounded. As for the U.S., France's left-of-center Liberation spoke for many by suggesting Washington was not unhappy to see the referendum fail, as no one in Washington "wants to see the emergence" of a European power to rival the U.S.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 64 reports from 25 countries May 30 - June 1, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Europe Must Keep Its 'Soft Power'"
Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden wrote in the independent Financial Times (6/1): "The lesson of the referendum in France and the debates elsewhere is not that enlargement should be abandoned but that it should be anchored in a more open and democratic debate.... We cannot go further and faster than the citizens of Europe are prepared to tolerate--but we should recognize the fundamental difference in a capitulation to populism. It is leadership that is called for if abandonment of the soft power of Europe and a slide into instability are to be avoided."
"Chirac Turns To A Crony"
The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (6/1): "After his bruising defeat on Sunday, Mr. Chirac should have resigned. Instead, having made [Prime Minister] Jean-Pierre Raffarin his scapegoat, he will limp on with an unelected enarque as his (new) prime minister, pursuing retrogressive policies and hoping to salvage something of his reputation. Meanwhile, armed with the UMP machine and, probably, a ministerial portfolio, his chief rival waits to pounce. It is a striking illustration of Enoch Powell's dictum that all political careers end in failure."
"Europe Hasn't Quite Run Out Of Hope"
Ferdinand Mount had this to say in the conservative Daily Telegraph (6/1): "A Yes vote in France would have compelled Britain to hold a vote, and our inevitable No vote would have enabled the French to go on saying that only the perverted British failed to understand the beauties of a social Europe. Now we are all in it together. And even the most disdainful Eurocrat can see that any future treaty that attempts to deepen integration has not a hope in hell of being ratified."
"M. Chirac's Pain Is Not Necessarily Britain's Gain"
The center-left Independent commented (5/31): "While the 'period of reflection' announced by President Chirac may see Mr. Blair safely through the six months of Britain's EU presidency, it also holds the danger of further strife. At present, British ministers are presenting the French 'No' as a rejection of the very aspects of the EU that concern them. But the 'No' was largely a rejection of those features of the treaty that British ministers most prize: the looser union of sovereign states, the primacy of the free market; deregulation and competition."
"Chance For A More Realistic View Of Europe"
The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (5/31): "The French and Germans have, by hard work, made themselves prosperous. But, in today's global marketplace, nations cannot then rest on their laurels without paying a severe price--in this case, unemployment levels of around 10 percent. The poorer European newcomers, let alone America and the tiger economies of Asia, will not wait for them. That is the bracing lesson that Britain should drive home."
"Fear Eats The Soul"
The left-of-center Guardian remarked (5/31): "Europe may be in turmoil over the future of the EU's constitutional treaty, but France is in profound and unprecedented shock. For all the opinion polls predicting a no victory in the final week of a passionate if often misleading referendum campaign, the actual result lays bare a picture of a country that is deeply divided, ill-at-ease, fearful, and mistrustful of its own political leaders."
"When Negative Is Positive"
The conservative Times took this view (5/31): "The European 'constitution' was a document doomed by the hubris of its drafters, who were supposed to bring the EU closer to its citizens, but created an incomprehensible, self-indulgent tome that has been mercifully put down by the people of France. The 'constitution' is dead. Long live the constitution."
"EU Must Conjure A Victory From France's Lost Referendum"
The independent Financial Times concluded (5/31): "The EU constitutional treaty is desirable but not the greatest prize on offer. It would even be worth the EU struggling on with the clumsy arrangements of the treaty of Nice, provided a real push for economic reform arises from the wreckage of the past weekend."
FRANCE: "Washington Has Yet To Forgive"
Philippe Gelie wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (6/1): “Washington’s polite congratulations fool no one. Since that fateful day in February when at the UNSC de Villepin opposed the war in Iraq with staunch conviction, he has become America’s bête noire.... The episode left its mark in the U.S. De Villepin’s heated speech elicited little admiration in the U.S., both because of form and content.... But behind the man, what the Americans rejected was a policy. Since then, rancor has subsided and FM Barnier was able to start on a different footing with Secretary Rice. But suspicion over France’s intentions towards America remains. Last evening the U.S. indicated it was ready to work with the new prime minister, but made it clear it did not forget his opposition to the war in Iraq.”
"The ‘Yes’ Camp On The Attack"
Alexandre Adler observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (6/1): “Hate for the U.S., or anything of the sort, must not be the cement that can federate Europe.... The cement of the Franco-German relationship cannot be the rejection of President Bush and his politics. It must be made of the determination to adopt the same avenues as those of America: an energetic industrial policy with research as its main goal and the construction of a common military force.”
Michel Schifres argued in right-of-center Le Figaro (6/1): “Since, after the victory of the ‘no,’ political conditions are not at their best, let us show some determination and daring. De Villepin lacks neither.”
"Incoherence And Contradictions"
Jean-Michel Thenard concluded in left-of-center Liberation (6/1): “Chirac and Sarkozy share the same talent for contradicting themselves.... But when it comes to being incoherent, Chirac is way ahead.... Past squabbles between Sarkozy and de Villepin do not presage a happy end for this unnatural union. Chirac is perfectly aware of this. He is simply gaining some time while offering the French an illusion of change that could soon trigger a dose of rejection.... The French, exasperated by 10 years of Chirac’s rule, will have very little patience with de Villepin. The man has allure and knows how to talk, but no particular talent to overcome unemployment.”
