The French « no » vote of 29 May 2005: understand, act
In this document, Gaëtane Ricard -Nihoul intends to describe the process, which – and she is convinced of this – will pull the Community coach out of the mud into which it has sunk. Before doing so, however, and because the nature of a sickness must be properly diagnosed before a remedy can be prescribed, she explores the reasons for the « no » vote in detail.Also available in German.
History never ends. It is not a long calm river. Its course stretches out in time, meandering uncertainly through crises and upturns – one day in the depths of despair, the next sweetness and light. The construction of Europe can no more escape this rule today than it could over the past fifty years. Yesterday all was exaltation over the spectacular arrival of the euro. Today all is anxiety and even disarray: after the dual « no »vote of France and the Netherlands to the draft Constitutional Treaty, a state of emergency has been declared, implicitly at least. Europe’s institutions are in deadlock, the economy has come to a standstill and budget conflicts are worsening, but the geographical area of the Union continues to expand… The public has become confused and skittish. The time has come to react, but how? How can we get things back on an even keel? How can we reconcile Europeans with Europe? In this document, Gaëtane Ricard-Nihoul intends to describe the process, which – and she is convinced of this – will pull the Community coach out of the mud into which it has sunk. Before doing so, however, and because the nature of a sickness must be properly diagnosed before a remedy can be prescribed, she explores the reasons for the « no » vote in detail. The analysis provides a few surprises, countering certain received ideas. Post-voting surveys show: – that the decision to reject the Treaty was often taken somewhat early. – that the « 35-54 » age range, which was most opposed to the Constitutional Treaty, is the one that was most hostile to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 (those who at the time were in the « 25-34″age range). Many other factors besides open new opportunities for reflection; the first of these is described as the difference in the « scale of reference » between the motivations for the « yes » votes, taking us back to the identity crisis engendered by globalization. One opinion poll shows that six out of ten « no » voters thought that rejection of the Constitutional Treaty would lead to the renegotiation of a more social text – an illusion which, along with other realisations, has caused the author to reflect on the gap that exists between citizens’ perceptions of Europe and the reality of Europe. For her, this state of affairs is a consequence of the absence of democratic debate in the Member States on European issues – outside the referendum period. There is only one solution to this: deliberation. After setting out her ideas, Gà¤etane Ricard-Nihoul suggests a plan of action, the broad outline of which is as follows: – the adoption of a « Citizens’Pact » to create close links between national contributions to the European debate – continuing ratifications of the Constitutional Treaty – the launch of a reformed Convention in 2008 and a European referendum in 2009, during the European Parliamentary elections. In short, this will involve an itinerary to be followed in order to « come out on top » of a crisis of confidence that nobody, unfortunately, believes to be short-lived.