European No Vote #5 (final): US elite views

2005-06-11

Richard Moore

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http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/060905I.shtml

 Washington Worries about the European Crisis
 By Véronique Soulé
 Libération

Thursday 09 June 2005
On a trip through the EU, Bush's emissary makes himself the
champion of a Europe "able to work with the United States."

"There is no pleasure, secret or otherwise," on the American
side, over Jacques Chirac's punishing defeat in the May 29th
referendum. Rather than stir up old rancors, Daniel Fried,
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, came to
Paris Tuesday to talk about Washington's worry over the crisis
precipitated by the two "no's" to the Constitution. "The
United States wants a strong Europe as partner," he repeated.

Challenges

Washington, which has remained quiet up to now, finally
dispatched an emissary to Europe who bears a single message:
the United States has no interest in seeing Europe weakened
and divided. On the contrary. "To face the challenges of the
Twenty-first Century," Washington needs a "politically strong
Europe," "capable of working with us on a common agenda." The
Assistant Secretary of State trotted out all the cases on
which the two parties already cooperate: stabilization in
Afghanistan and in Iraq, a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, promotion of democracy in Lebanon, in the greater
Middle East, in the Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldavia, not to
mention the Balkans.

The American emissary, who began his trip Monday in Italy and
finishes today in Germany, even struck enthusiastic chords to
celebrate Europe. "Europe is a marvelous idea, based on
freedom, solidarity, and an end to wars," he proclaimed,
defending himself from any charge of wanting to interfere in
the debates on the Constitution or the European model.... "We
don't want to become a player in European politics," he
asserted.

Washington seems to fear that Europe will turn inward - that,
bogged down in its own crisis, it will forget the world's
problems. "A long introspection would not be good for us." The
other great fear is an abrupt halt to enlargement. Washington
is a fervent partisan for the integration of Turkey and, in
the longer term, Ukraine. "It's a European decision;
undoubtedly, a large debate is necessary," he commented,
prudently far from Bush's injunctions of two years ago to
integrate Turkey. "I tell my Turkish friends that as they
reform, the question will become easier."
---<snip>---

----------------------
rkm> 

Let's decode some of Fried's comments...

        "To face the challenges of the Twenty-first Century,"
        Washington needs a "politically strong Europe," "capable of
        working with us on a common agenda." The Assistant Secretary
        of State trotted out all the cases on which the two parties
        already cooperate: stabilization in Afghanistan and in Iraq, a
        solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, promotion of
        democracy in Lebanon, in the greater Middle East, in the
        Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldavia, not to mention the Balkans.

That is to say, in order for Europe to join America in
unpopular imperialist adventures, it must be "politically
strong", which means the EU government must be under
centralized elite control.

He says, "We don't want to become a player in European
politics...". What he means is that he doesn't want to be _seen
as interfering; he doesn't want the general unpopularity of
the U.S. in Europe to scare people away from the unstated goal
of the EU: a United States of Europe, based on the American
model. In fact, the U.S. wants very much to interfere, as
evidenced by the examples of "cooperation" he cited above.

--------------------------------------------------------

http://www.cfr.org/publication.php?id=8149
 
Council on Foreign Relations
Interview

Drozdiak: EU Constitution Now 'A Dead Letter'

William Drozdiak, president of the American Council on Germany
and former foreign editor and chief European correspondent for
the Washington Post , says the rejection of the European
constitution by French and Dutch voters probably means the
document has become "a dead letter." <snip>

Drozdiak was interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman, consulting
editor for cfr.org, on June 1, 2005. 

There is a lot of news in Europe these days. On May 29, the
French rejected the proposed European constitution in a
referendum. On June 1, the Dutch people followed suit. What do
you think this means for European unification?

        Drozdiak:  I think, first of all, it is an enormous defeat for
        the ruling political elites in France and in the Netherlands.
        It wasn't just President Jacques Chirac, but all the others
        who have been advocating a "yes" to the constitution, who were
        stunned by the overwhelming rejection by the public.
        
        In some sense, it was irrational. You have the example of the
        French farmers who receive more subsidies than anybody else
        from the European Union [EU] Common Agricultural Policy voting
        70 percent against the constitution. The problem was not that
        they were so antagonistic to the EU. It is just that they are
        fed up with their ruling political class, and in the way this
        referendum was cast, it became a vote against Chirac and other
        politicians who were prodding them to vote yes.
        
