Latvia Votes Yes

The Latvian parliament approved the Constitution Treaty earlier this morning, by a huge majority:

Latvia’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to support the EU constitution on Thursday, a decision lawmakers and analysts said sent a message from the new Europe to the old that the approval process must continue.

After several European leaders urged other member states to press ahead with the endorsement process after convincing rejections in the French and Dutch referendums, Latvia’s 100 member parliament voted 71 for the constitution with 5 votes against and 6 abstaining“.

The next hurdle will be the Luxembourg referendum, on the 10th July. This will take place as scheduled if the EU summit of 15/16 June doesn’t decide to change tack.

Meanwhile French media are announcing that there is a plan B, it’s called Blair. Tony Blair, they are suggesting, will seize the opportunity presented by disarray in the federal Europe camp to push ahead with ‘liberal’ economic reforms, leaving the institutional infrastructure to languish. Possibly the outcome the French fear most. Something like this may in fact be what happens.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

27 thoughts on “Latvia Votes Yes

  1. Liels paldies, Latvija!

    Although French and the Netherlands are bigger and more economically-prosperous than you, you will always be more of a European country. And a bigger country in all of our hearts. Thank you for breaking the trend and showing that the Constitution does work and that it’s only French and Netherlandic jealously of “jobs moving east” that is stopping it.

    To the other people here – it’s small countries like Latvia that are the true heroes of European integration. Now that the big stagnant giants are turning away, it’s these beauties that we turn to for hope.

    Sorry if I’m ranting, I just needed to express my happiness that something is at least happening right in the EU!

  2. Doug: “As for Plan Blair, isn’t it interesting that the ‘no’ voters in France believe the EU brings excessive Anglo-American liberalism, while the ‘no’ voters in the UK believe the EU brings excessive Franco-German socialism?”

    Years back, long before AFOE, I had an engaging online discussion with an American ex-pat, whose permanent residence was then in France, about France’s long and deeply embedded historic tradition of dirigisme going back at least to Colbert during the reign of Louis XIV in the 17th century, if not earlier.

    He and I agreed that in France’s Fifth Republic, it had made little difference to France’s official industrial policy whoever was in provisional occupancy of the French presidency. He attributed the basic continuation of industrial policy since WW2 to the pervasive influence of L’Ecole Nationale d’Administration, of which Giscard d’Estaing, Jacques Delors, Chirac, Laurent Fabius, and Alain Jupp? are all graduates – if only to mention the more prominent.

    Admiration in Britain of the apparent linkage in France between planning concert? and better economic performance had motivated the Macmillan government here to set up the National Economic Development Council and Office in 1962 because of mounting political concerns then about Britain’s flagging economic performance. Indeed, much the same line of thinking on the part of the Macmillan government had led to Britain’s first application in 1961 to sign up to the Treaty of Rome of 1957 and thereby join what was then generally called the European Common Market. Unfortunately, De Gaulle vetoed that application in due course, as well as the subsequent application made by the Wilson government in 1967. It wasn’t until after De Gaulle’s death in 1970 that the then Heath government in Britain made what was to eventually become the successful application for accession in Janauary 1973.

    However, correctly or otherwise, the prevailing view in Britain nowadays seems to be that the train of privatization and market liberalisation measures, originally started by the Thatcher governments during the 1990s, have had an altogether more profound effect on galvanising Britain’s economic performance. I have posted before here on the evidence in recent oficial sources of the beneficial effects of market liberalisation on Britain’s economy:

    It seems to me that the common theme motivating opposition to the EU Constitution in both France and Britain is a prevailing popular sentiment in both that we would each prefer to develop and adapt economic policies to suit our own national preferences and avoid the creation of European institutions that would inevitably increase and entrench pressures for policy harmonisation. Vive la difference.

  3. “Latvia Votes Yes”

    Er, “Latvia’s Parliament Votes Yes”, you mean? If it were up to the parliaments of France and the Netherlands, both countries would have voted “yes” as well, so this is hardly meaningful.

    “it?s small countries like Latvia that are the true heroes of European integration.”

    Yes, how heroic of the political elite of a small, new net-aid-recipient member of the EU to make such a decision on behalf of their populace, who simply can’t be trusted to have a direct say in such momentous decisions. Why, it just doesn’t get much more democratic than that!

    Face it, your beloved constitution is dead, and I say thank God for it. About the worst possible thing the European elite could do at this point is to ignore the Dutch and French electorates and try to keep powering ahead regardless: is there any doubt that both the British and the Danish electorates would say “No” and “Nej” if polled on their views, especially with the knowledge that others have done so and lived to see another day?

  4. Haven’t elites in one form or other always run Europe’s countries? As soak-the-middle class, lighten-the-burden-on-the-rich tax policies harden the hereditary castes, we can expect our own elites in the U.S. to gain more power. Already it seems all presidents must first go to Yale. How do you get into Yale? Money, my friend.

