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).

Options Consequences
Keeping the Status Quo: “Nice Forever”
  • Setback for the process of European integration.
  • Persistence of the reform-indigent Treaty of Nice.
Implementation of a number of constitutional elements based on the existing Treaties.
  • Implementation without the package-deal logic (of EU compromises)
  • Increased intransparency of European primary and secondary law
  • Only fragmentary implementation administrative reforms possible in this scenario, lack of fundamental elements of the desired institutional reforms.
Implementation of certain elements of the Constitution by a number of ratifying member-states within or outside of the existing treaties.
  • Scenario with limited applicability:
    • Amount of prerequisites for the “increased cooperation” option within the treaties (last possible option)
    • Sectoral policy agreements cannot achieve the desired institutional reforms.
Repetition of referendum without changes to text
  • Politically risky, as electorate will likely feel offended.
Second conference of governments and renewed ratification process
  • Danger of a substancially shallow Constitution ridden with bad (worse…) compromises.
  • Danger of failure of second conference, leading to ever harsher conflicts of interests
  • delayed coming into force of reformed institutions.
  • but: possibilty of an improved Constitution.
Mini conference of governments
  • changes to only a couple of elements.
  • likely no need for another referendum in other member-states.
Symbolic concessions and opt-out rules
  • needs clear cut issue-areas of contention, useless in case of rejection because of the electorate’s EU fatigue or lack of affection
  • limited only to the Charta of Rights, not possible with respect to the institutional reforms
Coming into force of the Constitution only in those EU member-states that have ratified it
  • co-existence of two Unions with different, yet partly overlapping membership
  • Decisions concerning identical issues with possibly contradicting outcomes.
Voluntary exit of non-ratifying member-state
  • Enormous costs for exiting member-state.
  • Depending on the importance of the state, political and economic costs for the remaining EU.
  • Possibly fundamental shift in the dynamic of integration
Exit of the ratifying member-states and entry into the “Constitution-EU” without the non-ratifyers
  • Co-existence of two unions with different membership.
  • Need of institutional relations of the old and the new union.
  • Possibly two unions with a common super-structure.

17 thoughts on “We don’t have a Plan B.

  1. “………If you want Europe to become a suburb of Shanghai, you should vote No.”

    Mario Monti, former European Competition Commissioner, as quoted by the Financial Times this evening in an article entitled Schr?der echoes Chirac call for French Yes vote

    Is this the kind of scaremongering European politicians should engage in Tobias? Fear of China is already massive in the Euro Ghetto …..

  2. “So scaring the voters a little seems like a reasonable approach to me.”
    Please tell us that now you read it back it is not exactly what you meant to say.

  3. Making people worried about the threat of real dangers is not “scaremongering”.

    The collapse of Europe as a united front means that Russia and China will divide and conquer the European Continent using gas, oil and military presence (Russia) and vast human workforces (China) and the equivalent economic power that represent.

    Europe needs to stay united.

  4. To much stick, not enough carrot.
    If you scare people they will rally to the status quo.

  5. The European continent overrun by the Chinese – this is not just scaremongering it is bordering on paranoid racist nonsense.

    Protectionism is the “new deal” being proposed by the likes of Chirac and Schroeder to counter the fear of the “yellow horde”. This is pure defeatism, it could well lead to a growing divide between the rich and poor nations, but I think it far more likely to contribute to the continued hollowing out of core Eurozone states like France and Germany, and lead them to utter economic misery.

    What is it about such politicians, and those that think like them, that gives them notions that somehow European products, services, and culture are forms of endangered species of such superior quality that they require protection. It is inverted snobbery. It demonstrates a lack of confidence in the ability of Europe to compete. It is also a reactionary desire for the old Europe, and old world, that passed away in the closing decades of the last century when the Iron Curtain fell and the nations of Asia became the drivers of global economic growth.

    Europe needs new more dynamic, ambitious, and forward thinking politicians ready to embrace the future. What is not required are the “old and in the way” like Chirac whose views and policies are informed by a nostalgia for the past.

  6. One is reminded of the Cold War joke about the Pole who is offered three wishes. Each time he wishes for the Chinese to invade Poland – and leave.
    The exasperated good fairy asks why.
    “Because they’ll have to cross Russia six times!”

  7. One is reminded of the Cold War joke about the Pole who is offered three wishes. Each time he wishes for the Chinese to invade Poland – and leave.
    The exasperated good fairy asks why.
    “Because they’ll have to cross Russia six times!”

  8. Peter J, Chinese competitiveness partly arises out of the absolute power that the Chinese government has to crush all worker demands underfoot. Slave labour, pure and simple, no power to unionize or protest in order to try and increase wages.

    It’s easy to talk about free market economics, when the Chinese themselves don’t have the right to enjoy such freedoms.

    You may call it “reactionary” to object to competing with the Chinese under such terms, I on the other hand think it’s reactionary to ignore Chinese internal oppression and therefore force Europe’s truly free workers to compete on equal terms with slaves working under the whip of their masters. The outcome of such a thing can only be that the workers in both the free world and the enslaved one end up crushed.

