Long live France

Posted: Jun 01, 2005 12:00 AM

French voters did themselves a favor -- and Americans, too -- on Sunday, when they voted down a single constitution for a homogenized Europe.

 As France debated the issue, it became clear that a major aim of the proposed European Union constitution was to begin building a new power bloc that could counter the United States and neutralize those peoples within Europe who persist in believing they share interests and values with the American people when it comes to the conduct of politics among nations.

 It would have done this by subordinating all 25 member nations to a single foreign and security policy bureaucracy.

 The proposed European Union constitution would have created a single European president and a single European foreign minister. European voters would not have been allowed to directly elect these chief executives of their new over-government, however. Instead, a council made up of European heads of state would have chosen them, subject to the approval of the European Parliament.

 The purpose of the new European president and foreign minister would have been to conduct a single European foreign and security policy.

 "The Union," said the draft constitution, "shall have competence to define and implement a common foreign and security policy, including the progressive framing of a common defense policy."

 "Member States," it said, "shall actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the Union's action in this area. They shall refrain from action contrary to the Union's interests or likely to impair its effectiveness."

 "Member States," it also said, "shall make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defense policy, to contribute to the objectives defined by the Council."

 As the constitution was drafted, these powers were hedged by providing that decisions be made unanimously by member nations on foreign policy questions. That would have either rendered the EU foreign-policy apparatus a paper tiger, similar to the U.N. Security Council, or led to future changes fully and effectively consolidating foreign-policy power in the central European government.

 If the latter occurred, the EU could direct all of Europe to side with, or against, America in future international crises.

 One strong clue of the direction the EU might take with such power can be found on the business pages of Tuesday's newspapers, where it was reported that the United States will sue the EU in the World Trade Organization because of the EU's ongoing subsidies for Airbus.

 A consortium of European governments formed Airbus more than three decades ago to compete in the global market for commercial jetliners. In those days, multiple American manufacturers dominated the field. Since then, backed by billions in government subsidies, Airbus has forced the U.S. jetliner industry to consolidate into a single manufacturer, Boeing. And Airbus now controls a bigger share of the global market than Boeing.

 EU's Airbus subsidies have an unmistakable aim -- and it is not to advance free trade. It is to defeat in global competition the last U.S. manufacturer of jetliners.

 Given control of a unified European foreign and security policy, would the EU treat the United States as any less of a rival?

 In the last great international crisis -- the question of what to do about Saddam Hussein -- EU nations split on whether they were with America or against her. England, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic were among those supporting the United States. France and Germany, whose governments have led the charge for the EU constitution, were not. Because a single European constitution did not commit these nations to a single foreign policy, they weighed their own interests and went their own ways.

 But what path would a single Euro-government follow in a crisis that pits, say, the United States against China? Hint: Airbus is now fighting with Boeing for China's lucrative jetliner market.

 In his ill-fated push for French ratification of the EU constitution, French President Jacques Chirac unmistakably portrayed America as Europe's rival. "During his few appearances during this campaign," noted the Economist, "Mr. Chirac has drawn on one of his favorite themes: the need to create 'a European power', strong enough 'to count in tomorrow's world' faced with the American superpower, as well as with rising powers such as China. Such a 'Europe puissance', with its own defense capability, would naturally be of French inspiration, not 'Anglo-Saxon, Atlanticist.' It is a popular theme, which Mr. Chirac used to near-universal French acclaim when opposing the Iraq war."

 But French voters would not trade their sovereignty for Chirac's dream of a European superpower that can thwart the United States. The world will be a better for it.