Edward has already pointed to an interesting post by Henry Farrell regarding European politics in the last post, but I think the argument is important enough for a separate pointer and a little more explanation.
Henry Farrell believes that
“that the constitution [does not have] much chance at all of being ratified. If it somehow gets over the French hurdle, it?s going to come a cropper at the British one.
But just as well that
“the European Union may be on the verge of acquiring real political legitimacy for the first time, exactly and precisely because of the vociferous debates which are starting to get going.”
Counter-intuitive as this argument may appear at first sight, he does have a point. The Maastricht treaty came too soon after the Iron Curtain came down to profoundly influence institutionalized myths of rationality about Europe. The ten years thereafter where spent quietly preparing the big changes that we’re now approaching but national politcal discourses weren’t reconciled with the new European reality perceived by most people.
I think Henry is right to argue that institutional Europe is by now an inherent part of European identity. The debate is, exceptions notwithstanding, not questioning the European Union as such, but rather the ways it works, or doesn’t. Just this week, I’ve exchanged emails with French friends that very much support this thesis: some will vote “non” on Sunday because they know and value the EU. Just not the one they believe is going to emerge according to the Constitution.
However, I don’t agree with Henry’s assumption that killing off the treaty will create a lot more of beneficial debate. While national electorates needed a long time to understand the changes, now it is important that more politicians attempt to reconcile national political discourses with their Europeanised reality.
I don’t think that this will be more successful following a failed campaign for the European Constitution.