Bloggeurs In The News

On Thursday it was John Thornhill in the FT, then yesterday Stephen Castle of the Independent joined in. Topic du jour: the battle in cyberspace for the hearts and minds of the French voters.

Conspiracy Theory One: the US administration wants Europe to adopt the constitutional treaty because it would kill off nation states and allow Washington to deal with a more pliable Brussels.

Conspiracy Theory Two: the Bush administration is secretly financing the No campaign in France because it wants to kill off Europe’s ambitions to forge a common foreign policy and rival the US on the world stage.
Financial Times Thursday 28 April

One says that a vote for the EU constitution would please George Bush; another uses a computer game format with arrows from a “yes” vote to a “game over” box. Not only are French opponents of the EU constitution ahead in the opinion polls they are also winning the battle of the blogs.
Independent Saturday 30 April

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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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French Socialists say ‘yes’ to the Constitution

After an internal party referendum, France’s Socialists have agreed to back the EU Constitution. Approximately 80% of party members voted in the referendum, with 55% of them voting for the party to support the Constitution in the national referendum planned for next year. It also strengthens the position of party leader Francois Hollande, boosting his chances of being the party’s nominee for President in 2007.

Formerly Known as FYROM

This blog doesn’t usually resound with praise for the far-sighted wisdom and diplomatic cunning of the Bush administration. (Neither does my own blog, for that matter.)

So I thought I’d be a bit contrarian, and point to a recent episode where Bush, or Colin Powell, or undersecretary of state Marc Grossman, or /someone/, seems to have done something wonderfully and exactly right.

Macedonia: small country in the Balkans, former Yugoslav Republic. Gained independence in 1991. For fourteen years, has been officially entitled, not Macedonia, but “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” — aka FYROM. This ugly neologism came into existence purely and entirely because the idea of a country called “Macedonia” drove Greek nationalists gibbering crazy.

(No, don’t ask. It doesn’t make any sense at all, and never did, so never mind. Oh, we could go into stuff like the early-’90s rivalry between Mitsotakis and Papandreou, and how they and their parties got locked into an escalating spiral of whipping up nationalist opinion on this stupid, stupid issue, but never mind. Just take it as given.)

So: on November 3 — the very first day after the election — the Bush administration announced that, after fourteen years, it was going to start recognizing Macedonia by the name it wanted to be recognized: i.e., Macedonia. And that there’d be no more of this FYROM stuff, thanks.

So why was this such a good thing?
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Turkish Accession Back On The Slow Track?

Despite the recent revival of optimism about the forthcoming Turkey negotiations following the apparent resolution of the ‘adultery ban’ issue, it is clear to everyone that significant hurdles still remain to be overcome. Among these may now need to be added a referendum on Turkish membership in France.

Turkey will not join the European Union for at least 15 years and could only do so once France had held a referendum on the issue, French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday.

?The membership of Turkey, in the best of cases, will not happen for 15 years,? he told LCI television. ?A decision as important as the membership of Turkey in Europe could only be taken after there had been a referendum in France.?…….

He was sceptical about the idea ?not because it is a Muslim country but because Turkey alone represents the membership of the 10 countries (mainly) from eastern Europe?, he said, referring to the countries that joined the bloc this year.

Sarkozy made his comments after French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin voiced misgivings on Thursday about Turkey joining the bloc, asking if Europe really wanted ?the river of Islam to enter the riverbed of secularism?.

Raffarin said Turkey had made progress in adjusting its laws and institutions to EU standards under Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, but queried the overwhelmingly Muslim but secular state?s ability to stay the course.
Source: Financial Times

Clearly everyone involved in the debate is aware of the problem of Turkey staying ‘on course’. Clearly also it is difficult for any democrat to object to the principle of ‘citizen consultation’ about important issues, still it is important to note the growing recourse to the referendum as the means of making such consultation (this process will probably reach a climax with next year’s votes on the proposed EU constitution). This would seem to be an additional hurdle for Turkey, given that such a procedure was not followed in the case of the recent round of accession.
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Eta And The Spanish Elections

As someone who lives and works in Barcelona (capital of Catalonia, and formal definition in the eyes of the local nationalists of being Catalan), it is really rather frustrating to find that about the only time we make it to the European headlines (apart, of course, from when Bar?a wants to buy some world famous footballer like Beckham) is when one of the players in the greater-Spanish political arena – in this case Eta – wants to exploit some situation or other here to its own advantage. Outside of this context (and with, of course, the honourable exception of George Orwell) Catalonia is little heard of, and even less understood.
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