Left-of-center Le Monde editorialized (5/31): “France’s ‘no’ is no accident.... Through a rejection of the treaty a majority of the French is saying it does not want or no longer wants Europe. So much so that it took the risk of weakening France’s position.... This vote was organized by a man who may go down in history as a sort of Dr. Strangelove of politics, who used or misused against his own interests the dissolution of the National Assembly and the referendum.... Europe is a fragile construction which, we may soon learn, is also reversible.... But the victory of the ‘no’ is the victory of a protest vote, with at its center the insufferable unemployment rate...which other countries such as the UK and Scandinavian countries have been able to bring down.... The left could well be paralyzed by its own internal divisions.... The right is strengthened by the fact that 80 percent of its electorate voted ‘yes.’ Chirac has not put his mandate in the ballot. The National Assembly majority is not threatened. It is therefore unrealistic to call for his resignation. But the question remains: what is the political answer to the ‘no’ expressed by a majority of the French? However one wants to interpret this wave of protest, it means that the French system, whether exception or model, just does not work.”
"The Roots Of The ‘No’"
Alexis Bezet stated in right-of-center Le Figaro (5/31): “The easy answer would be for Chirac to react to those who suggest the Socialists’ call for a ‘no’ vote was responsible for the victory of the ‘no’ and to shift his policy towards less liberalism and a more social model.... But this would mean ignoring the many reasons behind the ‘no’ vote, including fear of too much liberalism and of Turkey.... The more significant clue is that behind every voter who voted ‘no’ lies his fear of unemployment.... If this proves to be ‘the’ reason, the solution will be up to the next prime minister.... Our country is in a crisis and the ‘no’ vote will give wings to most unions. Raffarin’s successor will have to find a middle road between facilitating liberal initiatives and solidarity. Impossible? Maybe, but necessary.”
Serge July observed in left-of-center Liberation (5/31): “France suffers from record unemployment and record taxes. The truth is that France’s political class is stumped and that governments come and go. The politicians’ ability is in question...and mediocrity has surfaced.... For over 20 years, if not 30, the easy way out has been to maintain the status quo, to strengthen lobbies and unions and to operate only marginal changes, which are imposed rather than decided.... The ‘no’ vote looks like a protective reaction against social, urban and global insecurity.... But those who voted ‘no’ have just disarmed us. And those who think Europe will give us another chance will be harshly disillusioned.”
"The Weak Link"
Brunot Frappat argued in Catholic La Croix (5/31): “Of all the reasons raised to explain the victory of the ‘no’ none can explain its magnitude, except unemployment and the leitmotif of: ‘it’s Europe’s fault...’ There are a million reasons behind the ‘no’ vote and no single political party can claim responsibility for its victory. Today, is Europe better off than France? The weak link unavoidably weakens the entire chain.... The scaffold of Europe’s construction has fallen. We must pick it up and give back to Europe its original grandeur. Otherwise, why build it?”
"The Price Of The ‘No’"
Alexis Bezet wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (5/30): “Chirac has lost his wager. His authority over his own party will be diminished.... A third term for Chirac is highly improbable.... Who will be the next prime minister? Already inside political battles are emerging. The paradox would be if, after this vote which the governing majority has indeed lost, but which has re-enforced its unity in face of the Socialist Party’s divisions, partisan quarrels were to lead to the loss of this advantage. It would mean paying twice for the loss to the ‘no’.”
Günter Nonnenmacher judged in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/1): "Following the lost referendum, President Chirac announced that he wanted to give politics a 'strong impulse,' but the appointment of Dominique de Villepin as prime minister looks like a defensive reaction. The new man is one of the president's loyal supporters...and he is now to help Chirac the last two years in office and prevent Nicolas Sarkozy, Chirac's opponent in his own party, from dismantling the aging president even more. This is not a convincing answer to the concern of the French, who expressed mainly their anger and fear for social and economic policy challenges with their 'non' to the EU constitution. De Villepin will be unable to turn the tide with his elegance and eloquence, which is without doubt."
Gerd Kröncke noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (6/1): "The reshuffle of the government was supposed to be a strike to free himself, but the president is unable to hush up his own weakness with it. In order to stay in power, he appointed a friend and a foe at the top of the government. They will be busy with improving the domestic mood, for the vote from Sunday was an expression of distrust towards the president. With Dominique de Villepin a man was moved up who is not very popular and who has never faced elections, but who stood the test as former foreign minister in the international arena. The president and his new aide will have to regain the confidence, which France lost on Sunday. The country is weakened. Time will now tell the value of the entente cordiale [between France and Germany] of the past decades. The term of the 'Franco-German engine' has entered the vocabulary of the government leaders long ago.... The European solidarity of Germans towards the neighbor on the other side of the Rhine is now necessary.... Despite the mishap on Sunday, the European unification process will continue. It will have to be repaired by all. The alternative would be total resignation. This task is all the more difficult because a weak chancellor must fight for his re-election and a weak president in France is experiencing his final stage. Nevertheless, one thing is true: the French are not worse Europeans than the citizens of all other 24 nations. The French wanted to punish Chirac, and they took revenge because they had to vote for him in the past elections against their will to prevent against Jean Marie Le Pen. They succeeded...but the victory over Chirac is a defeat for France and Europe. It is a poisoned victory."
