EU's problem with 'no'

William Pfaff writes about the EU, saying ironically that what the EU really wants is a new electorate.

Europe’s leaders have reacted to the European Union’s current crisis in a wonderfully Brechtian manner. As the German Communist poet sardonically put it, after the East German workers’ revolt against the Communist authorities in June 1953, the times required electing not a new government but a new people.

The EU wants a new electorate. Luxembourg’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, current president of the EU, said he couldn’t really believe that the French and Dutch had rejected the constitution, since “we all believe that the constitutional treaty gives the right answers to the questions Europeans are asking.”

They just don’t listen do they?

The End of Europe

Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post argues that:

Unless Europe reverses two trends — low birthrates and meager economic growth — it faces a bleak future of rising domestic discontent and falling global power. Actually, that future has already arrived.

A weak European economy is one reason that the world economy is shaky and so dependent on American growth. Preoccupied with divisions at home, Europe is history’s has-been. It isn’t a strong American ally, not simply because it disagrees with some U.S. policies but also because it doesn’t want to make the commitments required of a strong ally. Unwilling to address their genuine problems, Europeans become more reflexively critical of America. This gives the impression that they’re active on the world stage, even as they’re quietly acquiescing in their own decline.

I agree with Glenn Reynolds on this one, it is too early to say. Any number of factors could come into play, especially with advancements in technology, changes in trade patterns, war, disease – just because it’s been like this for a number of years does not make it written in stone.

Barroso versus Paxman

Yet another showdown. The Commission President sounds like Roman Prodi just after the Irish rejection of the Nice Treaty. Nice platitudes about how he ‘respects’ the decision of the people – but the intention seems clear now. The Treaty will not be binned. The plan is to get it passed by at least 20 countries and then try and shame the rest into passing it – either through follow-up referenda combined with European propaganda in the style of the Irish ‘Forum on Europe‘ – and after a campaign of scare-mongering and intimidation – Ireland is the model folks and Barroso hints at it several times without mentioning Ireland specifically. Let’s wait and see what comes out of the meeting later this month, it will be curious to see what they come up with.

I am inclined to repeat, in frustration, the words of Paxman:

Don’t you get it Mr. Baroso? I mean, put to a popular vote, two major countries have said they do not like what the European political elite have cooked up. Don’t you understand that?

You can watch the show by following the link above, I have transcribed the interview with Barroso here. Bold [no pun intended] is Paxman, blockquotes are Barroso.

Is the European Constitution now dead?

I don’t think so. I think we have a problem. A serious problem. We should not underestimate the problem. But the fact is that some countries ratified it, two countries, two very important countries did not ratify it. But I think the leaders that will meet in Brussels next 16th and 17th of this month – they should clarify the situation. I am asking them to clarify the situation. That to have a common approach, a consensus approach, to show the European Union is going and that’s its not the end of the European Union, that we can go ahead and we can work and deliver what European citizens want…

Yes but the citizens of two very major European countries have clearly said they do not wish this treaty to be implemented. You still think it can be implemented?

Look. It was signed by 25 governments. And 25 governments, when they signed, they also had foreseen the possibility of some countries would not ratifying it, um, but they said that they should go ahead with the process then take a decision. I respect very much the French or the Dutch but they cannot decide on behalf of the British or the Portugese or the Danish. I mean the other countries also should have an oppurtunity to say what they think. All member states should have the oppurtunity to express their opinion on that Constitutional Treaty.

So you’re saying that the process of ratification should go ahead in other countries, and that Tony Blair for example should call a referendum in Britain?

No. What Tony Blair should do in Britain, that’s up to the British government but what I think is that the British, the United Kingdom as a State, should have the oppurtunity to say what is the position of the United Kingdom about this process. Until now we had some countries, 9 countries in fact, that said we support the Treaty we have 2 that said we don’t support the Treaty. But it will be important for all of us in Europe to know what is the opinion of all European countries, all are relevant. Of course United Kingdom is very relevant and very important country in our Europe.

But what is the point in any other country in Europe in expressing a view on this Treaty since it cannot be implemented because the Dutch and the French have rejected it?

