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Oh, I'm sure the French elitists are regetting this referendum.

Some Buendnis-90 dude on Sabine Christiansen's show had a thought: Chirac should have promised that if the French voted "oui", Chirac would resign. With both France's frustration on both the left and right with Chirac, that might have worked.

Love 'em or not, the French people have spoken. Now THAT is democracy.

Next stop on the 'non' train: Den Haag.

This transcript of a NDR-Panorama edition shows, how much knowledge the average pro-Eu-Constitution-MdB has (ndr-homepage, in german)

Someone should have told them a voluntary withdrawal from the EU would have been possible with the constitution.

Too bad Germans aren't allowed to have a say in their future.

The referendum results are being presented in the media as a verdict on specific policies and politicians. But from my outside (American) perspective, it seems as though what was at issue in the debate was, in effect, the continued existence of democratic control over powerful government officials. The constitutional treaty would have created more centralized, state-like institutions for the EU without increasing the individual European voter's direct control over those institutions. In other words, French voters were asked to choose between existing democratic institutions (in Paris) that allow them to vote to replace officials they don't like and new institutions (in Brussels) that confer power on officials they have no way to get rid of. When presented with those options, most French voters chose not to forego their control over future political deicisions, which to me seems like an extremely rational default position. I'm curious whether European readers think that's a fair summary of the stakes in the debate.

This one time:

VIVE LA FRANCE!

I'm so happy, the EUdSSR is stopped - for now.

Hafta say, "I'm thrilled, by the Non". Even though it seems to be for the wrong reasons. First, I'm always shocked to see how little democracy there is in Europe as evidenced by most country approval by Parliments rather than directly "by the people". I've felt that the Constitution, as written, would further distance the EU beaurocrats from accountabilty (from the people). Never a good thing unless you're one of the ruling elites (Europe's new Royalty). Second, I didn't think it wise to enshrine the nanny state & socialism into a constitution thereby erecting a high hurdle for future generations that may need the flexibility to enact strict economic reforms to stave off financial (and eventual cultural) collapse. Third, being a believer in individual freedom, I would have dispaired at seeing so many fellow humans having their rights diminished for the good of the State.

I fear the euro elites be they in Germany or france or some other place, are not going to accept this.

The french will just have to keep voting till they get it right. Does anyone remember the euro?


Yeah, who knows Hartmut, we might actually have been wittnesses of a history thing here: You must grant the French that every once in while, like, every some hundred years, they are actually doing something good for the world: There is the French Revolution, the French help for America during the War of Independence, and now this? ;) It's yet to see whether this will have enough impact on the future in order to qualify. I do hope so.

"I fear the euro elites be they in Germany or france or some other place, are not going to accept this.

The french will just have to keep voting till they get it right. Does anyone remember the euro?"

This might turn out true, Joe. Surely the Euro-Bureaucrats are boiling right now. However, the more frequent and the more stubbornly they pull these kind of things, the more they will burry their own lot. So that in the end the only EU there is will be the one in their heads. They keep walking over people, they'll end up there. OK, problem I got to give you here is socialist dickheads amongst the folks don't really give as much as a fluck about freedom until they lost it. Either way, this round goes to the people.

Would be great if France left the EU now. The EU would have to spend a lot less on agricultural subsidies, the UK would gain in influence and we wouldn't have to see Chirac and Schröder meeting every week to discuss European matters.

Odd that clowns such as Jose Bove and his ilk would have the US beholden to International organizations wilst they themselves reject closer integration within Europe.
What fun, I'm breaking into the 30 year Glenfiddich tonight. The multi-culties are afraid of Turks and Polish plumbers. Europa, 'see jungle, see jungle, go join your gang' (Bow Wow Wow).

Alex,

It is a shame the German people were not given the same opportunity to voice whether they too wanted to ceed sovereignty to a distant unaccountable organization.

But then again it is not surprising given how much faith they put in the UN.

Next Wednesday the Dutch will vote and polls show they will reject the EU constitution by an even bigger margin.
In the German parliament only 23 members had the courage to vote against the constitution, two communists and 21 conservatives, most of them from the Bavarian CSU. The other 575 ( including all the SPD and Green Party members) voted YES, most of them never read the constitution.

Matt, as I just commented on my blog, the EU has been doing its level best to ignore democratically made decisions. Just take the software patents as an example. The EU beaurocrats are stll trying to ignore the decision of the European Parliament. Go figure.