"Rebellion In The Netherlands"
Ruth Reichstein commented in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (6/1): "Unlike in France, the text of the constitution hardly plays a role in the Dutch debate. They do not fear a liberal economy like the French. On the contrary, they are traditionally skeptical about state subsidies.... The Dutch resistance is also different from the British debate--it has nothing to do with a principled Euroskepticism. The majority of the Dutch believes in European integration, but desires a different tempo. They will put the brakes on the integration to show that the political elite in The Hague and Brussels cannot do everything with them.... Politicians of all larger parties, who desperately try to support the constitution, are also to blame for the negative image, because it had become a tradition in the Netherlands in recent years to hold Brussels responsible for all decisions that had negative effects on the country. And they notched up things that went well for themselves. Today, they are dealt the check for it."
"Cut To The Quick"
Günther Nonnenmacher had this to say in a front-page editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (5/31): "There is no doubt. The rejection of the...constitutional draft in France is a political earthquake. It will shake up French domestic policy, but it will also have a lasting influence on the future of the European Union.... The French have not understood the enlargement to the East and its political and economic effects.... It was symptomatic to see the incredulous anger President Chirac showed when he had to realize before the Iraq war that the former accession candidates dared to question the Franco-German claim to lead the EU. The French are reacting with the same anger that foreign workers are willing to worker longer for less money today. The debate over Turkey's accession was only the straw that broke the camel's back.... Since the European project is for many Europeans about to lose its effect by pursuing immoderate goals, they no longer back it; and this is a new Euroskepticism, whose origin is based on disappointed love. Since this constitutional treaty did not fail because of British or Danish resistance but because of French opposition, the EU has been cut to the quick. A government in Paris that is cornered will no longer be a moderator but a country that will slow down the EU's development. The coming weeks will demonstrate this."
"Let's Hope For Holland"
Stefan Kornelius opined in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (5/31): "This vote in France has changed politics, even history. The large European founding nation France no longer wants this Europe and it is likely that the small European founding nation, Holland, will follow suit. And the British will then hammer the final nails into this coffin. The question remains why the political elite from the left and right camp has not succeeded in convincing the peoples of the advantages of the constitution.... The answer is: the naysayers prefer their political everyday life over a philosophy that reconciles the peoples. Europe is too far away... too much a program of minds than of hearts.... If the Dutch change the trend on Wednesday, the laborious work for the Constitution would not be totally in vain. But if the Dutch also reject it, all imploring will be in vain and Europe will face its worst-case scenario. The two key nations--France and Germany--are incapable of acting. Germany will soon have elections, while the French told their president that they would like to get rid of him, and Britain's premier will not have the power to act as a savior.... All other nations do not have the corps spirit, which has thus far helped overcome nationalism and inspired the EU. This community is now too large and can no longer be guided by emotions. It is now coming back to haunt the EU that it was enlarged by 'using force' before the statutes for the new association had been signed."
"The Axis Is Losing One Wheel"
Andreas Rinke had this to say in a front-page editorial in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (5/31): "Like no other government before, the Schroeder government pinned its hopes on close Franco-German cooperation in foreign and European policies. France replaced the United States as Germany's main partner, much to the annoyance of convinced transatlanticists. As far as politics was concerned, this move has always been controversial and this policy was backed as long as it proved to be successful like the presentation of the constitutional draft. But after its failure, Franco-German initiatives are saddled with a double burden: as of today, Schroeder and Chirac are considered 'lame ducks.' In addition, every joint proposal for closer European cooperation will be rejected by opponents referring to the negative vote of the French. The really bad thing about it is: the new government leaders in Paris and Berlin will not be able to change this, since Chirac will be in office until 2007."
ITALY: "The Three Sins Of Arrogance"
Angelo Panebianco wrote in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (5/31): “It was an act of arrogance to present a complicated inter-governmental treaty whose utility was to give order to the chaos of European rules...and to act as a buffer for the more serious problems linked to enlargement.... Perhaps a more minimal approach would have deterred French...citizens from lashing out against the treaty. If we want to avoid an irreversible crisis in the EU, we mustn’t insist. We shouldn’t attempt to do things we’re not yet ready for. In time and with calm, we might be able to introduce...some significant integration...in the Nice treaty. Those who intended to use the treaty in order to force matters in the direction of a political Europe dominated by the French-German axis, by making the former Communist countries in Europe toe the line, also by getting rid of what the Gaullists’ have always seen as the United States’ ‘Trojan horse’--meaning Great Britain--committed political suicide.”
"The End Of Illusions"
Adriana Cerretelli observed in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (5/31): “Europe continues. Its legal legitimacy is not in question, but its political and democratic one is, clamorously so. Notwithstanding its undeniable successes, this Europe is no longer liked by its citizens who don’t understand it. It generates fear and anguish rather than security and economic well-being. Its profuse expansion has spread disorientation and divisions between two Europes that found themselves united, but are strangers. Worse yet, enlargement was mixed with the assaults of globalization, the structural crisis of the welfare state, and five years of quasi-recession.... There’s only one truly positive thing in the French and other no’s: it forces Europe to throw away its mask, to look at itself with realism, with no illusions. But we don’t know where it’s going. For sure, its hands will be tied in the short term.”