        It was a vote against further enlargement of the EU as well,
        because I think the French population feels that the expansion
        of the EU last year, with ten new countries joining, was
        something that has pushed France to the periphery of Europe
        with the center of gravity moving toward central Europe. And
        finally, the anticipation of further enlargement, with Romania
        and Bulgaria joining in 2007, and then Turkey, perhaps in
        2015, the feeling was that this is just too much to digest all
        at once.

Why didn't Chirac ask the French parliament to vote on the
constitution, instead of submitting it to a national
referendum? Germany went the parliamentary route and had no
problem passing it.

        I think it was a huge political miscalculation on his part. He
        took this decision about a year ago, in July 2004, when he saw
        that his popularity was beginning to wane. At that particular
        time, the idea of an EU constitution was rather popular. There
        was then a strong majority in favor. The prospect of holding a
        referendum and getting a "yes" would be a way, he thought, to
        boost his political fortunes heading into the presidential
        elections of 2007. He had been, until recently, expected to
        run for a third term.
        
        But I think, given the severity of this defeat, his chances
        look very dim for that, and some people are even predicting he
        will resign before 2007. But that gets into other problems
        because he has been clinging to office, many people think,
        because he's afraid of being indicted for corruption charges
        from the time he was mayor of Paris. As long as he is
        president he is immune from prosecution.

It's interesting that in the Netherlands as well, both the
government and the leading opposition party supported
ratification, but the public was overwhelmingly opposed to the
constitution. Why is that?

        In some ways, the situation in the Netherlands is even more
        strange because, over the last 50 years, the Dutch have been
        among the most ardent advocates of European unity. Yet now you
        see them turning against further moves to bring Europe closer
        together. I think this is a reaction to the rapid pace of
        enlargement of the EU and also the perception in the popular
        mind that this has triggered uncontrolled immigration and a
        rise in criminality from gangs coming from the Balkans,
        Eastern Europe, and North Africa. In the Dutch mind, this has
        started to erode, and even to destroy, the Dutch way of life.
        There is a third factor, and that is the Dutch joined the
        euro, the common currency of many European countries, at a
        rate that was badly calculated, and therefore they have
        suffered a huge burst of inflation. Many people have vented
        their wrath against the constitution because of this.

But even with defeats, the immigration laws are not going to
be changed. The EU stays as it is, right, with open borders?

        Yes. This is one of the misunderstandings. In fact, the
        constitution calls for greater cooperation on immigration
        laws. Even today, for example, someone who can gain entry into
        Spain can work his way to the Netherlands without any border
        checks. The new constitution would pave the way to a common
        visa and asylum policy that would be much more effective in
        managing immigration, but this idea was never really
        effectively planted in the popular mind.

What will happen now? Will there be another vote in France, do
you think? Or is the constitution effectively dead?

        I think that with the Dutch voting "no," it will almost
        certainly be a dead letter. I think the EU leaders will have a
        summit on June 16-17 in Brussels to try to assess the damage
        and pick up the pieces. One of the things they can do is try
        to incorporate several elements of the changes that would have
        been made by the constitution and just simply push them
        through by fiat--by decision of the leaders themselves--or by
        votes in parliament. The key changes that the constitution
        would have brought would be: First, to abolish the rotating
        presidency in which member states take control of the EU
        presidency for a period of six months--something which led to
        a lot of difficulties in the managing of decision-making.
        Second, it would create a president of the European Council
        who would help streamline the bureaucracy and manage the way
        in which decisions are taken. Third, it would set up a EU
        foreign minister who has already been acting in that capacity,
        and that is Javier Solana , who is described now as the EU's
        High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security
        Policy. He would be formally anointed as foreign minister.
        These are steps they can take even in the absence of formal
        ratification by all the parliaments, or referendums.

<snip>

Germany right now has an unemployment rate of some 11.8
percent. What's causing this problem?

