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A European Debate

1 June 2005

I'm interning at openDemocracy this summer. As a European Studies student, I have joined at an exciting time.

A diverse debate is kicking off between various bloggers across Europe, and within openDemocracy. There are many reasons behind the non and likely nee votes, and equally conflicting discussions sprouting up as to the way forward.

Steef decided to vote "nee" today after a lot of soul-searching because, "this constitution is just not good enough. Europe deserves better. The people of Europe deserve better." He is one of the no-voters who want more, not less Europe. While Steef made his decision listening to Pink Floyd and Radiohead, his fellow nee-saying Dutchmen may have been humming a different tune. The Times reported that, "opposition to the constitution has hardened after Glennis Grace, the Dutch Eurovision  contender, was eliminated from the semi-final of the Eurovision contest, apparently defeated by an alliance of Eastern European countries"

Richard North, a British Eurosceptic, has been gleefully updating his site today as Dutch turnout has been higher than predicted with "sentiment hardening against the constitution by the hour". North's overarching campaign is for British withdrawal from the European Union because it is controlled by "experts who will impose their views on the rest of us, no doubt for our own good as they perceive it"

Margot Wallstrom, the Commission's vice president, is very disappointed by the French non, acknowledging , "we in the EU have not been good at listening, and we have to work in a way where we are better at listening to citizens, and communicating with them."

What little North and Wallstrom share is an acknowledgement of the general sense of citizen disengagement with the European project. At openDemocracy the debate rages. For instance, here's three of our writers on why the constitution was drafted in the first place:

Gwyn Prins, “Then came Giscard d’Estaing’s extravagant federal constitution, which may yet prove to be the bridge too far.”

Frank Vibert  "Constitutions are normally about new foundations, new beginnings and vision. Ideally, they are strong on principles of democratic organisation and brief on details.

"But the document that the French, Dutch, Danes, Irish and others will be asked to vote on is being played by its proponents in an altogether different way. It is being presented as about continuity rather than renewal; about tidying up rather than as a vision for the future; about the exercise of powers rather than their justification; and about agreeing terms of debate for conventional left/right exchanges rather than approving founding documents that involve decisions about the fundamental character of political association.

"Some already regard it as a mistake to have referred to it as a “constitution” at all. If people vote for other things it is perhaps in part because the duck they are being asked to vote for neither quacks like a duck, nor looks like a duck nor flies like a duck. It is in fact a turkey.

Krzysztof Bobinski . “… this constitutional treaty was about more than plumbers it was about the future of a uniquely successful project which has enabled people to live peacefully together. It has also provided those of us, who through “no” fault of their own, have had to put up with two particularly nasty totalitarianisms in the last century with a secure perspective of modernisation and growth.”


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