RUSSIA: "Chirac’s ‘Spiritual Heir’ Made Prime Minister"
Yuriy Kovalenko filed from Paris for reformist Izvestiya (6/1): “Chirac has chosen de Villepin contrary to the wishes of a majority of the population, who would rather see Sarkozy as prime minister. Although discredited as a result of the referendum, the 72-year old President wants to show that he is control.”
"Too Early To Tell"
Yuliya Petrovskaya said in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (6/1): “Aristocrat de Villepin is a striking personality with presidential ambitions. His victory in 2007 would guarantee the continuity of Chirac’s policy of a special partnership with Moscow. But it is too early to tell whether he will be named Chirac’s heir.”
"Europeans Opposed To ‘Apex Of Power’"
Reformist Izvestiya editorialized (5/31): “By rejecting the Constitution, the French protested not so much against integration per se, as against the bureaucratization of European institutions and the growing regulation of everyday life. Plainly speaking, they protested against an ‘apex of power.’”
Business-oriented Vedomosti editorialized (5/31): “The French...voted not so much against the Constitution as against the government they are sick and tired of. That done, they may want now to discuss what they expect from the EU and European integration and whether united Europe is on the right track. The French referendum may be a sign of Old Europe beginning to lose interest in integration. With the admission of many new members, EU pioneers feel like they wouldn’t mind becoming independent again. The time when EU countries sought rapprochement at the expense of sovereignty must be over. Now they are less enthusiastic about sharing authority with Brussels and, with time, they may even want to get some of it back. The vote outcome, unfortunate to Brussels officials, will make them pay attention to the basic aims of unification, which they seem to forget. Small wonder that the current Constitution is finding no support in France--rather than resolving differences inside the EU, it merely offers a compromise. The French referendum is a graphic example of a nation refusing to toe a line. It is a vote against a bureaucratic approach to state matters within and without.”
AUSTRIA: "Brussels Does Not Have A Concept"
Alexandra Föderl-Schmid commented in independent Der Standard (6/1): "The fact that Chirac now wants to make [EU Commission President Jose Manuel] Barroso the scapegoat simply shows that the buck is being passed on. Barroso could now turn around and blame Chirac for even calling the referendum. However, this would do no one any good, for mutually attributing guilt is no way out of the crisis. The fact that no 'Plan B' was set up now shows its consequences. It is hard to believe that nobody considered alternatives in case one state or another did not vote for the constitution. After all, it is common practice in a democracy that the population's decisions do not always reflect their government's wishes.... France's rejection poses the question of whether Europe needs a different policy and a new organizational structure to win back European voters. It is not enough simply to answer the question of what should be done after the referenda in France and the Netherlands. What is needed is a vision of Europe that can be communicated better to the citizens. Everything ought to be turned upside down. What is worrying is that the actions of those with political responsibility show they do not know where to go with Europe, and have no concepts for the future."
"Stuck in A Rut -- No New Impulses"
Rudolf Blamer wrote in independent Salzburger Nachrichten (6/1): "Dominique de Villepin is President Jacques Chirac's last chance to block the way to the presidency for his rival Nicholas Sarkozy in 2007. And this is exactly why the latter does not want to leave the whole territory to new Prime Minister de Villepin. He wants to be in the strategically best place: to remain boss of the governing UMP and have a foot in government at the same time. For its crisis management after the referendum debacle on Sunday, France now gets not just two enemy (Gallic) brothers, but a trio: Chirac and his head of government will have to share power with the very ambitious and omnipresent Sarkozy. An important question is whether such a trio is the best solution for a country that doubts its future and identity and which the referendum campaign brought almost to the point of a popular uprising against the ruling elite. Under the best of assumptions, de Villepin with his great rhetoric and Sarkozy with his activism might succeed in making an impression on their audience and gain more time."
"Europe Is Not Lost"
Gerfried Sperl noted in independent Der Standard (5/31): "The EU crisis, announced in many headlines on Monday, is evident. Brussels wanted ratification of the constitution to be the first step toward the creation of a federal state, but now it cannot take this step. Some say we already have it, with the euro, with the European elections, with binding decisions by the Commission. Others claim even a ratification of the constitution would leave the national states with a high degree of sovereignty. True, but not as much as they once had. So, Europe is heading toward self-assertion by national states--in the French manner. This means consolidation as a union of states--an economic union with troops for military intervention and parliamentary legitimacy. In September, a German vote for Angela Merkel as Chancellor could complete the French rejection of the EU constitution. Europe will remain what it is. And therefore, it is not lost."
BELGIUM: "France Has Become An Immobile Country"
Paris correspondent Joelle Meskens observed in left-of-center Le Soir (6/1): “Sunday’s referendum has brutally revealed the extent to which France has been unable to adapt itself to modernity. France has become an immobile country, both in space and in time. In space, because nothing that takes place out of France’s borders can be better than the famous and sacrosanct 'French model'--although the latter no longer works. It is also immobile in time, as France only seems to discover globalization whereas many other countries have understood that it was no longer a question of contesting it but of regulating it.”