Also, I have made a translation of Chirac's concession speech. It's rough, but should help those people who by skills or will are unable to read the French original.

As a German, I feel very cheated that I couldn't vote against the EU constitution. When a democratically elected government thinks it can do whatever it wants (especially when increasing power) without consulting the people, it ceases to be a government by and for the people and begins to serve it's own purpose. At this point, it becomes a totalitarian democracy.

Klaus,

That might be true but as Sandy said some days ago, you can travel freely.

Was there ever any referendum in the United States? No - and with good reason this was taken over into the German Basic Law 1949. They tend to unite the lunatic fringe of politics - as seen in Germany of the 1920s. But what would I have done if there was a referendum for me? There are quite some things I dislike in the text (lack of mentioning christianity and too much meaningless text taken over from the EXISTING treaties); however there are some improvements to the Nice treaty (this abysmal product mainly of Schroeder and Chirac) worth adopting. Though tending to a "no", I would have voted yes or abstained because I am neither a communist nor a fascist which are the main sources of the organised No support both in Germany (PDS,NPD) and France (PC,FN). And even less would I show support of the loonies (Bové, Lafontaine; Gauleiter - err Gauweiler; Greenpiss, Attac etc.


But the French hated Europe so much that they voted to 55% as the fascists, communists and loonies suggested. That means a sound rejection of the core of the European idea: open borders, free movement of goods and people; equality of nations. The fist step to the next European war was walked today - totally "democratic", as in 1933....Referenda are just an illusion of democracy.

Referenda are very democratic. Democracy alone is not a good way to run a polity as we have known since the time of Polybius.

While there was no referendum in America, every state voted to approve or disapprove the constitution in conventions, specifically called for that purpose only, the delegates to which were selected by all voters holding the franchise at that time. Americans did recognize the downsides of democracy in the eighteenth century and that was why multi-layered selection to determine approval or disapproval of the constitution was used. It was not until the rise of the large corporation in the late nineteenth century that the referendum became popular as a measure to balance their effect, particularly in populist states such as California. The results are apparent today as the Golden State has a legislature still incapable of acting in the interests of the people. Only now it is beholden to teachers and prison guard unions and gambling interests.

True, the US constitution of 1789 was a centralizing document, like the EU constitutional treaty. But the US constitution also gave the voters at least some control over the new central institutions. It created an elected head of state (the President), a directly elected House of Representatives with substantial power, and a Senate whose members were originally chosen by state governments (and are now directly elected). This made it possible for the proponents to claim that the new federal structures would at least not be less free (and might be more free) than the existing state ones.

Does the proposed EU constitution offer a degree of accountability to the voters as great as that provided by the French constitution? I'm asking that as a real question, not a rhetorical one. However, it does seem that most people in France think the answer is "no."

The U.S. constitutions was an aggreement among a group of people who pretty much shared the same language, culture and "national experience" (revolutionary war, post-revolutionary war political instability, frontier and immigrant experience). The EU is not working with these same similarities.

Also, the U.S. constitution did a pretty good job of saying what powers belonged where. Whereas the Euroconstitution seems to say that pretty much everthing belongs to Brussels, unless Brussels decides that it doesn't want to excercise IT'S rights and return certain powers to the people or member states.

Personally, I would have voted against this monstrosity too.

Does anyone think there will be headlines in the German M$M that state,'

How can so many French people could be so stupid?

True. It's a shame Germany didn't get a referendum. Still afaid of themselves, I guess.

i just love the hypocrisy of it all...
its so do as i say, not as i do.

I guess when you write it all down and put it on a plate,even the commie french send it back to the kitchen.

this aint over by a long shot. no socialist worth his salt would let something as small as a national ref stop them.

it does pain me to see so much crapocracy in europe after so many people died to free it from the national socialists. man on the street screwed again.

Groucho would say, France doesn't want to belong to any club that would have it as a member.

@ PacRim Jim

Was that Groucho or W.C. Fields?

I would like to believe the French viewed this as a referendum on sovereignty, democracy and freedom (such as it is there). But, they have made it abundantly clear that they don't care about that kind of stuff. I wonder what the French were thinking.

Regarding Germany, I am not usually in favor of referendums on issues. My general view is that in a Democracy, people vote for their leadership whose job it is to govern. One of the few exceptions would have to be my own sovereignty. For example, before US government were to tear up the American Constitution and relegate American citizens to the rule of the UN, I would expect to be able to vote on it. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Steve, the US Constitution was ratified by all the states who entered into it.

