Home Les bulletins GEAB The future of the European constitutional project … … Member-states amidst the hardships of the Constitutional Treaty’s future

The future of the European constitutional project … … Member-states amidst the hardships of the Constitutional Treaty’s future

The French and Dutch « Noes » broke the constitutional march projected by the European institutions and the governments. The unexpected freeze of the ratification process all around the EU proves it. This freeze illustrates the immense problem raised by the French and Dutch votes in each and every other member-state: national political classes are from now on afraid of the ratification process itself.

The reason is simple: this process acts as a catalyst of their rejection by their public opinions. Which does not mean either that the French and Dutch votes merely reflected national preoccupations, as the referenda’s losers were keen on arguing, quite the contrary. And that’s precisely what frightens most the national political classes. It is precisely the European dimension of the stakes and of the debate conveyed by the Constitution which petrifies politicians today and in the coming months. It is the interest for the matter (the high turn out in the French and Dutch referenda is to be opposed to the very low rates reached a year before in the European election) which worries them. Many analysts interpreted this as a sign of « nationalisation » of the debate on the Constitution. However all those, including the politicians, who took part in some grass-root debates during these referenda could note the opposite. It was all about Europe indeed.  And it is precisely because of this European perspective that the relevance and legitimacy of national politicians were blamed. Politicians are « instinctive » people and as such they very well « felt » what most analysts ignored: and that is that if their crisis of legitimacy largely exceeds the European question solely, European issues, via the debate on the Constitution, acted as a catalyst of and amplified the rejection they are victims of and turned it into negative electoral results, quite obvious these ones.

For a political leader, unless unusually highly motivated, such risk is practically unacceptable because politically “lethal”. The case of the member states having ratified the constitutional project by parliamentary vote is eloquent: most of them ratified the Constitution with overwhelming majorities (often above 90% of

« Yes »); however most of them were immediately satisfied with the decision to put the ratification on “standby” without any clear date of resuming.

Of three things one: either governments are so confident in the continuation of the ratification process that they do not care waste some time; or they are convinced that their parliaments will choose to « forget » their vote if it proves that the constitutional project remains eternally on « standby » ; or they consider that the situation is so intricate that they do not have the least idea on how to overcome the obstacle. In all the cases, in order to be satisfied of such “standby” after a quasi-unanimous vote of its Parliament, a government must be assured that there is no risk of popular pressure or internal political crisis following this choice.

The fact that no party represented at the national Parliament in any Member State chose to turn the continuation of the process into a major political stake, whereas their MPs massively adopted it, proves that these same political parties estimated either that their voters were not interested in the subject (what is contradictory with the strong participation in the French and Dutch referenda);  or that they were very far from following their parliamentary political group in its approval to 90% or more of the constitutional Treaty… Read more : GEAB No 1 / 15.01. 2006

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