"The ‘Non’ Country"
Former Paris correspondent Mia Doornaert remarked in Christian-Democrat De Standaard (6/1): “After the French 'non' to the EU Constitution, French President Jacques Chirac has appointed the man who said 'non' to the United States as prime minister.”
"France Voted No To An Enlarged Europe"
Bernard Delattre opined in independent La Libre Belgique (5/31): “Of course, one should not criticize Chirac’s decision to organize a referendum. Although his decision was mainly motivated by domestic political considerations, it was largely justified given what was at stake and given France’s status of founding member and engine of the EU. In addition, Chirac’s decision led to a very democratic debate in France, which might inspire several countries that are lecturing others. But what one cannot forgive the French President for is that, in 10 years, he let the condition and the morale of his country decline to such an extent that a referendum on any subject would have turned into a sanction vote. Chirac should be blamed for not having seen--or for having refused to see--the risks to which he subjected not only his image, his political party, and his country--which, after all, would only be France’s problem--but also the EU, i.e. hundreds of millions of people. Incompetence or irresponsibility? One does not know yet.”
CZECH REPUBLIC: "A Mishap, Not A Tragedy"
Jiri Hanak commented in the center-right Pravo (5/30): "For the EU, this is a mishap, but not a tragedy. Similar troubles had to be resolved in its past.... The introduction of the Euro did not go smoothly either.... Europe has managed to resolve all crises, and will, no doubt, resolve this one as well. Integration is, and will remain, the fate of Europe if it intends to survive in the modern world and play a dignified role.... The French grouping of naysayers is so politically diverse that with a few changes the EU Constitution in two years could pass in France. Integration cannot be stopped permanently if Europe means to avoid nationalistic excesses."
HUNGARY: "Thanks To The French People"
Noted liberal political thinker Miklos Gaspar Tamas held in liberal-leaning Magyar Hirlap (6/1): "When the public of the world turned against the neo-conservative, ultraliberal consensus and the globalization, many people said it was anti-Americanism. By now it has become clear that important parts of European public opinion have turned against our own neo-conservative, ultraliberal plan, the draft of the European constitution, so that term [of anti-Americanism] does not apply.... The voters in France did not vote against 'Europe,' but rather against changing the so far more or less social democratic (Keynesian, planning, easing and counterbalancing social conflicts) Europe. They were not against all kinds of change, but only against making hypercapitalism the law. A European person can only rejoice over that."
Columnist Endre Aczel wrote in center-left Nepszabadsag (5/31): "The 'constitution debate' has mobilized--and divided--all of France. Fear has manifested itself with elementary force. Fear of globalization, fear of American dominance, fear of competition from Eastern Europe, fear of the Turks, fear of liberalism taking over the continent and fear that there would be no government left to appropriately protect jobs, the rights of workers/employees, the acquired rights of farmers, and, primarily, the social prerequisites."
LUXEMBOURG: "A ‘Non’ Heavy With Consequences"
Co-editor-in-chief Danièle Fonck commented in socialist daily Tageblatt (5/30): “The European construct didn’t die yesterday, but it did nonetheless suffer a severe setback. Whatever some European officials might say, the fact is that France is not just any old founding member of the EU and the [French] 'non' will have to be reckoned with. If France’s partners show some tact, as one certainly hopes they will, they will try to understand the message of a great, old European country and tone down the European policies which are, by all evidence, excessively liberal. But they will also have to monitor the situation, in close cooperation with Paris, so that the briefly open window does not close, which would put an end to what may be the last chance for Europe to position itself [on the geopolitical stage].”
POLAND: "We Will Eat The French Frog"
Marek Ostrowski wrote in center-left weekly Polityka (6/1): “’We, the people of Europe.’ It turned out that there is no such thing as the people of Europe. To build Europe requires Europeans. In France, there are too few of them.... The European Union was born, but it is as mortal as any other mundane thing. In order to live and move on, it must have an inner strength, energy and some direction.”
"The Birth Of A Political Europe"
Jedrzej Bielecki observed in centrist Rzeczpospolita (5/30): “The French said ‘no’ because they had had enough of a Europe where the most crucial decisions are made in the privacy of offices, without consultation with voters, with not the slightest effort to explain to them why the continent should be united.... For the third post-war generation, appeals that integration is necessary to avoid conflicts will not suffice. The Union has entered so many key areas of life that leaving it in the hands of Brussels bureaucrats is no longer possible.... As of yesterday, we know that Brussels’ powers will be restricted. Despite this, a political Europe will emerge--a Europe where development is determined by communities, not by technocrats.”
ROMANIA: "Democratic Spirit"
Razvan Voncu commented in conservative Cronica Romana (6/1/): "The EU is a region of democracy and diversity, in which exercises such as the French referendum are the rule rather than the exception. Irrespective of its result, the referendum as such is a positive thing, because it reinforces the democratic spirit of the continent. The construction of the EU is not to be done by means of words or taps on the shoulder...but with documents.... The cause of the French rejection lies in the European Constitution itself, a text which creates a state within a state--i.e., the Central European Bank--and which does not permit the Old Continent to be able to develop its own strategic identity. And you can’t ask the French tax-payer--the second most important one in Europe--to fuel the budget of an institution over which it has no control, nor can you expect him to work for the strategic objectives of NATO, meaning of the U.S."
