Joschka's Debacle: The French "Non" and the Father of the EU "Constitution"
of which he had ample occasion to make use last night.
Mr. Hollande was joined in his befuddlement by the Chair of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, the German MEP Martin Schulz. Interviewed on the public television channel France3, Mr. Schulz held that not only was the French vote a vote against Jacques Chirac and not against the proposed “constitution”, but that the anticipated “no” vote in the Netherlands on Sunday will likewise be a vote against the power-that-be there (and not, of course, though this would appear the more plausible hypothesis, against those that sit in Brussels like Mr. Schulz). Displaying all the subtlety, grace and democratic conviction that once inspired Silvio Berlusconi to compare him to a concentration camp guard, Mr. Schulz concluded that such results did not, then, have to be “taken into account”.
But if last night’s “no” vote is to be understood as a personal defeat for any high profile European politician, it is not so much, despite his conspicuous engagement in the campaign for the "yes", Jacques Chirac as that politician who originally coined the oxymoron “constitutional treaty” and thereby set his European partners down the path of trying to create a juridical monstrosity that would correspond to this novel and incoherent expression. Some five years, one “constitutional convention”, and tens of millions of euros of European taxpayer money later – the money being spent, among other things, in a massive campaign of propaganda aimed at convincing these same taxpayers that the monster was being created to respond to their own ambitions - it is the half-baked “federalist” ideas of one Joseph Fischer that yesterday took a major hit.
For Fischer's would-be seminal May 2000 Humboldt University speech in English see here and for the German original see here. English readers will note the somewhat more banal expression "constituent treaty", but this is not what the German version says. In German, Fischer spoke of a "Verfassungsvertrag": literally, a "constitution-treaty", i.e. two things at once and two things, moreover, that in the ordinary acceptation of the terms cannot be combined. A constitution, at least in the sense of modern democratic constitutions, implies a single unified "constituent power": namely, the people in whose name it is promulgated. A treaty implies the continued separate existence of the sovereign states and the respective "peoples" (from whom the sovereignty of the states is supposed to proceed) that enter into them.
Given the prominence of the anti-American and anti-market French "left" in the "no" campaign, even many a "euro-sceptical" pundit will be inclined to say that the French voted "right for the wrong reasons". But there is much post-referendum evidence to suggest that in fact a very large portion of the French electorate, cutting across ideological boundaries, recognized in time the threat to their liberties that Joseph Fischer's monster represented.