Many citizens of France’s 24 partners in the European Union, or of states that aspire to enter the EU soon, are angry – indeed, indignant – at France’s rejection of the European Union’s constitutional treaty. After the Dutch “no,” there is fear that distrust of the European project will spread.
The French vote mainly expressed a rejection of our ruling class and deep anxiety about our economic prospects. It was a vote of misery and desertion, an impulse moved by panic as well as anger.
But the size of the “no” vote also reflected the persistent lack of a clear explanation by our politicians of what the EU brings to Europeans in terms of wealth, competitiveness, social welfare and, of course, peace. Too often, our politicians disparage Europe and impute to it evils (like unemployment) that are really the result of domestic insufficiencies.
Like many in France, I do not believe that this thunderbolt means the end of Europe. We can and must react positively, and we can do so by returning to basics and offering to Europe’s nations, including the French and the Dutch, new challenges and a new spirit.