"EU Will Compromise"
Vlad Macovei penned this editorial in independent daily Cotidianul (5/31): “Europe will find a compromise. The Europeans are the best at doing that, in comparison to their democratic neighbors, the Americans.... They say Europe doesn’t have a plan B. The current United Europe is itself a plan B of the common denominators found after whole years of explorations and negotiations, which resulted in kilometers of documents of compromise.”
SPAIN: "Chirac's Creature"
Left-of-center El País stated (6/1): "Dominique de Villepin's appointment as new prime minister is not the most daring nor the best option for this moment of crisis in both France and the EU after the 'no' vote on the European Constitution. With de Villepin at Matignon Palace, Chirac is keeping his options open.... Chirac doesn't feel (personally) much affected for having called and lost a referendum.... The Socialist Party is what really divided, and they are not in strong enough to ask for an early electoral date.... The substitution of Prime Minister Raffarin...was going to happen even if the 'yes' vote had won. Raffarin wasn't able to impose the social and economic reforms that the country needs. Since the opposition to these reforms is one of the reasons for the categorical failure of the European Constitution vote, it's not sure that de Villepin can carry on with them.... Chirac is the one responsible for big internal and external decisions, for fighting for postponed economic reforms and for getting Europe out from this mess. With this gesture, Chirac didn't satisfy anyone."
"Chirac Protects Himself With Villepin"
Independent El Mundo opined (6/1): "[De Villepin is a] diplomat, intellectual, author of some books...one of Chirac's closest collaborators. As minister of foreign affairs, he confronted the U.S. over Iraq, which won't lend itself to an improvement in the transatlantic relationship. However, neither can it be expected that he will do his part for a new pro-European effort to save the remains of the EU project. Because, above all, de Villepin is a nationalist... Sarkozy represents a liberal and reformist alternative that confronts the protectionist and social policy that de Villepin will predictably undertake. And, no less important, both men aspire to represent the right in the presidential elections of 2007. France is withdrawn in the defense of its own interests and in internal fighting."
"Chirac In Difficulties"
Conservative ABC had this to say (6/1): "Dominique de Villepin's appointment as prime minister was inevitable. Not only for his absolute loyalty, but also for his absolute ambition. Chirac's weakness opens the elections for the center-right candidate to the presidency of the Republic."
"The French Split"
Centrist La Vanguardia observed (5/31): "The split is not only political, but also social.... It is, in short, an alarm signal that...may cause a domino effect in other European countries. It is true that, technically, the process of ratification of the Constitution is still open...and that in the end the chiefs of state and government will evaluate the features along the way, but politically the French setback, which the Dutch may follow tomorrow, may leave the constitutional treaty at a dead end."
SWEDEN: "Setback But Hardly A Crisis"
Conservative Svenska Dagbladet editorialized (5/31): “Things are problematic for the European dream at present. Therefore, it is important that those of us who believe in a strong and dynamic EU where additional members are brought into the community do not despair but rather regard the French referendum for what it is: a serious, but temporary, setback of a historic, political, and economic integration process, which until now has achieved quite a lot, although much still remains to be done. There is no realistic alternative to the EU if we want to secure peace in all of Europe, if we want to have established trade rules that do not favor big countries at smaller nations’ expense, and if we want to be able to handle the challenges of internationalism against the traditional nation-state in our part of the world.”
TURKEY: "One Threat Has Passed"
Erdal Safak commented in mass-appeal Sabah (6/1): “With the French ‘no’ vote, the heart of the European Constitution stopped beating. Today’s referendum in the Netherlands will render it brain-dead. Some believe that the June 16 EU summit will mark the official end of the European Constitution, while others expect the process to continue until the last referendum is held. The address of the last referendum is of course Britain. British PM Blair is expected to make the most of this time, since Britain is also going to take charge of the EU presidency as of July 1.... A growing number of editorials in the British press seems to agree on one thing: the referendum result marked the failure of French-German leadership and paved the way for the ‘British model.’ The British model basically envisages the EU as an economic union. This makes things a lot easier for Turkey. But there is more good news for Turkey coming from Paris. Chirac has appointed the pro-Turkish Villepin for the prime ministershiop instead of Sarkozy, an advocate of privileged partnership.... We can be calm about France, because Paris is likely pursue a low profile in the period ahead. There seems to be no other option available for France in the EU at this point. As The Financial Times has suggested, the main question is not about who will be the new members of the EU, but rather whether France will be allowed to remain as a member.”
"The Impact Of The French Referendum"
Melih Asik argued in mass-appeal Milliyet (6/1): “While Europe is in chaos after the referendum result in France, the Turkish prime minister and foreign minister remain calm. They repeatedly emphasize that ‘the result of the referendum will not affect Turkey’s membership process.’ If they are thinking that ‘Europe wouldn’t have agreed to Turkey’s membership anyway,’ then yes, Turkey won’t be affected. Otherwise, one has to be very ignorant to believe that Turkey won’t be affected. Turkey’s prospective membership was one of the five reasons the French people rejected the constitution. The main reason for the rejection was the fear of an increase in unemployment because of cheaper labor being brought in from Turkey. In short, Turkey’s membership will affect Europe’s decision, and to think that this result is not going to affect Turkey is just insane.”
