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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 4-Jul-2008
Nicolas Sarkozy becomes EU president as Lisbon Treaty appears near collapse

Web Log - July, 2008

Nicolas Sarkozy becomes EU president as Lisbon Treaty appears near collapse

A new French/British acrimonious shouting match begins over the same old issues.

When Nicolas Sarkozy became President of France, he promised numerous advancements -- make France important in Europe, improve the economy, solve immigration problems, and solve the Mideast problem with a "Mediterranean Union." Almost none of his program has been implemented, because of opposition from labor unions and leftist organizations.

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Nicolas Sarkozy becomes EU president as Lisbon Treaty appears near collapse: A new French/British acrimonious shouting match begins over the same old issues.... (4-Jul-2008)
Europe in 'chaos' as Ireland rejects Lisbon Treaty: The Europeans don't seem to have a clue about what's going on.... (16-Jun-2008)
Ireland may block Lisbon treaty for new European Union in June 12 vote: Those opposed to ratification appear to be gaining ground,... (2-Jun-2008)
Sarkozy begins term as activist President of France: The pundits' comparison of Sarkozy to Margaret Thatcher is a dangerous one.... (19-May-07)
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Now Nicolas Sarkozy has become President of the European Union, as France takes its turn in the rotating presidency. His term runs from July 1 to the end of the year.

And when he became EU president, he promised numerous advancements -- make the EU important in the world, improve the economy, solve immigration problems, and solve the Mideast problem with a "Mediterranean Union."

Making the EU important in the world was to be accomplished by getting each of the 27 member countries to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. This would be done by having each country's legislature ratify, thus avoiding all that nastiness and unpleasantness that occurred after referendums in France and the Netherlands rejected the European Constitution in 2005. Let the politicians decide, not the people.

Sarkozy's plan came unglued last month. Ireland's constitution required a referendum anyway, and the Irish voted 'No'.

Hoping to save the Lisbon Treaty, the energetic Sarkozy has been pushing for other countries to continue the ratification process, so that by the end of the year every country but Ireland would have ratified it.

But the Irish rejection has brought out the "Euroskepticism" in other countries.

The Czech Republic's president Vaclav Klaus pronounced the treaty dead. Next, President Lech Kaczynski of Poland said, "For the time being the question of the treaty is pointless." Even German President Horst Köhler is refusing to sign the treaty, although Chancellor Angela Merkel favors it.

This is turning out to be a case study of the Generational Dynamics principle that policies are set by large masses of people, entire generations of people, and not by politicians.

It's not at all surprising that the "Europe project" is becoming less and less popular.

As I wrote in my own analysis of the 2005 French referendum vote, which I updated last month, the vote was divided along generational lines, with WW II survivors more often voting "yes," and post-WW II generations voting "no." Since the WW II survivors are dying out, there is less and less support for an EU Constitution, or for its replacement, the Lisbon Treaty.

What's particularly interesting is that politicians and journalists are suddenly noticing that ignoring the people's wishes simply isn't working, no matter what the politicians want. For example, one German newspaper say: "Those who want a future for the European Union have to stop trying to change the citizens. Instead they should change the policy."

Another states it more clearly:

"The methods of achieving European integration have been successful for 50 years but they have become worn out. Many voters mistrust these methods, and quite a few simply reject further integration. That may well be short-sighted but the referenda in France, the Netherlands and now Ireland have shown it to be a political fact. Whether Lisbon fails or is saved in the end, one thing is certain: A public debate about the meaning and the goals of the EU is long overdue."

This says that previous methods "have become worn out" and that voters "mistrust" them. This isn't precisely right, since it implies that people have been changing their minds. That's not true. It's always been true that the WW II survivors favored European integration, and those born after WW II did not.

Even Sarkozy's France is turning more and more against the European project, as only one in three people still believes in it, down significantly from 61 percent just five years ago.

Sarkozy says, "Europe worries people and, worse than that, I find, little by little our fellow citizens are asking themselves if after all the national level isn't better equipped to protect them than the European level. We must therefore completely change our way of building Europe."

This really is quite remarkable when you think about it -- just about every politician in Europe is in favor of Europe integration, but they can't get it done. The people, buffeted by "fear," "anxiety," and "miseducation," refuse to vote for it.

That's why I keep saying that major events are brought about by the masses of people, not by politicians. World War II would have occurred with or without Adolf Hitler. The Vietnam War would have occurred with or without President Kennedy. The Iraq war would have occurred with or without President Bush.

(Thursday's news is that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is changing his position on such issues as ending the Iraq war and tapping into foreign phone calls of suspected terrorists. This is no surprise. Whatever happens next year will have nothing to do with whether Obama or McCain is elected.)

And now another ages-old issue is reasserting itself: The fault line between the English and the French, which has led to multiple crisis wars at least since 1066.

This conflict flared in 2005 after the French referendum rejected the EU Constitution. There followed an acrimonious European Union summit meeting in June 2005, where British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and French President Jacques Chirac exchanged vitriolic accusations over how the EU budget, especially the agricultural subsidies for France, were to be divided among the EU members. Under no circumstances would France compromise on its agricultural subsidies.

Now the same conflict has arisen in a different way.

EU's trade commissioner is Peter Mandelson, and he's been representing the EU in international trade talks at the World Trade Organization (WTO), with intention of reducing tariffs and opening markets worldwide. The EU's official position is that farm import tariffs should be reduced, and that position is part of the negotiations that Mandelson is pursuing.

Unfortunately, there are two problems. Sarkozy views that position as threatening France's agricultural subsidy. And Peter Mandelson is British, and used to be in Tony Blair's cabinet, and Sarkozy dislikes him.

During the past two weeks, Sarkozy has been launching verbal attacks at Mandelson. He accused Mandelson of taking an incompetent position at the WTO talks, and even blamed Mandelson for the Irish "No" vote on the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

As the French like to say, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" -- the more things change, the more they are the same.

The visceral dislike that the French and the English have for one another is centuries old, and is not about to end. Sarkozy's attack on Mandelson, particularly blaming him for the Irish "No," is particularly nasty.

In fact, the French have not forgotten that there was an attempt at a European "union" two centuries ago -- when Napoleon conquered all of Europe. They've never forgiven the English for defeating Napoleon at Waterloo, and ending that attempt at a unified Europe. Similarly, Sarkozy won't hesitate to blame the British for the current failure to form a unified Europe.

I'm going to take a wild guess here that Sarkozy is not going to achieve his objectives as EU President for the next six months, just has he hasn't really accomplished any of his objectives as French President. In fact, the next six months can be expected to return to the extreme acrimony of 2005. And by the way, neither the EU Constitution nor the Lisbon Treaty will be ratified. (4-Jul-2008) Permanent Link
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