Wednesday, May 25, 2005

EU leadership and the "NON" test

Lame duck, weak, and unpopular leaders who are “more interested in "bashing Brussels" to win over angry voters than building the European project” are blamed for the Political malaise in Europe according to the FT.

This is not new. The EU “project” has always been at risk from politicians using the EU as a scapegoat for their own policy failures. However, failure on the part of the EU institutions to defend themselves against such attacks hasn’t helped matters.

I would add that leaders do not have to “bash Brussels” to be a weak and lame duck leaders – Raffarin springs to mind here. In the BBC's Hardtalk news programme, that is being broadcast today on BBC World, he comes across as lacking the necessary charisma to persuade people to follow his lead on any policy initiative, let alone his pleas for ratification of the Constitutional Treaty. The FT reporting on this interview writes that:

Mr Raffarin warned it would take “a very, very long time” to recover from a No vote “during which we will have a political crisis and when we have a political crisis there are always serious economic consequences. Europe will grind to a halt . . . [but] the Indian, Chinese, US economies will grow. We cannot afford to wait.”

He also ruled out the prospect of running another referendum if the No vote wins on Sunday. “There will be no second round, no second chance. France will speak once and once it has spoken its message is clear.”

More @ FT Giscard fires first salvo as recriminations begin
Raffarin certainly seemed a bit dramatically animated, and over-excited, about the implications of a NO but then the French tend to be more emotional about politics ..... However I would point out, which the FT does not, that having just watched/listened to the interview he also said that if there is a new Treaty then a referendum on that could not be ruled out.

As I noted the other day a NO is not something to fear. How the EU deals with a NO will demontrate just how grown up the "Union" really is, and how strong and resilient it is. In my view this is a test that is overdue - if the "Union" and its institutions can weather the storm of a rejection in a positive, and mature manner then the EU will be stronger for it rather than weaker. Rejection of the Constitutional Treaty, contrary to what some politicians have said, does not mean rejecting the EU.