Well, in the past we have seen that in the process of ratifications there could be other possibilities in the future. I am not anticipating, I am not proposing nothing specifically. I think we need some time to think. I think tha is the wise thing to do , not to take a hasty decision. Afterall it was signed by 25 governments and they accepted, those governments, they accepted a procedure and that procedure should be respected.

Absolutely. And Declaration 30 of this Treaty here says that “if, two years after the signature of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, four fifths of the Member States [that is 20 countries] have ratified it and one or more Member States are having difficulties with it, then it goes to the European Council.” Are you saying that it could still be implemented?

I am saying that so far we cannot take a final decision because we have not yet listened to the opinion of the member states…very important member states…

I’m sorry but how…I am obviously being stupid here. How can, how can a Treaty affecting all the members of the European Union be implemented if two of those countries have decisively rejected it?

Yes. I mean I understand your concerns, but that was not the first time we had that problem in Europe. We had in previous situations countries that did not ratify and afterwards they considered to ratify. I am not suggesting that will happen today, I am not suggesting that this is exactly what’s going to happen. What I think is that this deserves
a serious consideration from Heads of State. I want to remember to you that this was signed by 25 governments, it was signed also by Britain, and when they signed they said, all of them, that they should go ahead with the process and at the end if the number of ratifications is as you have said, that Declaration, we have not enough numbers so the matter should be referred to the European Council. So I think we should speak by what was agreed. Anyway there willl be a moment for deciding this very near, let’s hope, 1 or 2 more weeks, let’s hope that the heads of government that will meet here in Brussels they can clarify the situation.

Don’t you get it Mr. Baroso? I mean put to a popular vote, two major countries have said they do not like what the European political elite have cooked up. Don’t you understand that?

I understand that in France and Netherlands most people refused the Constitutional Treaty. I perfectly understand, I respect, I am a democrat. I respect the outcome of the French and Dutch referendums. Having said that, I would also like to know the opinion of the Portugese or the Danish, or the British, or altogether. That have not had the oppurtunity to pronoune themselves either through a parliament or through a referendum. I think they have the right, all the countries are equal in terms of dignity and all the countries have the right to express themselves and we should not prevent them to express their opinion. So that’s my point and I think it’s a very very clear one. And you cannot object to that really. [laughing]

What is the point in expressing their opinion on something that cannot be implemented?

I mean we cannot say that now.

It could be implemented?

We already had situations where we thought we could not have the implementation and afterwards we got a solution. What I am asking is, and I appeal to you to do, is to be wise, not to be very hasty to show some leadership and some sense of responsibility, to decide collectively. They will very soon meet and they have the oppurtunity to collectively. they collectively decided to sign the Treaty, that’s the responsibility of the Member States, they collectively decided to sign it, now they should collectively decide where to go. That is my position I think it is a very reasonable and a wise one.

If that involves ignoring the will of the people as expressed in referendums, one, two, three, who knows how many. If it involves ignoring the will of the people then governments should be ready to go ahead and do that should they?

No, they should of course listen to those who express that opinion, but they should also note the opinion of others who have not yet had the oppurtunity to express themselves and there are some countries that want to express themselves. I just today had talks with some Prime Ministers and they told me ‘I want to know what is the opinion of my country about the Constitutional Treaty’ and they have the right to express…do you want to put those countries without the right to express themselves? If they want to do it, that is the right of those countries to say, by ratification process in the parliament or by direct popular consultation to say that is the way forward as the French or Dutch have they tried.

Mr. Barroso thank you.

EU just won't take 'no' for an answer

Mark Steyn, I am somehow inclined to agree, at least in part, with him on this occasion.

Following Sunday’s vote in France, on Wednesday Dutch voters get to express their opinion on the proposed ”European Constitution.” Heartening to see democracy in action, notwithstanding the European elite’s hysterical warnings that, without the constitution, the continent will be set back on the path to Auschwitz. I haven’t seen the official ballot, but the choice seems to be: “Check Box A to support the new constitution; check Box B for genocide and conflagration.”

Alas, this tactic doesn’t seem to have worked. So, a couple of days before the first referendum, Jean-Claude Juncker, the “president” of the European Union, let French and Dutch voters know how much he values their opinion:

“If at the end of the ratification process, we do not manage to solve the problems, the countries that would have said No, would have to ask themselves the question again,” “President” Juncker told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.

