What people think

The resounding «no» vote in France’s referendum on the European Constitution has demonstrated why Greece avoided putting the treaty to a similar vote. Even though Greece’s government and opposition both approved of the document, the Greek public might well have rejected it, as French voters did on Sunday. Like the French, the Greeks would have cast their votes with an eye fixed on domestic issues. A plebiscite would have offered them a golden opportunity to warn or punish the government, but also a prime chance to protest against high unemployment, inflation – for which the euro is partly to blame – the EU’s bowing to Washington’s whims, and the lingering democratic deficit which plagues European institutions. And given that the issue of potential Turkish membership strongly influenced the French verdict, the Turkish question would most certainly have been a factor here as well. The French «no» camp was hardly one-dimensional. Moreover, it was propagated by political organizations that do not share a common view of Europe’s future. Certainly, only a wide web of supporters, both left and right, could have achieved that 55 percent – most stunningly in a nation that claims, along with Germany, to be the driving force behind European integration. Quasi-psychoanalytical diagnoses that blame the French rejection on some Gaullish or May ’68 syndrome may satisfy the arrogant analysts that conjure them up, but they fail to give adequate political interpretation to a treaty that strengthens the hand of the European Commission at the expense of the European Parliament and which prioritizes the marketplace over social concerns. It is debatable whether people’s main conception of Europe involves notions of civic rights, political independence and accountable institutions. The proposed constitution is a stranger to all these.