The European Union’s leaders have just met to draw the lessons from the failed referenda on the Constitutional Treaty. But they need not search too far for culprits; indeed, they need only look in the mirror and confront the consequences of the dishonest game that the leaders of EU member states have played for too long.
Over the years, those leaders hoped to reap the benefits of reform while avoiding the blame, so they routinely let EU officials based in Brussels take the political heat for unpopular but necessary measures. They then bitterly complained to their people about “Brussels bureaucrats” and their undemocratic ways.
But these leaders forgot that their people might actually believe them. So, when the leaders of France and the Netherlands – pro-constitution to a fault – asked their people what they thought about the Union, they received a clear echo of their own message: the people did not like the reforms, and they did not like the “Brussels bureaucrats,” constitution or no constitution.
Nowhere has this game of passing the blame been more visible than in the way EU governments have handled the deregulation of the product market.