    If on the other hand European acceptance of Chinese goods hinged absolutely on the Chinese state allowing its workers actual rights, that would be good for both sides of equation: Wages would increase for Chinese workers, and this would mean that European workers wouldn’t have to compete with slave-labour either. The playing field would truly become even.

  9. Who’s writing “The Federalist Papers” for the EU Constitution? And doing so on a EU-wide scale? I’m amazed at how each country is having a seperate internal debate with few proponents speaking across countries. I guess I’m trying to figure out who’s the Alexander Hamilton and James Madison of Europe?

    As an American married to a Greek/EU citizen it seems that there are many positive and populist arguments that should be made (on a pan-European scale): prosperity and peace from sea to shining sea (North/Baltic to Mediterranean/Black); common borders common security; etcetera. It seems maddening how each referedum, etc. is so parochial. Hell, forget sticks and carrots, how about irony? “Vote No! Bush Says So!”

  10. This whole discussion seems strangely devoid of facts. What exactly is the benefit of adopting the new Constitution? It seems quite unwieldly and long, far longer than most national constitutions, for example.

    It would be nice to have someone actually defend the document, as opposed to scaremongering or appealing to some kind of idealistic “united europe”.

    In no news reports do I hear politicians in favor of a yes vote actually discussing the pros and cons of the new constitution. Where are the federalist papers?

  11. Well, the reality is that the constitution is a terribly dull document, and many of the changes are in instituional strucutures and procedures, rather than in policy. So its not sexy. And so the debate turns on grand themes – even if they are largely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    I have to say though, that the rhetoric of Chirac and Schroeder makes me shiver – this view that Europe needs to protect itself against competition is, in the long run, the road to ruin. Perhaps they are just playing to the gallery – but I suspect not.

  12. What exactly is the benefit of adopting the new Constitution?

    It improves decision-making by abolishing national vetoes in several areas of policy. This is crucial for any further enlargement of the Union. The treaty of Nice, decided with 15 member-states, can’t remain functional with a union of 27, 29, 33 or 41. So the first thing you can expect from a “no” to the Constitution is a final bye-bye to any chance of Ukrainians or Georgans or Moldovans of ever joining the Union in the next half-century.

    (That’s also the reason why standing still on the treaty front is actually moving backwards — enlargement without integration means de facto dissolution. Like Alice we need to keep on moving just to stay where we are — if we want to progress we need to move twice as quick.)

    It introduces the European citizens’ initiative which provides the first elements of direct democracy on a pan-European level.

    It abolishes the rotating presidency which has been the cause of much woe and arbitrariness.

    Instead of bargained arbitrary numbers of votes which insanely gave Germany (with much larger population) as many votes as France and only 2 more than half-the-size Poland, we have a simpler method of double-qualified majority (population represented and number of states) in the Council of Ministers.

    It introduces the charter of fundamental rights.

    It introduces the idea of the mutual support of member-states in the case of terrorist attack, and provides a mechanism where countries may abstain but yet not hinder from military operations taken by the European Union.

    And finally it may seem unwiedly to you, but you need to compare it with the treaties it’s abolishing, not with the US Constitution. The European Constitution is not replacing the US Constitution (with which some people *love* to compare it, not seeing it’s an apples and oranges thingy), it’s replacing the Treaty of Nice and the Treaty of Rome as have been amended so many times we’ve lost count.

  13. It is hard to argue pros and cons before you have agreed on desirable goals.

    And, if you call something “constitution”, with all that psychologically implies, than you should better be ready to face a comparison with other constitutions. You can’t have it both ways.

  14. “It is hard to argue pros and cons before you have agreed on desirable goals.”

    I’d say this happens all the time in parliaments. It’s not like Labour and the Conservatives agree on desirable end states for Britain, for instance…

  15. Yes, it does. And it’s a main reason they make speeches for tv and then vote along party lines. I wouldn’t call that a discussion. Public statements of intent perhaps.

  16. Aris,

    I’m sure you are right that many Chinese workers are being exploited – it’s the same in many developing nations, and even in some of the new EU member states.

    On China. Bear in mind that France and Germany are more than happy to do with business with the Chinese, and even wish to sell arms to China as well as the new Airbus. Yet, at the same time they want to restrict China from selling its goods in the EU.

    Is there something schizophrenic about their policy stance on China, or is it simply a case of wanting to have their cake and eat it. On the face if it looks like a combination of both. Personally I think these politicians are being less than honest and will say one thing to the public at home and quite another in their summit meetings with the Chinese.

    Given the existing levels of European business investment in China I suspect that any protectionist measures sought by Chirac, if they come to fruition, will in effect be discreetly watered down. The devil is in the detail, and I expect the reality is that the situation would remain much as it is now.

    As for the carrot of arms sales, it is no longer much of a carrot for the Chinese; the likelihood of the arms sales being approved in the European Parliament is very slim. France may of course choose to act bilaterally on the issue …..

    The pressure of market forces will, I believe, force reform in China far more quickly than coercion; free trade and consumerism are dragons that even the Chinese Communist Party is finding difficult to control.

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