Sami Kohen observed mass-appeal Milliyet (5/31): “The result of the French referendum, regardless of the motives for the no vote, is a political tremor that will shake not only France, but the entire EU very deeply. The immediate impact of the no vote will be on the Chirac administration. It is obvious that the time has come for French politicians to revise their policies by paying more attention to the voice of the people. France is heading into a painful period.... The result of the French referendum is to make the EU Constitution a dead letter.... All of this, and the lack of a proper Plan B in the EU, brings the EU to the brink of a painful and controversial process. It is unlikely that the EU will dissolve. But it is also unlikely that the EU will experience any further progress from its current point. In other words, the EU will never be a real political union. The result of the French referendum also puts the integration process to an end. In the period ahead, France’s influence in the Union will certainly be decreased. We might even see a British-German axis to replace the current German-French axis.”
ISRAEL: "The Lessons Of The Referendum"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (6/1): "Whatever the reasons [of the French rejection of the European Union's constitutional treaty], the outcome was rejection of the goal of a 'United States of Europe,' and sanctification of the traditional value of the nation-state.... Additionally, France's pretensions to lead Europe, partly as a counterweight to Germany and partly alongside Germany as a counterweight to the Anglo-Saxon axis of Britain and the United States, have been badly damaged.... A 'no' vote can express anger at those in power and seizure of an opportunity to harass them, more than genuine opposition to the issue at hand."
"Weakened EU Is Nothing To Cry About In Jerusalem"
Diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote in conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (6/1): "It is likely...that the stinging rejection of the EU constitution in France on Sunday, and the likelihood that the Dutch will follow suit and vote no to the constitution in their referendum Wednesday, is not being lamented this week in the [Israeli] prime minister's office.... A weaker EU is perceived in the current corridors of power to be in Israel's short-term interest--although no one, for obvious reasons, will go on record saying this. Israel likes the current unipolar world, where the U.S., led by a very friendly president and administration, calls the international shots.... An EU united by a constitution would--at least politically--mean a strengthened EU, a major force on the world scene that would, in a matter of time, see itself as America's equal on the international stage. A much-strengthened EU would indeed be able to demand a seat on near-equal footing with the U.S. around the Middle East negotiating table. Sharon doesn't want this to happen, but rather prefers the EU's 'junior partner' status. Sunday's French vote, moreover, put to rest any notion of the EU as a cohesive unit able to act by consensus. In various international forums, the EU's 'rule by consensus' redounds unfavorably for Israel."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA (MACAU SAR): "EU Constitution Faces Huge Crisis"
The pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News editorialized (5/31): "The rejection of the EU constitution by France will lead Europe to endless stagnation. The EU's value will also be questioned. After three years of careful negotiations, the new EU constitution has almost come to a halt.... Even if the situation takes a positive turn, the EU may still have to face a brief period of chaos, uncertainty and mutual recriminations. The immediate impact of the France's rejection of the EU constitution is to prevent an agreement in June. If the EU cannot reach an agreement as scheduled, the extra assistance to the new member states will be delayed. In the long term, progress toward European unification of Europe will be delayed. European political figures may even reject Turkey--comparatively poor and Muslim--from joining the EU."
JAPAN: "Impact of French Decision"
Liberal Asahi argued (5/31): "It is understandable that many people of the European community are concerned about the rapid progress of European integration. A high unemployment rate, which was partly caused by the growing influx of cheap labors from former central and east European nations, seems to have exacerbated the French people's anxiety about the potential negative impact of the accelerating unification in Europe. The success of the EU would be the basis for peace and prosperity in the post WWII Europe. European nations need to patiently promote the ongoing consolidation despite the vote by the French people."
"Europe Faces Big Challenge"
Business-oriented Nikkei had this to say (5/31): "The EU seems to face the biggest challenge in its 50-year history in the wake of French rejection of the EU constitution. Paris' failure to approve the charter will likely stall the unification drive among EU members. However, it is too early to think that European nations will choose breakup rather than integration after the French decision because they have successfully narrowed a series of differences in the past. The French people did not said 'non' to the European Union but expressed their concern over the swift process of unification."
SOUTH KOREA: "EU Fails To Establish Joint Constitution"
The independent Joong-Ang Ilbo editorialized (5/31): “As France, which has led the move toward European integration, rejected a constitution for Europe on Sunday, the European Union (EU) faces a major crisis in its effort to achieve political unity. It is highly likely that the EU will enter a period of uncertainty over its future course and potential inactivity. The French decision to reject the European constitution has a different meaning from the crises that the EU faced in the past. Given that France has been the symbol of bolstering European integration, the result of the French referendum poses a very strong question of whether the EU can overcome this very difficult political barrier or not. Since the structural framework of the EU was established in the Nice Agreement, the integration of European countries will not be jeopardized by the French rejection. Also, as more than half of Europeans have already agreed to the adoption of a European constitution, the will to achieve European unity is strong. However, the French vote has shown that the EU needs more time to achieve military and political integration, although it has succeeded in creating a unified market since the establishment of the European Economic Council (EEC) in 1957.”