"I fear the euro elites be they in Germany or france or some other place, are not going to accept this."

The political class, in Brussels and in Berlin (with the honourable exception of Guido Westerwelle) tells you:
1) The French vote was not against the constitution (it was against Chirac, against Turkey, against whatever).
2) The French vote is sad, but it doesn't matter. The process of ratification will continue.

I think the people will have to visit Brussels.


@Norman

"Referenda are very democratic. Democracy alone is not a good way to run a polity as we have known since the time of Polybius."

What? Because it went well once in time, it does everytime? Please keep in mind German history and not only the Greek/Roman one. The German politicians demanding a referendum are the most populistic ones and would try (like Chirac) to influence the public voting behaviour as they can. The only thing that they won't use are true facts and rational arguments. The more complex the thing to be voted on the less it is suitable to be decided by a referendum. Several comments already covered this: almost everyone is against one or the other part of the EU constitution but nonetheless in general it could be worth to vote with yes.

The average German has no idea about the constitutions contents. Why let populists influence them with "they will take your agrar subventions", "there will be an EU war army" and similar arguments? Because if you do, you can drop the elections and make a rhetoric contest between the loudest politicians deciding the question.

Don't ignore that 15 out of 25 EU states decided to not let the people vote. And not without reason.

"the voters who this site is cheering for are for the same socialist ideals that this site, and its commenters, loves to bash" TRUE.

I think some the pro-YES people here are forgetting a fundamental issue: the main reason to vote NO is about democracy

The Constitution is 500 pages. Do you know what that means? It means that it doesn't limit itself to defining the institutions and guaranteeing the rights of the citizens: it meddles in defining the policies of the governemnt (cf "the EU will have a spatial policy"). Since, in order to avoid Governments changing the rules when it fits them, a Constitution is not easily changed, a Constitution who meddles in Governemnt policy menas that Government will be unable to adapt to changing conditions. Think in a ship charging ahead between icebergs with its rudder tied. The second issue is that a Constituytion meddling in Governement policies voids democracy of any meaning: what use of elections if whatever the result the same Constitution-mandated policies will have to be enforced?

The second point is that the EU constitution was elaborated by an unelected body. A small assembly of appointed old chaps made a project of Constitution and then we were asked, asked? no mandated, ordered to approve it or the sky would fall on our heads. Sorry but it doesn't register with me. The democratic way to make a Constitution is to elect an assembly for that special purpose, and the Constitution is the product of teh discussions and compromises made in that Assembly. Ideally that Constitution is then validated by a referendum so it gains an additional legitimacy. But I have no doubt over my answer to ANY Constitution elaborated by a body whose members only legitimacy derives from being the drinking partners of Chirac, Schroeder and Zapatero: a massive and rotund NO.

I will bother to consider a Constitution when proper and democratic forms (ie election of the Constituant body) are used in its elaboration. Until then it is NO

Sorry but I deny the right to that small assembly of appointed has-beens

You have to decide if you want a direct democracy where people often have a referendum or a indirect where they elect a parliament. But you can not use this instrument once and wonder why people mix different problems instead of voting about the issue.
My aunt lives in Switzerland and they are used to have a referendum and it works quite well ( they have also problems with that).
But all other eurpean countries and the US normaly don´t use referendums.

the main reason to vote NO is about democracy?????

The constitution gives the EU parliament more power and helps the EU to become more democratic.
By the way the countries and people who oppose the european integration are the once who always talk about the problem of a undemocratc EU.
I would love to see these countries loose their Veto power and give the european parliament much more rights but i don´t belive that these people will see this development very positive.

Yes, it is about democracy. And I don't care if the Constitution gave more powers than those of the Nice treaty. According to your logic if someone stole my wallet (ie the powers gaven to eurocrats by Nice and Amsterdam, without any kind of popular consultation) and then gave me back a couple euros I should be happy and kiss his hand? No way. I want my money back, or my exactly the powers transferred without approbation.

