Current Events

Europe in Deep Crisis

As many newspapers and magazines reported, the French and Dutch votes against the EU Constitution have created a deep, long-term and serious crisis for Europe. For instance, UPI pointed out on May 29, 2005: “France’s decisive rejection of the draft new constitution for the European Union Sunday by a 55-45 margin on a turnout of over 70 percent of voters plunged France and Europe into a deep political crisis. Other European officials were uncertain whether there was any point now in continuing with the planned referendums in other countries, and particularly in Britain… And other smaller countries, like the Danes and Swedes who voted to stay out of the euro currency, or the Czechs, have their own reasons to question the referendum.”

On Wednesday, June 1, 2005, The Associated Press reported that “Dutch voters overwhelmingly rejected the European constitution in a referendum Wednesday… in what could be a knockout blow for the charter roundly defeated just days ago by France… The referendum failed by a vote of 63 percent to 37 percent. The turnout was 62 percent, exceeding all expectations… Although the referendum was consultative, the high turnout and the decisive margin left no room for the Dutch parliament to turn its back on the people’s verdict… The constitution was designed to further unify the 25-nation bloc and give it more clout on the world stage. But the draft document needs approval from all the nations to take effect in late 2006, and the ‘no’ vote in both France and the Netherlands– founding members of the bloc–was a clear message European integration has gone awry.”

Reuters added: “Dutch voters rejected the European Union constitution on Wednesday… deepening a crisis in the bloc and possibly dooming the treaty after fellow EU founding member France rejected it on Sunday… The rejection of the charter by the Netherlands, like France one of the six countries that founded the bloc in the 1950s, could deliver a fatal blow to the treaty… It also casts doubt on the EU’s… plans to expand further to the Western Balkans, Turkey and Ukraine… Most EU leaders have said ratification of the charter should continue as planned until late 2006 to allow all countries to have had their say, but diplomats say that is just a holding position until an EU summit on June 16-17.”

USA Concerned Over French “No”

The EUobserver reported on May 27, 2005, just prior to the French vote against the EU constitution on May 29, that “A possible French ‘no’ to the European Constitution referendum is causing some US defence industry chiefs concern… The US needs a stronger EU with which it can share the burden of military operations in the world, said a veteran US lobbyist present at the meeting. ‘We [the US] are too stretched, and, let’s face it, we are going broke’, he added. The European Constitutional text [now rejected by France] paves the way for European countries to increase military cooperation by the means of a ‘Structured Cooperation Procedure.'”

Israel Not Unhappy Over Europe’s Crisis

The Jerusalem Post reported on June 1, 2005, that Israel might be secretly rejoicing over the French and the Dutch votes, rejecting the EU Constitution. The article pointed out:

“Last July, soon after the European Union angered Jerusalem by voting en masse against Israel at the UN on the security fence, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana visited Israel and said the EU cannot be ignored. ‘The European Union is a very important international power and is going to play a role here, whether you like it or not,’ Solana said. A few months later German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer visited with pretty much the same message. In a meeting with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Fischer said that Europe, with its 450 million people, was a growing political force – and not only a common market – and that Israel would do well to take that fact into consideration. These comments came as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who harbors a real distrust of European designs, was doing everything he could to box the EU out of the diplomatic process, preferring – instead – to deal almost exclusively… with the US. Sharon trusts US President George W. Bush and the US. The same cannot be said of his attitude toward Europe…

“It is likely, therefore, that the stinging rejection of the EU constitution in France on Sunday… is not being lamented this week in the Prime Minister’s Office. Although European politicians and pundits are debating what this means for the future of a united Europe, one thing is certain, it does not strengthen the EU. Another thing for certain is that a weaker EU is perceived in the current corridors of power to be in Israel’s short-term interest – although no one, for obvious reasons, will go on record saying this…

“An EU united by a constitution would – at least politically – mean a strengthened EU, a major force on the world scene that would, in a matter of time, see itself as America’s equal on the international stage. A much-strengthened EU would indeed be able to demand a seat on near-equal footing with the US around the Middle East negotiating table. Sharon doesn’t want this to happen… While Romano Prodi, the former president of the European Commission, may have been exaggerating when he warned recently that a French non to the constitution would mean ‘the end of Europe,’ it does surely mean a weaker Europe. And a weaker Europe, at least in Sharon’s eyes, is nothing to cry about, especially in light of comments like those of Solana that Europe would play a role here ‘whether you like it or not.’ Sharon obviously doesn’t like it, and a weaker Europe means he might not have to tolerate it either.”

