Ronda Hauben on Tue, 31 May 2005 07:23:54 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> French vote for a citizen's Europe

Here's an article I wrote for OhmyNews about the French vote on the EU
constitution. Ronda

The url is:

 		France Votes for a Citizen's Europe
           French cast 'no' ballots to counter those who put
                          the market first
                                by Ronda Hauben

By voting "no" on a referendum to approve the EU constitution, French
voters have created what has been called "a political earthquake for
Europe." (1) The "no" voters won with 54.87 percent of the vote, the "yes"
vote, received only 45.13 percent. Thus the "no" voters won with almost a
10 percent lead. Almost 70 percent of the French citizenry voted in the
referendum. Celebrating on Sunday night at a party at the Place de la
Bastille, the site of the start of the French Revolution, "no" voters
expressed their desire that their vote be the start of a social Europe, a
citizen's Europe.

For many years, the market has been stressed in EU activities. The
question of how to provide for the social values and benefits that many
cherish as the basis of their view of Europe has been put off until
sometime in the future. French citizens, however, by rejecting the current
constitution proposal, gave notice to their government and to the EU that
the task of building a social Europe, a Europe for the citizen, is a task
that has to become a significant aspect of European construction.

The desire that the citizen become a primary concern of the European Union
was raised during EU negotiations in the 1990s. Quoting Silvio Fagiolo,
the first Chairman of the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference under the
Italian Presidency, the Polish researcher Leszek Jesien writes (2):
    "The defining point of this process will be the transition from the
    concept of the market to that of citizenship, by which I mean a greater
    direct involvement of the citizens in the running of the Union."

                                        (Jesien, page 2)

While there has been an effort to label those who voted "no" as being
hostile to the EU, this is an inaccurate characterization. Many who voted
"no" have stressed that their vote is a vote for an EU that will be
constructed on a different basis, on a more social basis than provided for
in the proposed constitution. Also, those voting "no" complained that the
constitution was too long, that it was too focused on business issues,
that it didn't involve the citizens of Europe in its creation.

The debate in France over the proposed constitution and over the creation
of a vision for the construction of a social Europe, a citizen's Europe,
was a democratic event. The major political parties in France called for a
"yes" vote. The "no" vote then signifies a rejection of the arguments for
the constitution presented by the French political establishment.

Can the EU recognize the need to include the goals and desires of its
citizens in its decision-making processes? Is it possible for the EU
construction process to become a more democratic process? This is the
challenge that the French "no" vote presents to the EU.


(1) "The people of France created a political earthquake for their own
country and the entire European Union yesterday by becoming the first
country to reject the constitutional treaty by a resounding 56 percent."
-- The Irish Times, May 30, 2005

(2) "We can only agree with Silvio Fagiolo the first chairman of the 1996
Intergovernmental Conference under the Italian Presidency..." Leszek
Jesien, "The 1996 IGC: European Citizenship Reconsidered," Instituets fur
den Donauraum und Mitteleuropa, March 1997, page 2.

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