A couple of weeks ago, Versac from the French blog Publius sent me a bunch of questions concerning my views on the EU and the Constitution. They’re interviewing a number of non-French bloggers in this way. I thought I’d publish my answers here. A sample:
The main negative thing is that it’s giving the EU more power, competences, and I think that’s inappropriate before the democratic deficit is addressed. Also, it may lead to more judicial activism, which is bad.
Voting no is a bit of a gamble, since you can’t be sure it will push the governments in the desired direction, and not for example rule out Turkish membership to get it passed, or end up drafting an even worse constitution. But the happy scenarios seem likelier than the bad ones. We need to bloody the politician’s noses. Above all the present situation is unacceptable, and no real reform seems imminent. We need to seize the rare chance to set the EU on a new course, towards democracy and accountability. By rejecting the constitution, all bets are off.
I’m quite fond of representative democracy, and don’t think replicating the Swiss or Californian system would be a particularly good idea. I do however think that referendums are an occasionally vital and necessary part of democracy, and to do away with them, like the German constitution does, would be a great mistake.
There are situations where referendums are the only acceptable alternative. As a supporter of representative democracy I disagree with people who say that this or that issue is too important to be dealt with by the normal electoral process. But I do think I think referendums are necessary when an issue is 1) divisive 2) vitally important and 3) the normal partisan system cannot properly deal with, because the fault lines are different. As a corollary, anytime sovereignty is involved, I think an issue has to be pretty minor for you not to hold a referendum.
Most of the referendums on EU memberships are textbook cases of this situation. In the case of Sweden, nearly half of voters opposed Swedish entry and for most of the campaign the no side led. Without a referendum they would have had to vote for the Green or Left parties if they wanted to stop our entry. Both quite radical non-mainstream parties who together held less than 10% of the vote. In some countries all parties were for membership. In these instances I feel not holding a referendum would be undemocratic, and would to some degree disenfranchise (to use an American term) the whole electorate. Continue reading →
Many early proponents of democracy believed that public education was of utmost importance for the people to be able to exercise democracy. I am not sure whether they thought of graduation ceremonies of the kind Viktor Yushchenko is planning to hold in Kyiv today – yet it seems that everyone wearing orange will receive a certificate of democracy – “We want everybody who is related to the Orange revolution to have one. We will give this certificate to everyone tomorrow!” said Yushchenko according to Maidan. Continue reading →
Some orange in Brussels.About a week ago, I wondered what the chances were for an explosion when hundreds of thousands of people are smoking at a gas station. Unfortunately, now their leaders seem to have begun fooling around with the gas pump handles in truly ‘zoolanderesque’ manner.
More and more commentators seem to be afraid about Russia’s hardline stance and the possible geopolitical fallout of the Orange Revolution, while such a realpolitical approach offends others for the little concern it has for the people freezing for freedom – or, more precisely, a little democracy and approximate rule of law.
As so often, it’s a little both. And to avoid an explosion, both conceptual layers need to be given the appropriate consideration: How to make sure no one, and above all the Ukrainian people, ends up paying the bill for continuing a pointless conflict when the Orange Revolution, this plebiscite on modern governance, is actually opening up a whole range of opportunities for Ukraine, Russia, and the West, and – particularly – the EU. Continue reading →
It?s interesting that American conservative bloggers like Glenn Reynolds and Jonah Goldberg are touting the idea of making Vaclav Havel the UN Secretary General. I like the idea ? but for what I suspect are completely different reasons than the Instapundit crowd. Continue reading →
This is an intersting night. Checking news sites and blogs one last time before getting some sleep – reading about Mr Yushenko’s declaration that the “struggle had only just begun” and rumors about a $21,6m bribe to the head of the election commitee, I can’t fight the impression that the quiet winter night the live stream from Kiev is showing me as I am writing these lines is indeed the calm before something even stormier than what we have witnessed by wire since the election’s preliminary results were announced.
Like Nick in his summary below, many people are beginning to try to put the events into perspective ( for example The Economist, PBS), to broaden their historical and political knowledge of Ukraine, to locate similar events that may shed some light on the the driving forces of the orange revolution (working title): what are the underlying interests, what are the fundamental trends, and what are the chaotic elements in this situation – where the rules have run out, and the locus and balance of power can be tipped by any rumor. The Carnegie Endowment’s Michael McFaul stated in an interview today “that somebody has to blink now or there’s going to be war”. Who knows. But what are the chances of a fire when several hundred thousand people are smoking at a gas station? Continue reading →
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has addressed the Ukrainian situation in a statement. He said the US does not accept the results of the election. Reuters has a summary (check the State Department website later for a full transcript):
Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday the United States did not accept the results of the disputed election in Ukraine as legitimate and called for immediate action.
Powell urged Ukraine’s leaders to “respond immediately” or there would be consequences in the relationship between the two countries.
His comments echo – even down to the strong warning of unspecified ‘consequences’ those made by Barroso and Solana for the EU earlier today and I think indicates that there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes so that the EU and US show a united front on this issue. As I’ve noted in the ‘Uh-oh’ post below, the signs are that there will be negotiations between the two sides (interestingly, the Kyiv Post reports that Lech Walesa is on his way to aid negotiations) and the prospect of violence is thankfully shrinking.
Update: The full text of Romano Prodi’s speech can be found here and I’ve copied it below, so you can click on the ‘continue reading’ link to see it as the English HTML link on the site doesn’t seem to be working (pdf and doc links are). Continue reading →
The European Commission won’t release its report on the possibility of opening accesion talks with Turkey until 6 October. But after expansion commissioner G?nter Verheugen’s comments yesterday, the report will not be much of a surprise. ‘There are’, said Verheugen, ‘no further barriers‘ to beginning talks.
(All the links to outside sources in this post, incidentally, are to German-language sites. At the moment there’s nothing about this on the FAZ English-language site, but you might check there later in the day if you can’t read German.)
In the comments to my recent post on the NPD’s electoral gains in Brandenburg, Otto suggests that the German CDU step up its resistance to a possible Turkish entry. Apparently the Union is paying attention to Otto, for party chief Angela Merkel was prompt to announce that she will seek allies elsewhere in Europe to keep the Turks draussen vor der T?r. And taking up most of the front page of the print edition of today’s Die Welt — the reliably right-wing sister paper to the Bild-Zeitung, but unlike Bild intended for those who can read words of more than one syllable — are ‘Ten Reasons Why Turkey Should Not Be Allowed to Join’.
Strangely enough my first reaction to this all-out onslaught by the Union was one of compassion and concern. ‘Bloss keine Panik, Leute!’, I wanted to say, giving their well-coiffed heads a reassuring pat. For you see, Turkey is not about to join the EU after all. All that the Commission has done (and indeed, officially it hasn’t even done that yet) is to say it’s all right to start talking with the Turks about the possibility of an eventual accession. In those talks Europe will, among other things, negotiate with the Turks the conditions and timeline for a possible entry. There is no guarantee that Turkey will accept (or fulfil) the EU’s conditions. And accession, if it comes at all, will not be for many years. Continue reading →
On February 6th, just when I thought it was actually possible to escape the ?German reform debate? for only a couple of days, on the way from the slopes to the fireplace, Gerhard Schroeder hit back through the airwaves. A coalition of campaigning regional party establishment and the inevitable loony lefties had apparently won their war of attrition against the Chancellor. Reforming Germany is not just hard. It is harder. Continue reading →