  5. net-aid-recipient member of the EU

    That is another important point. Yes by recipients and No by those who pay would be a bad sign.

  6. The distinction between the elites and the rest is clear – but I think the vote is not based entirely on what the legacy media claim. When one reads what is actually in the proposed constitution – any sane person would reject it – it is a mish mash of oddly bureaucratic requests, new “rights” – a right of “access” to free employment service? – to name only one, and other lunacies that probably are encouraging people to reject. Length does not encourage clarity.

  7. As soak-the-middle class, lighten-the-burden-on-the-rich tax policies harden the hereditary castes, we can expect our own elites in the U.S. to gain more power.

    Please, the tax cuts have only reduced the burden on all classes, with the share of the burden becoming even higher for the upper classes.

    If you really want to increase taxation on the elites, implement consumption taxes that will tax the sheltered income of the uber-wealthy who engage in conspicuous consumption.

  8. Why should one person pay far more for services, just because they are financially successful?

    Collectivists from National Socialism to Communism are motivated by jealousy top harm groups more successful than they are.#

    Income tax should be zero percent. There should be no punishment for financial success.

  9. Well Rob Read, when will you go to Somalia? I believe they pay no income taxes there.


  10. Bob B, thanks for the enlightening background!

    I don’t think there’s anything inherent in the slightly reworked instutitons under the constitution that makes them more susceptible to harmonization than the current structures. Blocking minorities would be somewhat more difficult to form, and national vetoes would be somewhat more restricted — but both of these are longer-term trends within the EU and don’t seem to have done much harm to date.

    Another interesting aspect of the debate is how thoroughly parliamentary government is getting dissed.

  11. “how thoroughly parliamentary government is getting dissed.”

    This is the problem with the referendum. It is historically a well known problem. Once you allow them through the door, you simply up the anti. I’m not against referendum in principle, but I think it is crazy to have one over the actual text of a constitution (as opposed to eg over whether you want a constitution in principle).

    This whole business has been a miscarriage from start to finish.They should never – eg – have agreed to the decision being taken in one way here, and in another there. Really if referendum are to become the way we do things Germany has to fix its regulations to permit them.

  12. Jerry – not to burst your bubble, but going back 60 years, I find only 4 past or current presidents with strong Ivy League connections: Bushs 1&2, Clinton and Kennedy and I doubt that the college-aged Clinton could claim much in the money column.

    That type of elitism exists, but I would bet that the most egregious examples fall in the academic, media, and board room arenas.

  13. whether you want a constitution in principle

    Saudia Arabia handed a copy of the quran to the UNO as its constitution. A vote on the principle would be nearly meaningless because the result of the negotiation on a constitution could not be predicted.

  14. DSW, said:

    “Well Rob Read, when will you go to Somalia? I believe they pay
    no income taxes there.”

    I wonder what the actual taxation per person per dollar of
    income in Somalia is. If we define taxation as a government taking
    money or its equivalent from its subjects, I would suspect that
    Somalia has a remarkably high taxation rate. I would also guess
    that the same pattern could be observed all across the third world.

    And I would guess that if we were to look at european taxation
    two centuries ago, that the real rates were awfully high, even
    if there were no such thing as an income tax.

    But I don’t know. How do we measure bribes and graft and extortion
    and all the ways the powerful have to take money from the weak?

  15. In the U.S., we seem to select our Presidents from a rather limited pool of talent:
    Veeps, Governors, Senators, former five-star generals, other cabinet-level players (maybe). And occasionally, we’ll toy with the idea of electing billionaires.

    All told, the potential Presidential candidate pool at its largest is probably about as big as the Vatican’s college of Cardinals.

    Yes ?

  16. Mark Amerman,
    I’m not sure where you are going with this comparison of taxation in a stable country versus the cost of living in an anarchic country.

    That the cost of the two is comparable when all the costs are weighed appropriately ?

    For a very few families, that might be the case. For the rest of us, the contention is ludicrous.

  17. Bush beat another Yale man. At least one other candidate last year, Joe Lieberman, went there. Al Gore, of course. Hillary is another. The choke hold is tightening.

  18. Sveiki!

    Well, I am a Latvian, and I think the con-stitution is a disgrace.

    The ONLY reason the Latvian Saeima (Parliament) ratified that wretched document is that we have been told by old Europe that the price if re-entry into Europe is acquiescence to the demands of the Franco-German Axis.

    Frankly, we want nothing to do with an EU superstate-we would then even lose the tiny voice we DO have and have worked so hard to reattain since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sure, we’ll take your development funds, CAP money and the rest, but we have done a pretty good job since 1991 up until a year ago (when we joined the EU) as it is.

    Just give us a common market, and the right for any EU citizen to live and work anywhere within the EU, treat us as equal people, and we will be more than happy with that.

