No regrets

by Henry on May 30, 2005

A few thoughts in response to the (not exactly unexpected) outcome in France.

(1) The old way of pushing European integration – agreements among political elites, followed by the odd referendum here and there – is dead. My best-guess prediction – a lot more emphasis in the future on ‘informal’ integration processes such as the Lisbon agenda. I also predict that some of the key issues will be revisited in a future quasi-constitutional text, which will attempt to lay down the law for once and for all. There are a number of dry-as-dust issues regarding the balance between different institutions, between member states on the Council etc which aren’t attracting much attention outside the specialist community now, but which are likely to provoke interesting political crises down the line. Hence, I think there will be another effort to push through Treaty change a few years from now – but unlike previous efforts, it will be proceeded by a widespread and vociferous public debate. The last Constitutional Convention tried very hard to create political buzz and debate, and failed miserably. Their successors won’t have much difficulty in getting attention, for better or for worse.

(2) The Turkish accession process is likely to be a lot more robust than people are giving it credit for being at the moment. The major political decision was taken last year, to open up negotiations with Turkey. The next major political decision comes at least a decade from now, when the member states and Parliament decide whether or not to accept Turkey as a member state. In the meantime, the political running will be made by the European Commission, which is the only body involved in direct negotiations. It’s going to be hard for grumpy member states to disrupt this, even if they want to. Frank Schimmelfennig had a great article in International Organization a few years ago, talking about how the states of Central and Eastern Europe became members of the EU - despite the unwavering opposition of key member states such as France. The processes that he identifies aren’t as powerful in the Turkish case as in the East European one – but they will make it harder to reverse negotiations than one might imagine. The only situation in which I can see Turkey’s accession being seriously endangered is if renewed opposition from the Christian Democratic right (and parts of the left) coincide with reluctance on Turkey’s part to make the necessary concessions in terms of human rights, the role of the military etc etc.

(3) The above said, I do suspect that we are going to see more overt opposition within the European Union to Turkey, e.g. the election of a significant number of candidates on an anti-Turkey platform in the next round of elections to the European Parliament. More generally, depending on how the Christian Democrats finesse this, the extreme right may be able to make hay with this. Contrary to the usual implications in the blogosphere, West European neo-Nazis rely less on anti-Semitism than on ‘Little Green Footballs’ style xenophobia to drum up popular appeal; Turkey is potentially a winning issue for them.

(4) Finally, I suspect that there are tough decisions ahead for the European left. While the Glyn Morgan piece that Chris links to is correct in arguing that some leftists are reaching for the security blanket of nationalism, they clearly will find it far more awkward to make that grab than do their competitors on the right. Herbert Kitschelt (link to Google Scholar page) made an argument a decade ago that still holds. European social democrats are in a sticky position, in that they need to appeal to two, very different electorates in order to win elections. On the one hand, their traditional base is in the working class (which is economically left-wing but often socially conservative). On the other, they’ve often succeeded in appealing to a new set of ‘postmaterialist’ voters, who are usually more centrist on economic issues, but a lot more left wing on cultural ones). If they want to win, they need both – but the two adhere to very different ideas of what the left is (one is on the economic left, the other is on the cultural left). It seems to me that European social democrats can move in one of two directions. Either they can rework the economic cleavage so as to attract middle class voters as well as the working class, by stressing how the middle class too is subject to economic instability and insecurity. Or they can try to remake the cultural cleavage, by seeking to persuade voters that stronger border controls, opposition to Turkish membership etc aren’t xenophobic, and that Islam is ‘different,’ fundamentally anti-liberal etc etc. My hope is that they go for the former rather than the latter, but I’d hesitate to lay any bets on whether this hope is likely to be confirmed by reality.

{ 23 comments }

1

P O'Neill 05.30.05 at 11:28 am

Another complication for the European left is the divergence in interests created by the size of the public sector. Much of the left agenda in France is driven by the preferences of the unionised public sector — lower hours, higher pay — but the traditional working class that Henry refers to sees the other side of this equation — the higher taxes and loss of competitiveness of their traditional sources of employment. It’s not easy to see how they can play to both audiences at the same time. The French plumber worried about Jerzy from Cracow taking his job wasn’t as concerned with getting his long Pentecost weekend as Francois Hollande thought he was.