Got that? You have the right to vote, but only if you give the answer your rulers want you to give. But don’t worry, if you don’t, we’ll treat you like a particularly backward nursery school and keep asking the question until you get the answer right. Even America’s bossiest nanny-state Democrats don’t usually express their contempt for the will of the people quite so crudely.

What now for the Constitution?

The IAI website appears to be down, but there was a very interesting document located there, that I have managed to find elsewhere (PDF) .

It all boils down to Declaration no. 30 in the annexes which states:

Declaration no. 30 annexed to the CT reads: “The Conference notes that if, two years after the signature of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, four fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter will be referred to the European Council.â€? This statement is important for various reasons.

The first concerns the convening of the European Council: if at least four fifths of the member states (that is twenty) have ratified the Treaty within two years of signature, the European Council is obliged to meet to examine the situation. Of course, the European Council can meet even if this quota is not reached, however the meeting must take place if it is. Therefore, twenty ratifications of the CT are an important threshold. Reaching it does not mean that the Treaty enters into force, as some would have liked. It does however oblige member states to meet and work together loyally and in good faith towards a positive outcome.

Second, the Declaration does not make a distinction between which states ratify the CT and which do not. It simply refers to the four-fifths threshold. Therefore, each member state has the same weight, regardless of its size or seniority in the European Union. These factors will undoubtedly come into play when trying to find a way out of a ratification crisis, but in terms of the procedures provided for in Declaration no. 30, all member states have
equal standing.

The third consideration concerns the two-year deadline. A twofold
obligation for the member states stems from the Declaration. First of all, member states must plan internal ratification procedures so that they are completed within two years of the signing of the CT. Secondly, and this is the point that interests us most, no member state may decide to stop the ratification process because, for example, another state has chosen not to ratify. The Declaration requires that the process go ahead.

In fact, this is the only way to see whether or not the threshold of 20 ratifying states has been reached within two years. The only exception would be if more than five states had already rejected ratification. In that event, since the twenty state threshold could no longer be reached, a state would be entitled to suspend the ratification procedure. In all other cases, the obligation
outlined above remains valid.

Read the whole document, its short and worth a read.

The case for Europe

Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, wrote a piece in the IHT the other day. He gives two reasons why we should accept the Constitution.

First, the constitution offers a massive improvement in our ability to tackle old and new security threats. Think of the solidarity clause which will cover both terrorist and natural or man-made disasters. Then add enhanced cooperation on civil protection and structured cooperation on defense.

Second, in terms of effectiveness, the constitution inaugurates a new way of taking decisions. The EU will have a foreign minister to serve as central interlocutor for our partners.

And who wants to be that Foreign Minister, Mr Solana? That unelected Foreign affairs representative? I wonder.

He went on:

Let us be clear. Neither Europe nor the world could afford the self-inflicted wound of a rejection of the constitution.

Seven countries have already ratified the constitution with two more countries well on track.

I fully count on the voters in France and the Netherlands to play their part in Europe’s renewal.

As one might say, stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Solana.

French voters reject EU charter

So the French have said Non. It reminds of the day the news came out that Ireland voted No – I remember at the time some French commentators slating us for our ‘anti-European’ stance. Looks like we weren’t the only ones to have reservations about the deepending of powers in the EU.

Chirac’s comments are interesting:

France has democratically expressed itself. You have rejected the European constitution by a majority. It is your sovereign decision and I take note of it. Nevertheless, our ambitions and interests are profoundly linked to Europe.

He ends his speech with:

In the coming days I will announce my decisions on the government and its priorities.

It is interesting that immediately after noting the democratic decision of France, he talks about how the situation can be resolved. In Ireland the reaction was, very quickly, that another unchanged referendum would be held, with enough time to scare the Irish people into not rejecting it again.

If EU constitution fails, U.S. won't be gloating

John Vinocur had an interesting article in the IHT yesterday.

Basically, what I’d say, based on conversations last week, is that America doesn’t see the probability of a shift in European strategic attitudes as a result of the referendums. Indeed, like the Europeans, the day after a negative vote the Bush administration would be faced with insisting that everything in Europe was fine, nothing had changed, and that the EU’s trans-Atlantic relations were a brilliant example of mature continuity.

