The No votes in France and the Netherlands

 by Michalis Attalides, Dean, School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, Intercollege


The No votes in two founding members of the European Union have very great significance, and

the European political class would do well to think deeply about what these votes mean and what

their consequences might be. Probably the significance of the no votes is greater than is already

evident, though the most recent news of the cancellation of the referenda in the U.K. and in the

Czech Republic, the pessimistic polls in Denmark,  and the retroactive negative attitudes in Germany,

are beginning to indicate the extent of the malaise. Even Prime Minister Junker of Luxembourg has

had to threaten to resign if his most pro-European of electorates votes “No”.


No one had any doubts that the impact of a no vote in France, the inspirer, founder and mainstay of

the European Union, and the Netherlands, that most European of medium sized states would be serious,

and it is. It is also difficult to gauge and to deal with, in my view, because the opposition has little or

nothing to do with the provisions of Constitutional Treaty. The Referenda for the Constitutional Treaty

merely seem to have provided a vehicle for European electorates to express their serious worries and

concerns. Primarily these worries and concerns,  are economic ones.  France has an unemployment rate

of 10% and  a growth rate in the first quarter of 2005 of under 1%, as well as the problems which most

European societies are facing or will have to face, of ageing populations, increasing global competition

and a need for economic restructuring.


Unfortunately, in both countries, part of the reaction has turned against solidarity with the new member

countries, and against further enlargement, particularly in relation to Turkey.


The political leadership, particularly in France, has succeeded in mobilizing popular involvement, but has

not succeeded  to inform people in a realistic way. It is myth that the Constitutional Treaty is more

“neo-liberal” than the Treaty of Rome. It is a myth that the Constitutional Treaty threatens the “European

Social Model”. (To the contrary  it safeguards services of general interest and gives the EU new

competences in the social area.)


Defeating the Constitutional Treaty will not create a less “Anglo-Saxon” Europe, to the contrary it will

deprive the EU of the means offered in the Treaty for greater presence and effectiveness on the

international scene. Weakening the European Union, which will be the greatest  achievement of the No

vote, will weaken the only shield which the peoples of Europe have in relation to the challenges of

globalization: The progress of European integration.


In the short to medium term, the adoption of the budget for the period 2007-13 will become more

difficult, there will probably be a delay in the accession of Rumania and Bulgaria, and there will

probably be a more demanding attitude in relation to Turkey. Other Balkan countries and the Ukraine

will probably see their hopes for a beginning of an accession process recede.


Possible longer-term trends might be a weakening of the impetus to European integration, a

strengthening of the British view of Europe as a common market, a new unrealistic ideological divide

between “neo-liberalism” and “social Europe”,    and perhaps an impetus to enhanced cooperation

between a core group of countries, giving a two or three speed Europe.  


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