2

abb1 05.30.05 at 11:50 am

I think if they decide to go after the postmaterialists, they’ll lose everything quickly, like the US Democrats. Petite bourgeoisie are a pretty much natural constituency of the center-right.

Also, is it really impossible (hypothetically) to evaluate the Turkey membership and immigration issues based purely on economics and find yourself in the opposition? And so – wouldn’t this opposition have nothing to do with xenophobia and/or intricacies of Islam?

3

Henry 05.30.05 at 11:55 am

poneill- I think this is right on target. Also plays into US labour politics of course, and the Stern vs. Sweeney battle. I was a little suspicious at first of Stern (my first approximation response to any labour leader who gets favourable write-ups in the _Economist_ is suspicion) but I think he’s absolutely right – the only way that the labour movement can grow is by moving the spotlight from the shrinking ranks of those in relatively protected environments (public service etc) to those who aren’t organized, and should be.

4

charlie b. 05.30.05 at 12:25 pm

I’ll happily take bets on the Turkey insanity being officially and completely “off” very soon, especially after the Dutch result is in – those oxymoronic creatures, enlightened EU bureaucrats, notwithstanding. The idea that opposition to Turkish membership on cultural grounds amounts to xenophibia and might be a winning issue for racists, leads one to wonder why anyone would be so attached to the idea in the first place. It would surely best be dropped.

I’m sure the left is in for a hard time – with resurent Trotskyites and the Socialist party split down the middle for the second time in 3 years. Well, little children will insist on messing their pants.

Rather more attention to the Euro seems likely. How do you put that right?

5

otto 05.30.05 at 1:13 pm

“The last Constitutional Convention tried very hard to create political buzz and debate, and failed miserably.”

I can think of no evidence to support this. By making the convention an assembly of like-minded insiders appointed by prime ministers and mainstream opposition leaders, there was never going to be any debate, or any result other than more centralisation of power at the EU level, and rejection by the elements of civil society excluded from the process was always a very likely outcome. The whole Convention process was a rubber-stamp process, rightly treated as suspect.

“Frank Schimmelfennig had a great article in International Organization a few years ago, talking about how the states of Central and Eastern Europe became members of the EU – despite the unwavering opposition of key member states s
such as France.”

Schimmelfennig is interesting, but there was in fact no unwavering opposition from France, just tepid acquisence. F. Schm. dresses up modest variations in enthusiasm as extreme differences. If the French had actually opposed EU enlargement it would not have happened. There is not one piece of evidence in FSch’s book which shows that France was unwaveringly opposed, nor have I ever heard any such evidence elsewhere.

“The major political decision was taken last year, to open up negotiations with Turkey. The next major political decision comes at least a decade from now, when the member states and Parliament decide whether or not to accept Turkey as a member state.”

The UK negotiations in the 1960s show otherwise: any member state can say at any time that they are breaking off negotiations, no longer support the accession candidate, and that is that. The Turks would be talking to themselves, even if in the company of the European Commission.

The fundamental point is that there is zero civil society support for Turkish membership of the EU in any member state. The forces in favour are US policy-makers and their think-tank associates and HMG. It’s quite possible that the French government will decide to end the Turkish negotiations as part of a second referendum campaign on the treaty (or subsequent “constitutionalisation” effort). I dont think any referendum on an EU topic in France is winnable without abandoning Turkish accession. American and British displeasure is, how can one say, something the French have shown that they are happy to live with.

6

nikolai 05.30.05 at 1:58 pm

Otto’s completely right. If France had been *unwaveringly* opposed to Central and Eastern European states joining the EU it would have been vetoed and would not have happened.

Turkey’s accession is far from automatic. There are lots of problems in the way. Politically, the size of Turkey makes it’s accession destabilising, in a way that small Eastern European states joining wasn’t. It also doesn’t recognise the existence of one of the 25 EU states and has occupying troops stationed upon EU soil – that isn’t a minor problem.

Otto’s right that Turkish accession is being driven by UK think-tanks and the US in one of its periodic attempts to sabotage the European project. Off the top of my head any of the following nations are likely to veto Turkey: France, Germany, Holland, Austria, Greece, Cyprus. There are still huge barriers in the way.