THAILAND: "France’s ‘No’ Vote Sends EU Reeling"
The independent, English-language Nation concluded (5/31): “The resounding rejectionist vote is a wake-up call for France’s Chirac government and the EU as a whole. In a way, it is understandable for French citizens to vote against the treaty. The influence of France, one of six founding EU members, has definitely been on the wane with advent of the bloc, which now comprises 25 countries with a combined population of 454 million. Widespread economic anxiety--made worse by the integration of new, poorer member states--and discontent with the French government’s lackluster performance may have contributed more to the decisively negative constitutional vote than previously thought.... But this is not the end of the EU. Several key treaties like those agreed on at Maastricht and Nice will continue to serve as fallback positions for the EU to continue its integration. Of course, falling short of resoundingly unified support for the constitution, this will inevitably be a long and drawn-out process, which may not be a completely bad thing.”
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "Going Dutch?"
The centrist Asian Age noted (6/1): “The European Constitution’s fate is in jeopardy although it is being claimed by many of its 25 members, nine of whom have already ratified the treaty, that it is not yet a dead letter and can still be made to work.... The French decision has also put in jeopardy the chances of a few more nations like Turkey, Estonia and Latvia gaining Union membership. Have concepts like regional political and economic integration, the driving force behind the united coalition, outlasted their value? Or, was it the fear of a U.S.-dominated NATO impinging on the sovereignty of France and other European countries that influenced the vote? It can be argued that this question at least is irrelevant because France’s negative vote was more the rejection of President Chirac’s domestic policies rather than of the Constitution itself.... The EU leadership will no doubt seek answers to the many questions arising from the French decision and chalk out measures to keep the Union alive and kicking. But, meanwhile, for France and other European powers, the coming days are bound to be agonizing.”
"The French Hiss"
The Economic Times editorialized (5/31): “Any obituary written for the new European Constitution on the basis of the strong ‘no’ vote in France would be premature. Much as this is likely to influence referenda in other European countries, it can’t be assumed that the tide has irreversibly turned.... It would, however, be a gross error to dismiss the strong ‘no’ vote as being entirely a response to domestic problems like rising unemployment. The vote also reflects a belief that the vision underlying the new constitution won’t help France.... The French vote has given European leaders an opportunity to create a union that captures the benefits of working closely together without the pains of being dominated by an over bearing central authority. It’s to be seen if they have the sensitivity and skills to rise to this challenge.”
SOUTH AFRICA: "Right On The Monnet"
Balanced Business Day commented (5/31): “The rejection...by French voters...is a bitter blow to the credibility and legitimacy of arguably the most ambitious political project the world has yet witnessed. More so, perhaps, because the French governing elite have been both the architects and builders of the EU ever since Jean Monnet conceived it in the fifties.... The blow is probably more to French hegemony in much of the EU debate than anything else.... For the poorer countries in Europe, the EU has been a godsend.... They know...that there is strength in unity and no one will be more concerned about the French result now than the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Poles and the Greeks. They understand how a weakened EU weakens them, and it will be interesting to see in coming months and years whether the children of the EU can save its founders from themselves.”
BRAZIL: "The Victory Of 'No'"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (5/31): “In terms of European Union, the [French] vote represents a remarkable setback, even though it is not insurmountable.... To make the scenario a little bit dimmer, the Dutch will vote tomorrow and according to polls, will also reject the constitution.... The Europeans will now have two paths: either they bury the proposal of constitution, trying to save some of its aspects though other means, or the document will be once again submitted in the near future in the nations that have refused it. In addition to France and the Netherlands, the British are strong candidates to say ‘no.’ The tough French rejection, however, creates doubts on the feasibility of reversion of the results even under another government.”
CHILE: "Union With Self Criticism"
Karin Ebensperger wrote in conservative, influential newspaper-of-record El Mercurio (6/1): "The European Union is in itself a success. 60 years ago the world faced the end of a world war and 16 years ago Europeans were still under the strong hold of Soviet communism. Today, however, 450 million Europeans are bound together by an agreement that is more than just an economic pact.... Many see the current controversy over the European Constitution and France’s opposition to it as a weakening of the Union, but it is not. Europe has always been critical of itself.... In France, domestic matters affected a vote that was meant to punish President Chirac. We must not see France’s rejection as a catastrophe. Europeans have deep ties with a process that began in 1958 and that has taken them to the current European Union.”
COSTA RICA: "Why France Said No"
Jaime Ordonez observed in influential La Nacion opined (6/1): “France's rejection of the European Constitution has been the most important blow the European Union has suffered in may years and maybe the most traumatic since its foundation pact. First, because of the enormous and complicated legitimacy problem implicit in a referendum in one of the founding members. Second, because of France's importance and the snowball effect it could have over other EU countries where economic participation is decisive. France's decision breaks the Franco-German axis, base of EU development since its foundation. Besides, the decision leaves the EU Constitution null and void because it must be ratified by all 25 members to come into effect. There seems to be two main reasons for the rejection: 1,Jaime Ordonez a renaissance of a certain historic nationalism, legacy of chauvanism and xenophobia; 2, the economy, because the economic cost of creating a plural Europe has been too high. President Chirac committed a political error by not choosing the parliamentarian way to approve the EU Constitution. France's rejection of the continental Constitution should provoke a reflection pause for the EU. This is an uncertain scenario, full of dilemmas."
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