a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

German blogger series: EU Constitution referendum defeats

Posted by Thomas Nephew on June 6th, 2005

As is well known, French and Dutch voters voted “no” against the proposed European constitution over the last week. I thought I’d scan German blogs for reactions to this development. All quotes are translations, unless otherwise indicated.

Kai Pahl (“dogfood”) — Pahl characterizes the French result as “basically a protest vote against Chirac,” and a protest vote against the rise of so-called “locust” or “Anglo-Saxon” capitalism in the EU. Pahl also sees the Iraq war as further aggravating this kind of protest voter, because it revealed “the divide between the ‘old Europe’ and the ‘transatlanticists’”:

The former want to position Europe as an independent power, the latter understand Europe as an economic alliance and seek partnership with the US in other areas. The Iraq war has made plain that there has been massive change in the center of gravity towards transatlanticism because of the addition of east European countries.

Turkey’s application for admission played an important secondary role, Pahl thinks:

I don’t think that the Turkey question was decisive, but was rather a further indication for many that the EU is heading in the wrong direction.

Pahl adds:

I probably would have voted against the referendum too. Purely as protest. I don’t like the way the politicians associated with the EU constitution expected that the thing would just be passed by acclamation [abgenickt].

Joerg Kantel (“Schockwellenreiter”) — Adopts a “Junge Welt” headline as his own: “Non c’est non: Europe says thank you, France!” Kantel’s quickie post lifts the theme of a second analysis (Bernard Schmid in telepolis), presumably to signal Kantel’s take on the event:

The rejection of the EU constitution points to a growing social polarization; the choice is between an economically liberal or a social Europe.

In the German usage, “liberal” has a different meaning, at least lately, from the “FDR/social safety net/civil rights” meaings it’s associated with in the U.S. It’s beome the word used to mean +/- free-market, “creative destruction,” sink or swim style economics.

Heiko Hebig — writing in English, Hebig comments:

A European Constitution should have less than 1000 words, less than 100 articles and should be easy to learn and understand by school children. [...]

A European Constitution should establish a legal foundation for common principles and values. It should not establish red tape.

UPDATE, 6/7: In a second post, Hebig criticizes Schroeder and Chirac for trying to keep the ratification process alive, and writes, “I should start referring to the Draft EU Constitution as the “Terri Schiavo Constitution”.

Andreas Schaefer (“dekaf”) — Schaefer (profiled here in 2003) sounded disappointed, asking:

How many of the potential voters have any idea what’s at stake with the EU constitution constitution, or have even read it? And how many of the blowhards [Dummschwaetzern] in radio, television, and the weblogs, who think they have to comment about it?

His headline: “Why democracy doesn’t work.”

chief pedro (“Der Denkpass”) — this blogger regrets the French and Dutch votes, and thinks the “no” vote was driven not just by concerns about the constitution, but by concerns about the concept of a unified Europe itself –an issue pedro considers settled and out of bounds. Nevertheless, he (or she) acknowledges concerns about the proposed constitution:

It shouldn’t be surprising that this constitution isn’t able to generate much enthusiasm among the voters. A constitution that is supported by its citizens, must above all be understandable by these citizens. One of the fundamental prerequisites for that is a clear, terse statement, something which unfortunately eluded the European constitutional proposal. The American constitution may be a source of American patriotism for that reason, because every American can read and understand it without needing to take several weeks of vacation or needing a panel of experts to explain the most important concepts of international law.

Tobias Schwarz (“a fistful of euros”) — Schwarz, writing in English, puts his hopes in German foreign minister Joschka Fischer’s ‘glass half full’ spin on the defeat in France. Fischer, speaking in Berlin :

The real positive and new experience in the French campaign was that it was a European campaign…. The French (referendum) campaign was the first time that I was really campaigning for Europe.

And such a model (of campaigning for Europe) can work. This would mean that the next time the European Parliament is up for election, we have to raise issues not on a national level, but we have to form Europe-wide platforms created by European-wide parties. And we have to run with candidates representing not national programs, but European programs. I am not talking about a pie-in-the-sky European program with nice ideas that nobody is really interested in. But they have to have a substance. What about social justice in the European Union? What about the free market? What does it mean in France, in Germany, in Poland, in Lithuania, in Slovenia, in Portugal? And then (we have to) present candidates for the job for the president of the Commission and they must run for that position. Without that, I don’t believe we can really bridge the gap between the project of the elites and the reality of the people.

The dog that didn’t bark
Mainly, though, I found no comment at all about either election at most of the German blogs I checked. You can see a partial list under “german blogs” in the sidebar. It’s possible that something’s been added at the ones I looked at since then, of course.

Blogging is a personal thing done in one’s spare time, so I shouldn’t make too much of the lack of comment by any one particular German blogger. Also, the German blogs I frequent are more “mixed purpose” sites than mine, longer on personal reflections and experiences, and shorter on reactions to news of the day.

Still, it seems fair to say there was little deep anguish about the events in France and Holland or the fate of the European Union in this particular online scribbling class. Instead, I’d describe a strong minority of reactions as quiet satisfaction at the “non” and “nee” votes, with reluctant nods of agreement from those supporting the European Union and its proposed constitution. Even among supporters, there seems to be increased skepticism about a constitution, or at least this constitution, for the European Union. Overall, there’s a “wait and see” approach that doesn’t signal deep support for the kind of far-flung “United States of Europe” the constitution seemed to envision.

If my little sample were taken to be representative of German bloggers, their opinions seem to run somewhat counter to German public opinion — but with public opinion catching up. An ‘Infratest Dimap’ opinion poll in early May found that 59% of Germans would have voted for the European Constitution, given the chance — a chance which another poll found 77% of Germans wished they’d been afforded (Deutsche Welle). Instead, the constitution was ratified by the German Bundestag and Bundesrat. Following the French and Dutch votes, a June 4 Ipsos poll found that the margin of support had narrowed to 44% for, 39% against (SPIEGEL).

OTHER “German blogger series” posts: 2002: “German bloggers: an occasional series”; “Gedanken zum Thema Pirna” (East German anti-minority immigrant incident); 2003: “Reactions to Rumsfeld ‘Old Europe’ phrase”; Expatriates: Schaefer, siebenviertel, Klein, Hanson, Praschl; 2004: “Reactions to Abu Ghraib”; 2005:”Discussing German poverty at le sofa blog.”
UPDATE, 6/7: “Allerschaerfstes Willkommen,” Heiko Hebig and Schockwellenreiter readers! Please feel free to leave a comment!
EDITS, 6/7: “pregnant” to “terse” as per chief pedro’s comment. In the same quote, “Darstellung” was edited to “statement” (“exegesis” might have worked, too), and “cause” to “be a source of … for that reason” (deswegen). I will have a word with my editor for leaving translations in such sloppy condition.

One Response to “German blogger series: EU Constitution referendum defeats”

  1. » Blog Archive » Congratulations to the EU on the Nobel Peace Prize! You guys *rock*! Says:

    [...] one who sincerely wishes Europeans and Germans well: isn’t that kind of the problem?  Last time I checked, a European constitution went down to fairly resounding defeat in 2005.  No matter, said the [...]

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