He continues:

This week, Burns [Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns] will be in Brussels for what is the start of a so-called regular senior-level “strategic dialogue” between the United States and the EU. It’s not supposed to supplant NATO’s “core” function, but to get political Europe talking to the administration in a way that will flatter the Europeans’ notions of their unity and importance, while bringing them into real consultations on things like American policy on Asia.

Obviously, for the Bush folk, this sharing, attentive, out-reaching, Europe-sensitive America couldn’t be one to revel in or look for profit from the implosion of a major Europe project like the constitution.

Just as obviously, there are hopes that in exchange the Europeans would be attuned to assisting the administration on Iran, perhaps the most pressing of the nuclear issues.

Perhaps wishfully, the Europeans (specifically, Britain, France and Germany) are now described locally as tired of being played for patsies by Iranians – which means the Americans believe that they not only will go along with referring the Iran matter to the United Nations but very possibly vote for sanctions in the Security Council.

Two other Council members and sworn supporters of the European constitution and the European Union – China and Russia – may not find these sanctions close to their heart. The issue is what the Europeans will do, loved to death these days by the Americans as well.

James Steinberg, a former National Security Council official under President Bill Clinton, said, “China and Russia are counting on the Europeans not to go for sanctions. They want the Europeans to hide. If they’re put on the spot, though, they won’t defend Iran.”

So the American yes on the EU referendums is not only coherent good sense, but also an investment. An official, sitting in his office here, couldn’t have been clearer on the European constitution: “If they think it would get them a few yes points, we’ve told the French we’re ready to condemn the thing in minutes.”

The French vote will be interesting, but I really do think that at least one country, if not two or three, will vote down the Constitution. The question is, what then? Will they do a ‘Nice’ on it like they did here?

Europe Will Survive a French Non

Mark Leonard, author of Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century, argues that the EU will survive in the event of the French voting no. He notes in Foreign Policy that:

It is possible that a French no vote could result in the EU’s sticking solely with its current treaties, or that the other 24 member states will proceed with ratification sans France. But the more likely outcome is that Europe’s leaders will convene a mini intergovernmental conference to salvage the parts of the constitution that matter most. Yes, the grand rhetoric of the document’s preamble will be lost, but key elements will be rescued: the creation of the new post of European foreign minister, the External Action Service (essentially, a diplomatic corps), a weighted majority voting system, and the ability of member states to apply an “emergency brakeâ€? on European integration. And because it won’t be a grand constitution, it won’t necessarily trigger referendums across the EU.

And concludes:

The only thing that will be destroyed by France’s voting no will be its claims to a leadership role within Europe. If France balks, it will be exposed as a naked defender of national interest that can no longer trade off its status as a founding member of the EU. That moral leadership within Europe will remain out of France’s grasp as long as it is anti-enlargement, anti-American, and anti-change. And the crisis will be in France, not Europe.

This is a subject a bit close to the bone following my twice rejection of the Nice Treaty – and fat lot of good voting in that referendum did. I will be fascinated to see how this plays out – will we see Jose Barroso jetted off to Paris to tell the French that they voted wrong and they better bloody get it right the next time – or else.

Somehow I doubt it.

Don't lift the arms embargo on China

So argues David Shambaugh, and I believe rightly so. He takes us through 5 arguments the Europeans are using to justify lifting the embargo, and basically destroys each one. I’ll quote the whole thing:

In his meetings with European leaders this week, President George W. Bush will try to persuade the Europeans not to lift their embargo on arms sales to China. These are the main arguments he is likely to hear for maintaining it, and how the president should refute them.

First, the Europeans will argue that the “embargo” is nothing more than a sentence in a 1989 communiqué issued in the wake of the Tiananmen massacre. It is not legally binding, and in any event it has become porous and should be scrapped.

True, the embargo is not a complete prohibition on defense technology or component transfers to China. Yet it has largely prevented the flow of lethal weapons to China (certain sales by France are the exception). Moreover, the embargo continues to send a strong political signal to the Chinese government that it has yet to come to terms with its actions of 16 years ago. There has been no official expression of regret over Tiananmen, nor has an accounting, or even acknowledgment, of the 1,500 to 2,000 civilian deaths on June 4, 1989. About 2,000 individuals are still in prison, and hundreds more are in exile.