For the unitiated, the Amsterdam treaty made any kind of EU legislation superior (including derived legislation) superior to national constitutions. So in effect is to void them and it was approved behind the backs of the peoples. So long for the respect for democracy by the national-europeists

I told that I would not be happy if someone stole my wallet (Nice, Amsterdam) and then gave me back pocket change (the Constititution). In fact I would not rest until having my money back and the thieves (Chirac, Jospin) in jail

A 300-page constitution, by dint of its very size, sums up the first problem facing Europe: The EU is governed by a bureaucracy whose ways cannot be understood by ordinary citizens, and which does not intend itself to be understood. It is therefore not trusted. A second problem is that the constitution is made up of a series of staggeringly complex compromises that defy clear understanding. If American constitutional law is complex, European constitutional law, as written, is beyond comprehension, let alone debate.

The voters simply don't know what they are voting for. Even if they did favor the principle of European unification, no one really knows, under this constitution, precisely what they would be committing to. This is not a solvable problem. The complexity is inevitable. It derives from an understanding of Europe that relies on specialists rather than citizen-politicians, and an uneasiness among nations that has resulted in a compromise of bewildering complexity. The Europeans either have an incomprehensible constitution, or they have no chance of agreeing on one at all.

Beneath the complexity of the task lies politics.

EU Constitution vs. U.S. Constitution

A political change which results in a partial loss of national sovereignity would definitely require a popular referendum in the USA. I don't quite understand how anyone can be against that while at the same time seriously claiming to be a "Democrat".

After this disaster, the first order of the day for a German voter should be to demand the right for a popular vote expression on such all important questions as the EU Constitution or the annexation of German territory by foreign nations.

As long a the German voter does not have these rights, the title "Democracy" in the case of Germany remains a gross misnomer.

Peter P. Haase
Boca Raton, Florida

@JFM


The problem of democracy or better of beeing not democratic enough.

europe is in many ways a compromise between euro sceptic countries ( UK) and countries that want more integration. Countries like the UK don´t want to give up their Veto power on several topics or you just have to look at the compromise of Nice. Such scepticle countries produced and caused much of the frustration and anger we now see in europe.

The problem is if those countries don´t want the european integration they should have a serious discussion and leave the EU ( if that´s what the people want).

In France we saw the wrong people for the wrong reasons voting no against the "Constitution", and certainly the same will happen in Holland again. If the 'no' prevails, the far-left will celebrate it as a victory. For this reason alone, some are tempted to vote yes, thus overlooking the logical possibility that the wrong people can make the right choice for the wrong reasons.

@Randlose

"The issues are simply too complex to understand for the average Joe. You do not have referendums on whether Greenspan should raise the interest rate, or on many other matters that are simply to complex or matters that should not be condensed down to one point. The people who voted against Chirac, or Turkey, or farm subsidies, or current employment, have no idea what is at stake here, and I doubt many of them have even seen a copy of the constitution.

"And again, the voters who this site is cheering for are for the same socialist ideals that this site, and its commenters, loves to bash. They want LESS capitalism, a view which has been criticised again, and again, and once more, on this site."

This post is a gem, but not for the reasons Randlose thinks. It encapsulates in two paragraphs the entire elitist argument against democracy. In the first paragraph we see the same argument that was repeated ad nauseum in this country by our wealthy elites in the first half of the 19th century, when the issue was whether the vote should be a privilege only of the rich. Then, again, simple working people were too uneducated, to ill-informed, too susceptible to influence by demagogues, too downright stupid, to understand what was in their own best interests. One can’t discount such arguments lightly. One could cite countless examples "prove" every one of these claims. The people have often acted stupidly, viciously, and self-destructively. The solution of the elites, then and now, was to disenfranchise the people, to let "wiser" heads decide what was in their best interest. Then, as now, the problem was deciding to whom the people should hand over their sovereignty and the power to rule themselves. If the history of the last 250 years has taught us anything, it is that there is no answer to this most fundamental of all political questions. Elites, no matter how wise, or learned, or public spirited their members may be, inevitably act in their own interests, and not in the interests of the people they claim to "represent." Indeed, they do it unconsciously, almost invariably identifying their own interests with "the good." Even the slave owners in the US before the Civil War were genuinely convinced they were acting in the slave’s best interests. The solution to this ancient dilemma is democracy. To paraphrase Churchill, democracy is a bad form of government, but it is the best form of government. This is not, of course, an argument for direct democracy. Representative government is necessary, but the people must always have the power, and know they have the power, to hold their representatives accountable.

