Scary Stuff

In a post which appeared earlier this week Tobias asks us whether, given some of the possible consequences of a French “non”, it might not be reasonable to ‘scare’ voters a little by spelling out some of the potential fallout which might follow a French rejection of the Constitution Treaty.

Perhaps the phrasing is unfortunate, but undoubtedly voters in Eurozone countries need to think long and hard about one especially sensitive area of impact: the future of the euro itself.
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We don’t have a Plan B.

Because no one has one. Well, no one has a public plan about how to handle one or more rejections of the European consitution in upcoming national referenda. But as the French referendum is approaching and the numbers do not look too good for the “yes” camp, unofficial Plan Bs are suddenly everywhere, if only to scare the naysaying Gauls into becoming responsible citizens. I know it’s common knowledge by now, but let me repeat it once more – a French “non” would be the worst case, and have possibly nuclear consequences for the EU as we know it. So scaring the voters a little seems like a reasonable approach to me.

In this vein, Bettina Thalmeyer of the Munich based Center for Applied Policy Research has put together a list of possibilities for the day after (and has published a paper about it (in German)) – hoping that it will not be May 30 (the translation and slight modifications are mine, table in the extended).

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Eh, Non

The Financial Times quotes former EU Commission President Romano Prodi on the consequences of a French rejection of the constitutional treaty.

?There would be no more Europe. We will pass through a long period of crisis.

?The problem will not only be a catastrophe for France, but the fall of Europe.?

This is arrant nonsense.

Nor is it likely to help the Yes campaign. The French are a funny people (sometimes even intentionally) but they are not likely to be stampeded into voting yes by this sort of gloom and doom.

The Union will face a crisis if France does not approve the constitutional treaty by the final deadline of 1 November 2006. It’s not at all clear to me, though, that a rejection next month is a final rejection. (If anyone has learned anything about EU politics, it is surely that nothing is ever final.)

The bid to have France lead the way forward looks to be failing. But are the French willing to be the only people to reject the treaty?

Five member states have ratified the treaty already; Spain, the sixth, has said Yes in a referendum, so parliamentary ratification is likely to be a formality. Four to six more could act before the French referendum. All of the countries in question are addressing the constitution through their parliaments, and all are expected to vote Yes. So as much as half the Union may have said Yes by the time France throws a spanner in the works.

And a spanner it would be. While an EU without France is barely conceivable (though it might simplify language issues), the converse is also true. Plus the French have said No to a treaty before, and then changed their collective mind.

This still seems the likeliest course to me. France will say No next month. Over the course of the next year, almost everyone else will say Yes. France’s voters will face the prospect of Europe going on without them, and they will see the situation differently.

(Bonus Machiavellian questions: Is the FT deliberately trying to weaken Prodi by splashing such silliness on their front page? Do they really prefer Berlusconi? Or are they simply unable to resist such juicily foolish quotes from a major figure?)

Germany Leads

Not just in the production of reigning Popes, but also, according to according to a report from the Commission, in subsidies. (As reported in a German newspaper whose website really could be better organized.)

Germany spend ?16.5 billion on subsidies in 2003, the latest year for which statistics are available, nearly one-third of the EU-15 total of ?53 billion. Part of the lead is the natural result of Germany having the largest economy in the EU. The next closest subsidizers are France (?9 billion) and Italy (?7 billion). The EU’s fourth G7 economy, the UK, spent ?4.2 billion, a share of GDP that was less than half the Union average.

As a share of GDP, Finland leads (1.41%), followed by Portugal (1.24%), Germany (0.77%) and Ireland (0.69%).

This was also interesting: “Of the ?9.7 bn of aid (in cases for which the aid amount is known) declared illegal by the Commission and due to be recovered under decisions adopted since 2000, some ?6.7 bn (including interest) had been effectively recovered by the end of 2004. Four Member States (Germany, Spain, Italy and France) account for more than 90% of the pending recovery cases.”

The new members were assessed separately earlier in the year. They were also assessed somewhat differently (transition to a market economy and all that), although interestingly the top two subsidizers in GDP terms were not post-Communist countries but Malta (3.9%) and Cyprus (2.9%).

Germany trails, however, in economic growth. Alas.

Habemas Alemanam

(Latin speakers from the previous thread will be swift to offer corrections, I am sure.)

Linguistic confusion reigns in the early days of Benedict XVI. One local tabloid said a German was Pope, another claimed him as a Bavarian, the third as a M?nchner. The Bild-Zeitung said “Wir sind Papst,” which would literally mean “We’re Pope,” a claim that’s odd, even by the standards of that paper’s often tenuous relationship with consensus reality.

Hans Kung has some sensible things to say on the subject.

My first thoughts are probably less so.
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