The second European argument is that exports of lethal weapons and defense technologies to China are under strict national export controls in each European Union member state, as well as under the 1998 EU Code of Conduct. After the embargo is lifted, the Europeans say, a strengthened code will provide an even more restrictive regime on arms sales, and the sales will not exceed the “qualitative or quantitative levels” of last year.

It is true that the existing code needs strengthening, as it largely regulates lethal weapons and component parts but makes no provision for defense or dual-use technologies – which is what the Chinese military is mainly interested in obtaining from Europe. Moreover, the code is not legally binding and allows considerable leeway for national interpretations.

We have yet to see the strengthened code, which has been in preparation for over a year, or the so-called “toolbox” which will be applied to countries emerging from embargoes. EU officials admit that it will not be legally binding, and that it will remain substantially up to each member state to interpret. Moreover, there will be no provisions for dual-use technologies (civilian technologies with military application), which fall under the dysfunctional Wassenaar Arrangement.

The third argument put forward by Europeans is that maintaining the embargo is inconsistent with the overall robust state of European-Chinese relations, and prevents the full “renormalization” of ties. Europeans argue that maintaining an embargo stigmatizes China unfairly, lumping it together with pariah states like North Korea, Myanmar and Sudan, and poses an impediment to deepening EU-China relations.

In fact, Europe-China relations have never been better, and it is difficult to identify any impediments to further improvement. China has not withheld any agreements because of the embargo, although it is likely to reward Europe commercially for lifting it.

Fourth, the EU argues that China’s human rights situation has improved markedly since 1989 and therefore the original rationale for the embargo no longer applies.

Human rights in China have steadily improved since 1989, but that year sets a pretty low baseline. Moreover, China has still not ratified the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; has not repealed legislation governing its draconian reform-through-labor (laogai) camps; continues various forms of religious restrictions and persecution; continues to incarcerate large numbers of prisoners of conscience; will not permit Red Cross access to its prisons; and has stonewalled in human rights dialogues with Western nations in recent years.

Fifth, in an interview with the Financial Times last week, France’s Minister of Defense, Michèle Alliot-Marie, presented a new argument in favor of lifting the embargo: Since China’s domestic military industry will be capable of producing “exactly the same arms” that France has within five years, maintaining the embargo is pointless and “lifting it could be better protection for us than maintaining it.”

This is the most ludicrous rationale of all. With a few exceptions – ballistic missiles, inertial guidance systems, diesel propulsion and a new generation of tanks – virtually all foreign experts on the Chinese military recognize that China’s indigenous military-industrial complex lags 10 to 20 years behind the state of the art.

It is also indisputable that the lack of Chinese access to Western arms markets has demonstrably slowed China’s domestic arms manufacturing capabilities. Whatever modern conventional weapons China’s military has were sold to it by Russia, not manufactured in China. Even Russia has been very careful not to sell China the latest generation of its weaponry, and Moscow has not transferred the means of production to China, thus ensuring a dependency on Russian spare parts and new systems.

At the end of the day, Europe must have a very clear answer to a simple question: Why is it in Europe’s strategic interest to accelerate the modernization of China’s military? Answer: It is not.

Moreover, one does not hear China’s Asian neighbors clamoring for the lifting of the embargo. Far from it. A China possessing real power projection capabilities would radically change and destabilize the East Asian security environment. This is also of deep concern to the United States.

From the American perspective, none of these arguments touch the real issues: maintaining the security of Taiwan and preventing China from possessing European arms that might be used against American forces. This is the argument that animates the debate in Washington, and against which ultimate European actions will be judged.

Lifting the arms embargo on China is ill-advised. If anything, it needs to be strengthened. Both Europe and America can continue to enjoy robust relations with Beijing while maintaining their respective arms embargoes. China will just have to live with it until it comes to terms with Tiananmen and stops putting military pressure on Taiwan.

(David Shambaugh is director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University and author of ‘‘Modernizing China’s Military: Problems, Progress, and Prospects.’’)