In his second paragraph, Randlose reveals the elitist’s incomprehension of the remark, attributed to Voltaire, that, "I disagree with everything you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Randlose is "fassungslos" when he hears the loud cheers from David’s site, seemingly for people who oppose everything Medienkritik stands for. He can’t grasp the fact that the vote in France, in spite of the political affiliations of those who voted "non," was a victory for democracy. Today I, too, feel like singing the "Marseillaise" and waving the tri-color. May the day never come when the will of the people counts for nothing in Europe.

Here's what I don't understand: Juncker, Barroso, Schroeder, et al. are all insisting that the treaty can still, somehow, come into force. But according to the treaty itself, all signatories were required to ratify the treaty before it could take effect, right? And France has now refused to ratify the treaty, right? As a matter of international law, doesn't that mean that the treaty is finished? Or am I missing something?

@heilan

If you want to sing the Marseillaise and wave the tricolor I recommend you do it while watching the scene of the Marseillaise in "Casablanca" who is easily the most moving one ever sung (yes, the best Marseillaise is in american movie). If you don't speak french I recommend you first get a translation at www.marseillaise.org: the scene is much better when you understand the defiant words of Marseillaise and how people singing it throw it not only to the Germans but to their own 1940 failure.

@heilan

While both in the US and in France there was a "vote for the rich since they have the instruction" there was a fundamental differnce: in the US there was a strong movement for eductaing the poor, largely funded by the protestant churches who wanted people being able to read the Bible so when universal (white male) suffrage was introduced it was in part because the "people are not learned enough" argument no longer held water (95% litteracy in New England prior to Civil War)

But in France the enlightenment philosophers (Voltaire, Diderot and al) advocated for the closure of the free schools who had proliferated in the last years of the monarchy and tghe interdiction of providing instruction to the people because, you see "instruction is bad for the people". In fact, they wanted a society divided between aristocrats and serfs only with the bourgeoisy having replaced the nobility as the leading class.

@Lars, Randlos,

Did you read beyond my first sentence?

@ helian,

Referenda are direct democracy and that has been what people are discussing in the thread, as far as I can tell. Many are enthusiastic about the means because it delivered the ends they desired. But that is only random coincidence. You are correct about the ills of elites, or aristocracies. There are plenty of aristocratic elites in the U. S. also. Look at the President, Governor of Ohio, Mayor of Chicago, numerous senators. Europe is not alone in having this problem. It is growing here as well.

The no vote was a triumph of the people over their "betters". Whether the French recognized the EU constitution as an abdication of democratic sovereignty or not, that is what the vote was in fact about. This vote gives them the opportunity to retain their voice in their own governance.

The primary factor hampering democracy in Europe is the state owned/empowered press. There is no forum for free and open public debate. The European Socialist elite tell the people what they want them to think over and over and over. The French people generally swallow their elite's spew. This time they did not. I hope the trend continues.

Norman, the President, the Governor of Ohio, and the Mayor of Chicago were all directly elected by the people.

@ randlose and divide&impera

I bash the Left and nuanced individual that I am, I applaud their suicidal stupidity. Viva la NON. So the Communists, Socialists, Greens, Brownshirts and Islamofascists vote Non and split the Left between those that have some tenuous grasp on reality and the pure reactionary fantasists. From my political perspective this is a meal-that-prepares-itself.

"The problem is if those countries don´t want the european integration they should have a serious discussion and leave the EU ( if that´s what the people want)."

After first blanching at this comment, I wondered if maybe this was a solution. I don't believe there are countries that don't want European integration, but rather object to its current embodiment. How 'bout instead of one "EU " and several nonmember states, there could be TWO "EU"s. One, a Socialist, protectionist, beaurocratic nanny state ruled by their elite. The other, a (pick a name), free trading, meritocracy governed by the people.

Give the people in each country a true choice. Wanna bet how many countries (and which ones) would choose which course? How about which model will be more successful?

Norman, the President, the Governor of Ohio, and the Mayor of Chicago were all directly elected by the people.

That makes them no less aristocratic.

>What a triumph for French democracy

I'd rather say: What a triumph for French demagogues.

The NON only won because the left and the right extremists joined therefore for a same cause! Although their reasons to be against this Constitution were completely opposed.

And it was wrong to make a people's referendum about such complex and abstract matters anyway. You can make referendums about the death penalty or smoking in restaurants. That's were people can really follow the question and decide for themselves. But not about a European Constitution. We have elected national governments, so they should decide. Isn't that the principle of a representational democracy?

But Chirac now fell over his own hubris. He wanted to show what a democratic leader he is, and thought the people would confirm him. They did the contrary.

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