Gallic Orange State, Blue State Politics: France, the European Union and NATO
Napoleon was stepping through battlefield carnage when an aide grieved over the horrific loss of life. Bonaparte replied that France could replace the bloody losses in a single night from a Paris whorehouse.
Image Credit: Liberation
Today’s European leaders seem to have a similar lack of regard for the French citoyen. To the horror of the European ruling elite, the French have rejected ratification of the European Union constitution fairly soundly. However the Daily Telegraph says that the EU leaders view the vote as merely a disappointing speedbump in their resolute march to unification:
Ignore all the febrile threats of chaos. Far more accurate was the analysis given by Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg and currently the holder of the EU Presidency: “If it is a ‘Yes’ we carry on; if it is a ‘No’ we carry on.” There you have it: as neat a statement of the EU’s guiding philosophy as you could ask for. The project is far too important to be denied by the ballot box.
Of course, as leaders throughout history (including Napoleon) have learned, political hubris can lead to stunning miscalculation. It isn’t all that easy to ignore the will of the people. And it appears that the French may have to contend with their own “red-state/blue-state” issues.
The vote map (above) shows “blue states” voting “oui;” light yellow voting 50-50% “non;” darker yellow voting 55-60% “non;” and orange voting over 60% “non.” Just like recent American elections, there are clear regional patterns of voting. One of the more interesting results is the dark orange swath of voters in the northeastern area of France: the area closest to Brussels, the seat of the EU.
And, indeed, sovereignty was a real issue in this vote. The Washington Post reports on the non vote:
“I voted no out of a concern for democracy,” said Gilles Noeul, 28, an engineer who attended an opposition victory rally Sunday night in Paris. “For me, the decisions should not be made by Europe, but by each nation. I want France to make decisions for herself.”
Still, though Americans instinctively tap into this “defense of sovereignty” angle of the vote, it is important to avoid imposing an American filter on the French vote. Bad Hair Blog provides a translation of a Spanish blog which lists five reasons for the vote. I want to emphasize the first two: concern over high French unemployment rates (it’s 10%) . . . and concern over the EU’s, relatively (compared to France), greater emphasis on free-market principles.
Right. Fix unemployment by going more socialist?? Again: avoid looking at this vote through an American lens. These citoyens ain’t us, ain’t U.S.
No, the French have a Gallic reasoning all their own. And those who remain optimistic about EU prospects, in the face of this defeat, might do well to recall the French retreat from NATO in 1966.
This is not the first time the French have waved le tricolore and distanced themselves from international partnership. Then-French President Charles DeGaulle stated that NATO was unnecessary, because France would have an independent nuclear striking force or force de frappe. By 1967 the French had built a fleet of nuclear bombers.
During the Cold War the French did not want to subordinate the defense of France to NATO. And now the French don’t want to surrender sovereignty to the EU.
(So, yes, there are two, two times that the French wouldn’t surrender. Three, if you count speaking French in Quebec.)
All fun French jokes aside, it’s a cautionary tale for EU enthusiasts.
Image Credit: BBC
Nine countries have ratified the treaty: Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
Ahoy to Captain’s Quarter’s
Polished red apple to Betsy’s Page
Another interesting angle on this story: the Left is divided, a complicated story which defies easy summary. . . See Daily Kos here.
Right Wing News writes well on the EU as bad news.
danieldrezner has an excellent international relations (IR) take.