European voices

Just a few remarkable or interesting snippets picked from the European press.

Erhard Friedberg in Le Monde, 6 June 2005:

Quant aux partisans du oui, ils n’ont pas davantage amélioré le niveau d’information des Français ni fait avancer la cause de l’Europe. Ce, pour la simple raison qu’ils ont centré toute leur argumentation autour de deux points, modulés différemment par les uns et les autres, mais qui avaient en commun un gallo-centrisme d’autant plus gênant qu’il était soit inavoué, soit totalement inconscient. Le premier de ces points a développé l’idée que la Constitution reflétait les conceptions françaises, qu’elle était en fait “française” et, à ce titre, acceptable et bonne.

Le second a porté l’idée que, par un vote positif, on “renforcerait la position française au sein de l’Europe” afin d’éviter que ne l’emportent les forces malignes du libéralisme et du marché (version du oui de gauche) ou les tentatives de nos partenaires de grignoter les avantages que la France retirerait de l’UE (version plus cynique du oui de droite).

Le message transporté par cette argumentation était bien gallo-centriste : il considérait comme acquise la supériorité des conceptions constitutionnelles et politiques de la France et impliquait une vision quelque peu dédaigneuse des discussions qui avaient permis le compromis final.


La tendance est à brocarder le byzantisme de la bureaucratie bruxelloise, sans comprendre que le processus politique européen, pour complexe et sinueux qu’il soit, est souvent infiniment plus ouvert à la délibération, plus riche et diversifié que ne l’est le processus administratif et législatif français.

Philip Stevens in the Financial Times, 6 June 2005:

Europe’s crisis – and this is one of those rare moments when crisis is not an overstatement – does not look quite the game, set and match for the British that some imagined only a few days ago. The wounding of France’s Jacques Chirac and the separate electoral troubles of Germany’s Gerhard Schröder do indeed leave the newly re-elected Mr Blair as the continent’s strongest leader. Yet if the EU descends into angry stasis, there will be nothing to lead. And, if only for the benefit of the Eurosceptics, it is worth pointing out that France voted against, not for, the idea of reducing the EU to a simple trade bloc Europe.

Wojciech Kosc in Transitions On-Line, 6 June 2005:

Indeed, it seems that, for Prime Minister Marek Belka, France’s rejection of the European Constitution gives Poland even more reason to adopt the constitution. “We should go forward to show our determination and that we are Europeans,” Belka said. “It is also a chance for us to strengthen our position in the EU.”

Marek Borowski, leader of a young left-wing party, the Polish Social Democrats, believes it could do more than strengthen Poland: A Polish Yes could result in a longed-for reversal in the roles that Poland and France have played in Europe. “This is a great opportunity for Poland,” Borowski said on 29 May. “It’s always been France that decided about the integration. Now we can say how we understand it.”


For Pawel Dembinski, a Polish-born professor at Freiburg University in Switzerland, one thread lines the polar differences between countries like France and Poland: egotistical, nation-centered attitudes. That will help neither the old EU-15, with its fears about the effects of enlargement, nor the new member-states which, he contends, only want to milk the EU of its money. Such attitudes cannot coexist, Dembinski wrote in the daily Rzeczpospolita on 3 June.

“In order to create and maintain the unity of Europe, we need politicians who will be able to explain to the people that a Europe of egos has no future. Even the constitutional treaty would not prevent that. The problem is there are no such politicians. Neither in the West, nor in the East,” Dembinski concluded.

“A Mayday Call for Enlargement”, Transitions On-Line, 6 June 2005:

As Europe’s sputtering “motor” goes through those national debates, the EU’s would-be members need to be encouraged to reform and to prepare themselves for membership. If Europe’s leaders then feel that they need a referendum before future enlargement and if the vote is then “no,” so be it: Years of trying to join the EU would have helped the transformation of the western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova and – hopefully, one day – also Belarus.

A rejection of further enlargement, though, would show that some of the post-World War II divisions in Europe persist. If that is the case, the end of the post-war period could be traced back to 29 May 2005. Perhaps it is appropriate that there was also another anniversary this May: the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Sergei Borisov in Transitions On-Line, 6 June 2005:

Diplomatic meetings regularly lay claim to be history-making, but when the foreign ministers of three nuclear powers and the world’s two most populous nations meet for the first time outside an international forum, the term can perhaps be used with some justice.

Still, it was not clear what type of history the foreign ministers of Russia, China, and India were making when they met on 2 June, with Russian observers ranging in their assessments from a sober categorization as a “development of cooperation” to the grander notion that they were “creating a counter-revolutionary alliance.”

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