OPINION

Reflecting on the European project

The French referendum on the European Union’s first-ever constitution entailed a decisive rejection of the charter. Following an extensive debate, the likes of which had never been seen within the bloc, the French people turned their backs on the constitutional treaty, sending shock waves across France and the rest of the old continent. Remarkably, the «no» sentiment cut across France’s left-right spectrum, sweeping the ranks of the young and capturing the majority of all age groups (up to 65), revealing widespread disillusionment with the EU’s fundamental political decisions. In fact, the main challenge for European politicians today lies in finding and implementing policies that will restore the appeal of the EU’s vision in the eyes of the European public. Hypocritical scaremongering about the «crisis,» «disaster» or «setback» on the path to European integration caused by the rejection of the treaty simply won’t do. The EU possesses an adequate institutional framework that will ensure its continued smooth functioning in the future. The devastating rejection of the charter did not bring into question the European project per se. What it did was throw doubt on current policies, particularly those that have been followed the past few years. The EU’s policy line has been hammered out by arrogant eurocrats in Brussels who possess no vision of Europe and who have no regard for the repercussions of their policies on society. The political establishment in Brussels is now trying to turn its own crisis of credibility into a crisis of the Union as a whole. The popular movement against them is one of the driving forces in Europe at the moment. They can be as scornful as they want; Europe can and will move on without them. Europe, however, cannot move on without its people. Citizens are not bureaucratic managers who will be satisfied with some wishy-washy plan for an ever-expanding Europe. They will not accept a union stripped of its cultural or geographical identity. European peoples are reacting in order to protect the continental social model of solidarity and progress. They are not willing to sacrifice it upon the altar of bureaucratic elites. This is the kind of Europe people want. It’s up to the leaders to reflect on the meaning of the French verdict and reassess their plans for a common charter.