    And if those out-of-touch anti-American elite in Brussels, and the unelected hacks with their snouts in the public trough in the Brussels politburo, start making any noises about some EUnuch army supplanting NATO, count us out.

    If it came down to us having to chose between the EU or NATO, something that has been talked about in lurid circles within euroland, count us the hell out of the EU. A referendum held in Latvia asking just that: “NATO or EU, but not both”, we would run out of the EU faster than an MEP cashing his or her EU travel allowance check.


  19. This whole business has been a miscarriage from start to finish.They should never – eg – have agreed to the decision being taken in one way here, and in another there. Really if referendum are to become the way we do things Germany has to fix its regulations to permit them.

    Just to play the contrarian (and reading a bunch of dumb US commentary on the referendums has got me feeling like the advocatus diaboli from hell), I thought we were all going vive la difference over here and agreeing that excessive harmonization was one of the sins that got the EU into its present pickle. Overturning 50 years of constitutional practice just to suit a bunch of outsiders doesn’t seem the way to go. Tain’t broke.

    On the other hand, I can see a good case for having all the ratification procedures within a fairly narrow time frame. One day, two weeks, a month, something like that. No need to dictate how a country ratifies, but practical reasons for doing it all at once. That would have been a substantive change, and a good one.

  20. Vive la difference.

    This saga would be really funny if it were not all so sad. The tale of the massive losses of the state-owned Cr?dit Lyonnais bank in France, diligently accumulated through many years of dedicated incompetence in the 1980s and early 1990s, is the ultimate revelation of what French dirigisme is capable of achieving unaided through imprudent transactions on a truly global scale.

    In July 1997, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the then finance minister, said the accumulated losses of Cr?dit Lyonnais were probably around FFr100 billion – or about $17 billion or ?10 billion. Eventually, by one means or another, French taxpayers will have to pay for all that.

    Something of the flavour of what happened and the fallout for the bank’s staff can also be gleaned from this rather aged, shorter report of 1999, still accessible on the BBC website:

    “Credit Lyonnais was once one of Europe’s biggest banks, with assets of $300bn. But it expanded rapidly in the 1990s, buying MGM Studios and other loss-making operations.

    “After two years of massive losses, the bank had to be rescued twice by the French Government, after the first rescue package proved inadequate.

    “The privatisation is part of a deal with the European Commission, which had questioned the cost of the bailout which it said could reach $150bn.

    “The bank has been forced to lay off large numbers of staff, with its workforce shrinking from 72,000 to 51,000 in three years as the bank returned to profitability.”

  21. Post script:

    Significantly or otherwise, a report dated 1 June in the Financial Times about the forthing EU summit in Brussels says:

    ” . . Mr Blair will be backed by Jos? Manuel Barroso, the liberal European Commission president, who has vowed to press ahead with his programme of economic reforms, including plans to cut state aid and to open up the EU market in services. . . ”,dwp_uuid=d4f2ab60-c98e-11d7-81c6-0820abe49a01.html

  22. Overturning 50 years of constitutional practice just to suit a bunch of outsiders doesn’t seem the way to go. Tain’t broke.

    How do you measure brokenness?
    Germany does know referenda. Nor can you claim that this idea lacks supporters in Germany.

    (2) Alle Staatsgewalt geht vom Volke aus. Sie wird vom Volke in Wahlen und Abstimmungen und durch besondere Organe der Gesetzgebung, der vollziehenden Gewalt und der Rechtsprechung ausge?bt.

    All public power derives from the people. It is exercised by the people in elections and referend and by special organs of legislation, the executive power and judical power.

    There are just not used in federal legislation. You cannot really claim that the european constitution is an ordinary bill of public legislation.
    Germany did limit civil rights for the sake of the EU. Changing the manner of ratification of treaties is small fry compared to that.

    Incidentally in the matter of civil rights the constitutional court is expected to rule unconstitutional the extradition directive in the near future.

  23. Wanting to both widen and deepen the EU was an understandable impulse, but not a practical one. Had the EU remained its Western European core, only integrating new nations when their political and economic institutions had sufficiently matured, then I think the push to enshrine a common constitution would potentially succeed. Europe has tried to have it both ways, and has overstretched badly.

  24. …….to both widen and deepen the EU was an understandable impulse, but not a practical one……

    But some members wanted one and the others the other. We compromised and got both.

    I am very glad that we got expansion through before the revolt began. I just hope that the new members wise up fast as to the real costs of membership and start pushing for change.

    Now having successfully expanded, I thing the deepening process has come to an abrupt halt. I am a very happy man this week.

  25. Now having successfully expanded, I thing the deepening process has come to an abrupt halt.

    I don’t think it can simply halt. If it does there’ll be a backlash and it’ll go backwards somewhat.

  26. Yes, looks like that may go as far as some reassessing of the Euro by previously committed states…

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