A Core Europe?

WorldNetDaily published an interesting article by Hal Lindsey on May 26, 2005, just prior to the French vote. Lindsey speculated what might happen if the French reject the EU Constitution. He wrote:

“The French view the E.U. constitution as an ‘Anglo-Saxon’ document designed to enshrine ‘Thatcherite policies’ they say will devastate the social balance of Europe. The wider implications of a ‘no’ vote are unclear, but there is already some discussion of renegotiating a ‘core Europe’ solution. A ‘core Europe’ model would move forward without Britain and other ‘undesirables’ – such being defined as those European states that supported the U.S. war in Iraq. The idea of a ‘core Europe’ – with France and Germany at the center moving quickly ahead with joint policies, while slower states bring up the rear – was once seen as a spur to closer integration. It has since morphed into a threat: ‘If you’re not ready, we’ll do it on our own.’ German officials privately admit to misgivings about the idea of core Europe, especially one dominated by France. As Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, said at the Brussels summit, the idea is a second-best solution, not Germany’s first choice. But he sees it as a logical move if the draft constitution fails and enlargement paralyzes the European Union.

“A Dec. 18, Economist article noted that, ‘the collapse of the constitutional talks may allow the French to insist that an enlarged E.U. will be unworkable, so that a core Europe is needed.’ The Economist’s story bore the intriguing headline: ‘Who Killed the Constitution – And What Happens to the Beast Now?’… Depending on the decision of the French, and later the Dutch voters, the coming weeks may give some hint to the answer to the Economist’s intriguing question: ‘And What Happens to the Beast Now?'”

Former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt wrote in 2004 in Die Zeit about the concept of a core Europe. He explained that the idea was invented by France to go on with Europe if and when Great Britain should vote against it. Schmidt also stated: “In practice, a core within the EU will develop; it will with certainty include France and Germany and most likely other founding members, such as Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.”

Why the French “No”-Vote?

On May 31, 2005, the Catholic pro-Vatican paper, Zenit, published an interview with Giorgio Salina, vice president of the Convention of Christians for Europe, discussing the perceived reasons as to why the current EU constitution might not survive after the French “No”-vote. The article stated:

“The country that was most opposed to the mention of the continent’s Christian roots in the European Constitution, has seen that charter rejected by its people.”

Salina was quoted as saying: “No one mentions the rejection of the Judeo-Christian roots: Whether we like it or not, it is quite probable that this contributed to form a negative judgment among a substantial number of European citizens.”

Salina was also asked: “Do you really think that there are people who did not vote because of the absence of a reference to Europe’s roots?” He responded: “Yes, I am convinced that it was one of the causes. There was dislike for the ignorance of a historical truth impossible to deny and there certainly was dislike for the arrogant rejection of not even wanting to consider the argument.”

The paper went on to ask: “In fact, this vote seems to be rather a rejection of the policies promoted by the European Union. According to some observers, there is unease over the power of the Brussels bureaucracy, and over a cultural policy that, in the name of tolerance, rejects the Judeo-Christian tradition and cancels the family, promoting homosexual marriages. What is your opinion?” Salina responded: “I agree! Tolerance is, certainly, to ensure the rights of all cultures and identities, but not to ignore the culture shared by the majority.”

According to an article in Bild Online of May 31, 2005, Lord George Weidenfeld, London publisher and one of the most “influential thinkers in the world,” stated that it was a “big mistake not to refer to God in the preamble” of the EU constitution.

Euro Falls

As the Financial Times reported on May 31, 2005, because of the French “No” vote, “The euro tumbled to a fresh seven-month low against the US dollar in European morning trade on Tuesday… The shared currency fell across the board as political uncertainty rose in the wake of Sunday’s French rejection of the proposed European Union constitution by an unexpectedly wide margin of 54.9 per cent to 45.1 per cent. With opinion polls indicating that the French No vote may have hardened opposition to the constitution in the Netherlands, which votes on Wednesday, ‘this has placed more significant doubts on the future direction of the EU with 25 members rather than the initial 15,’ said Derek Halpenny, senior currency economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. President Jacques Chirac’s decision to name Dominique de Villepin as prime minister, following the resignation of Jean-Pierre Raffarin, also appeared to go down badly with the market, sending the euro lower still when the announcement was made.”