        A lot of the problem has resulted from the growth and
        free-market policies pursued by the neighboring states in the
        East, which have attracted a lot of investment, not just from
        people beyond Germany, but from German companies themselves.
        For example, much of the automobile industry, for which
        Germany is justly famous, has moved its manufacturing plants
        across the border to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
        Bratislava is now described as "the Detroit of Europe,"
        because you have cars being built there by Volkswagen and
        other German companies for the German--and not just for the
        eastern--market. This has been replicated in several different
        sectors; so much so that it has triggered a debate about
        capitalism within Germany in which the leader of the Social
        Democrats, Franz Muntefering, has described some of these
        investors, who come in and strip down German companies and
        then flee, as locusts.

Germany has long been one of the world's great exporting
countries. Has this been affected?

        There are some companies like BMW, Bosch, and Miele that are
        considered to make the best products in the world. They
        continue to export at a record pace. But it is not enough to
        sustain the entire economy, nor is it enough to reassure the
        public so they will go out and spend more money. What has
        happened is that demand in the German economy has been
        shrinking greatly as people fear for their own livelihoods and
        jobs.

What about the social welfare arguments in France and Germany?
The impression here is that France, Germany, and other
European states have had such liberal benefits, long
vacations, short hours, that they have been living beyond
their means. Is this still the case?

        In an era when the boundaries to capital and trade have been
        breaking down at a record pace, with the rise of China and
        India you see the forces of globalization really threatening
        these social welfare states. In addition, particularly in the
        case of Germany, this is combined with some of the lowest
        birth rates in the world, so you have a demographic situation
        where, in a fairly short period of time, nearly half the
        population will be of retirement age, and their pensions will
        have to be supported by a dwindling labor force. This is why
        the Germans are confronted by a very painful dilemma. Either
        they have to absorb many more immigrants in order to sustain
        their current living standards, and pay for their pensions and
        welfare entitlements, or they have to reduce their standards
        of living and keep the immigrants out.

        The German government recently did a study that said the
        country would require, given current birth rates, at least
        400,000 immigrants a year for the next 25 years. But as we've
        seen in recent elections, this is something that is
        unsustainable for political reasons, given the antipathy
        toward high immigration rates.

Are the new immigrants coming mostly from Turkey or Eastern
Europe?

        They come from Turkey, North Africa, and also from Eastern
        Europe. A lot of people working in the hotel trade, for
        instance, have come from Ukraine, a country beyond the EU. But
        with the incorporation of Poland and other eastern states into
        the EU, their populations are free to move about within the
        EU. This has led to one of the scaremongering images in the
        French referendum: the so-called "Polish plumber" who comes
        across the border and works for one-fifth of what a French
        plumber would work for, and thus steals his job.

-----------------

rkm> 

In this interview, we are basically seeing an internal elite
dialog...those in the know sharing with those who believe in
the system. Drozdiak is probably giving us his candid views on
the feelings in the various constituencies. He probably really
believes that French farmers are being "irrational" in voting
against the constitution, given all their subsidies. He thinks
in terms of the market - economic incentives - and assumes
everyone else must think in the same limited way.

What I find most revealing in this interview is the utter
disregard for democracy - for the people - and the implicit
assumption that any sensible reader would have that same
disregard. No matter that most people don't want the
constitution - who cares? - what we care about is that Chirac
made a "huge political miscalculation" by not giving the
constitution to parliament instead of submitting it to a
national referendum. And Drozdiak's remedy?...

        "One of the things they can do is try to incorporate several
        elements of the changes that would have been made by the
        constitution and just simply push them through by fiat..."

What Drozdiak does not mention, and what he may not be aware
of, is that the political climate in Europe has fundamentally
shifted. The No votes not only reflected popular sentiment,
they galvanized public sentiment. As much as the No was a
message to leaders, it was also a message from the people of
Europe to themselves: "We are not alone in our private
doubts." It was a mass radicalizing event - shifting attention
from scattered domestic complaints, and focusing it on the
core issue: an elite European leadership out of control,
trampling on European democracy and the European economy.

The battle lines have been drawn. The sheep have turned to
face the herders. The next elite assault, as Drozdiak
suggests, is likely to be an attempt to force further EU
centralization through despite the No votes. I do not see how
such a program could fail to further antagonize and mobilize
popular sentiment. How will this be expressed? Will we see a
coherent European-wide movement for a new direction for
Europe? This will be the interesting story to watch.


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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

"Escaping The Matrix - 
Global Transformation: 
WHY WE NEED IT, AND HOW WE CAN ACHIEVE IT ", old draft:
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