There have been some interesting reactions coming out of Moscow after France’s decision this weekend to reject the new EU constitution.
President Putin himself, has wisely not shared his own opinion with the world at large, although I’m sure he passed on heartfelt comiserations to President Chirac in their telephone conversation. He did, however, repeat his call for ever closer relations with the EU.
Vladimir Simonov, RIA Novosti’s political commentator, is pretty certain that Putin will have been very disappointed at the result. He reckons that France’s no vote can only weaken Russia’s relationship with Europe, as France’s "non" will mean a shift within the EU from "old" to "new" Europe:
The Russian leaders commiserate with the failure of President Jacques Chirac, who took a considerable risk urging his fellow citizens to vote for the constitution and now the future of his rightwing-centrist Cabinet has been put into question. If Chirac goes, Russian President Vladimir Putin will lose a reliable ally in Old Europe, a man whose understanding of the role of Europe in the global lineup of forces is very similar to his own.[…] The constitutional treaty of the united Europe, if all 25 member states ratified it, would only strengthen the positions of reasonable European forces that call for equitable partnership with Russia.
I personally was rather taken, though, with Sergei Markov’s analysis. Not because I agree with what he says, but because of his updated ‘Marxism updated to include Oligarchs not just in Russia but in the EU too’ worldview:
"This is the first large-scale victory of the public over the omnipotence of financiers and bureaucrats and it will have a significant political influence on the rest of Europe."
And now, for the real reason I brought up the whole topic in the first place – my little rant.
Well, I’m from the UK, and I have to say I’m glad that the French vote means that I won’t have to vote on this constitution myself in a referendum. I’m very pro-EU, but I would have found it very difficult to support the constitution as it was written. It was everything the a constitution should not be, and it’s style (long, overly technical and very very dull) exposed perfectly the major flaw in the European project – that it is too far removed from Europe’s citizens for them to ever properly comprehend.
Hopefully, now that the constitution has been rejected by France (one of the key drivers of European integration) instead of the UK (who are often seen as the country that wants to wreck it all), the EU as a whole will have a great opportunity to sit back and reflect on exactly what it wants from this union. And, if the leaders of Europe have any sense, they’ll forget about geopolitics, and they’ll forget about standardising banking regulations, and they’ll take the time to look at it from the perspective of what it actually means to the average European citizen, .