Reuters confirmed: “The euro fell to its lowest level against the dollar for more than seven months on Wednesday and has lost almost 10 percent since March when polls turned negative on the treaty…”

According to an article of Der Spiegel Online, which was published on June 1, 2005, a further fall of the Euro is anticipated after the Dutch vote, but economists also expect a rise of the Euro by the end of the year, largely due to the weak US economy.

No Stop For Nuclear Weapons?

The International Herald Tribune and the New York Times reported on May 28, 2005 that “A monthlong conference to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty ended in complete failure Friday… with the nuclear and nonnuclear states so far apart that they never engaged in a detailed discussion [regarding] … a resurgence in the spread of the most dangerous nuclear technologies…. For most of the four weeks of the meeting, nonnuclear states insisted that the United States and other nuclear powers focus on radically reducing their nuclear armaments, while the Bush administration and European powers tried to focus the conference on the question of dealing with North Korea and Iran… In an interview from Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that ‘absolutely nothing’ had come out of the meeting. He had proposed new mechanisms for international control of nuclear material so that states could not build weapons under the cover of civilian projects.”

More on Sunday

Zenit reported on May 29, 2005, that Pope Benedict XVI emphasized again the absolute need for Catholics to keep Sunday holy. The pope was quoted as saying: “The Sunday precept, therefore, is not a simple duty imposed from outside. To participate in the Sunday celebration and to be nourished with the Eucharistic bread is a need of a Christian, who in this way can find the necessary energy for the journey to be undertaken… We must rediscover the joy of the Christian Sunday… May today’s Christians again become aware of the decisive importance of the Sunday celebration, so that we will be able to draw from participation in the Eucharist the necessary drive for a new commitment to proclaim Christ ‘our peace’ to the world.'” The pope also recalled martyrs who died because of their belief in Sunday Mass. The theme of the congress which the pope attended, had the following motto of the martyrs: “We Cannot Live without Sunday.”

Reactions to the French “No”-Vote

The Financial Times wrote on May 31, 2005: “The European Union is poised to shelve its proposed constitution for several years after French voters rejected the treaty in a referendum on Sunday… Diplomats in Brussels expect the treaty to be put on ice for several years, in the hope that France and… the Netherlands will reverse their votes at a later date.”

The Associated Press added on May 29: “France’s rejection could set the continent’s plans back by years. The nation was a primary architect of European unity… All 25 EU members must ratify the text for it to take effect as planned by Nov. 1, 2006. Nine already have done so: Austria, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.”

Reuters explained on May 29: “If the constitution does not survive, the EU will continue to operate under its current rules. But the system is widely seen as unworkable for a Union intent on enlarging further, and decision-making could soon become paralyzed.”

Bild Online wrote: “This was a black Sunday for France — and for Europe… It is a serious drawback… We are threatened with a standstill that has not happened since the 1950’s, according to EU expert and counselor to the Commission for the Constitution, Andreas Maurer.”

Der Spiegel Online commented: “According to Gunether Verheugen, vice-president of the EU Commission, there is no reason to change the text of the Constitution. The best is to continue with the ratification process, he said. And then those who did not ratify will have to tell us how to continue, he added. He also stated that France’s no was dictated by domestic political concerns that did not address the European question. He said that once the powers in France change, the people might also change their minds regarding the EU constitution, and may want to vote again.”

In a related article, the magazine wrote: “Europe will go on — but where?… Europe is facing difficult times… No one in Brussels knows, how it will continue.”

Der Stern Online stated in its commentary that the French No should not be looked at as a death sentence, but a wake-up call. It said: “The integration was so successful that it lost its goal and purpose. The EU desperately needs a new orientation… Now we can honestly discuss where Europe is supposed to be going, and what purpose it is supposed to have.. Europe needs a new believable goal… as to what dreams are to be realized within, let’s say, the next 20 years [by 2025].” The same magazine had commented earlier, prior to the French vote, that if France should reject the Constitution, the German-French nucleus would be destroyed, and it would be unclear what forces might be set free.

The magazine also commented on May 31, that “the European crisis has arrived, and there is no solution in sight… The German-French engine does not appear to be able to show a safe way… There are no leaders in sight who could convincingly speak for the ‘project Europe.’… Tony Blair will become the next rotating president in June… He is hardly the man who could save Europe.”

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