Thursday, April 29, 2004
Say something positive

Giscard D'Estaing appeared on British radio today and warned that the United Kingdom could be sidelined in Europe, if the referendum result rejected the European Constitution. D'Estaing speculated that the rejection of the European Constitution would propel integrationist elements on the Continent to pool sovereignty and create an avant-garde.

In the past, we have heard that such an integrationist drive would be constructed either within or without the present European structures. As Norman Davies, a long-standing historian of Eastern Europe has noted, the new Member States are likely to strengthen the 'Europe de patries' and undermine the suprastate that the Constitution was designed to construct:

Nonetheless, whatever the strains, the new entrants are certain to strengthen the concept of De Gaulle's "Europe des patries" as opposed to a centralised super-state. They are interested in making the Union more effective, more democratic and perhaps more federal. But they are not going to tolerate any diminution of their national identities. They have fought too hard and too long in defence of those identities to let them slip now. British people are proud of the way in which we fought in two world wars to preserve our way of life. But we are only dimly aware of the far more testing ordeals that central and eastern Europeans have faced from the likes of fascism, communism and many other tyrannies.

The old obstacles appear to be far less relevant after Blair's decision. Zapatero, at a recent meeting with Schroeder, signalled Spain's acceptance of the European Constitution in the 'European interest'. Poland has also acquiesced and withdrawn from a 'Thatcher' moment. The document will probably be finalised by June, agreed, and presented to the electorates.

Even when faced with huge obstacles, the politicians appear to have lost the flexibility required to adapt to their electorates' demand. In an age of diverse choices, they still view Europe as 'all or nothing' and present this on a platter to their voters. If they are unable to adapt the constitution in order to increase its chances of success, placing ideological purity above common sense, then their project is doomed to fail. If failure ensures Britain's withdrawal, then all to the good.

(23.25, 29th April 2004)


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