7

el 05.30.05 at 3:35 pm

In fact, I am quite happy at this result. Doubly too if the Dutch followed through with a no. It should be noted that Eastern expansion is guaranteed with the Nice treaty. What this confirms is that any movement towards the establishment of the European Political Community (EPC)proposed in the mid 1950s is on a back burner. Ironically, it is the combination of the Communists and the Gaullists that combined to defeat this treaty in the Fourth Republic.

For the French left, the opportunity to establish a united Popular Front to challenge the National Front is possible. I think the French citizenry would love this to occur. The opening is there as the left needs a strong challenger to either Sarkozy or De Villepin, who are the logical successors to Chirac. It should be noted that the last Popular Front government led by Jospin set France on the road to privatization. Unfortunately, this led to a crucial split orchestrated by Chevenement that led to the Socialists not making to the Presidency run-off. Will the left make this mistake again?

8

yabonn 05.30.05 at 3:40 pm

Ditto otto, with a difference. I can’t remember in all this campaign of turkey being spoken of, except by the usual nationalists (the real, minoritary ones, y’know, villier and le pen) or to agree the two things are not connected. Overall very low on everyone’s constitutional preoccupations.

As i go trough my aggregator, i see many variations on “the racist french” -and its milder, kinder, “nationalist” euphemism. How one would seriously try to explain that vote with nationalism, rather that an general discontent with the general social and economical situation is simply mind boggling. I just don’t get that urge to do so.

The economical-but-yet-national explanation amounts to say that someone afraid to lose his job due to outsourcing is a “nationalist”.

Eagerly awaiting the -maybe- future “nationalist” english no and the future “nationalist” dutch no.

9

abb1 05.30.05 at 3:53 pm

Well, the word ‘nationalism’ has many meanings. Economic nationalism is one, xenophobia is another. Gotta define the terms.

10

Henry 05.30.05 at 4:03 pm

I’m sorry Otto, but you’re dead wrong on the facts here (I’m writing as someone whose job it is to follow these things pretty closely). France was quite unequivocally opposed to Central-Eastern European enlargement in the early 1990’s as anyone who was around Brussels then will tell you. They feared, quite reasonably, that enlargement to the East would magnify Germany’s influence, and also water down parts of the EU that they liked (broadening v. deepening debate), while also potentially jeopardizing the CAP over the longer term. As for the last Constitutional Convention – I lost count of the attempts to make it exciting to the public through various roadshows, publicity events, interviews, leaks etc etc. All failed, of course – but that’s the point I’m making. The facts simply aren’t as you say they are.

Yabonn – you seem to be misinterpreting me here. There’s absolutely nothing above to suggest that opposition to Turkish accession played a major role in motivating the French no vote. And if you look at my previous post on the topic, I make it quite clear that we are beginning to see competing economic visions of Europe. My interest is in what happens from here. The deeper opposition to Turkey seems at the moment to be coming from the CDU in Germany. Although that said, I wouldn’t be half surprised if mutterings increased in France too, now that Chirac has been gravely weakened on the right.

11

yabonn 05.30.05 at 4:18 pm

Well, if the word doesn’t have the same undertones in english than in french i retract and apologize.

But turkey still has little explaining power in this, just as the polishness of the plumber.

The last time there was an election here, chirac lost 20 regions out of 22, and the situation went downhill. People are not happy and feel insecure, and voted on that. It’s not that complicated.

… Must be just grumpy for losing this one.

12

yabonn 05.30.05 at 4:26 pm

Henry :

Replying to abb1 in my 11, and crossed post with you. Note that i don’t agree neither on the nationalism of the guy merely afraid to have his job outsourced.

Morpheus, cure to all my grumpiness, here i come.

13

eirepol 05.30.05 at 4:35 pm

Henry is right when he says that European social democratic parties must renew themselves politically and electorally by linking poverty and exclusion with the interests of fairly prosperous but chronically insecure middle strata. This clearly requires greater attention to core economic interests and issues and, to some extent, a lessening of some of the postmaterialist currents. This will be difficult when traditional ties with trade unions have weakened and been replaced by a political marketing approach which sees the clash of interests as being detrimental to electoral success. This is the essence of Blairism. In Spain the PSOE seem to have a programme for government almost completely devoted to the secular liberal agenda and have nothing much distinctive to offer on the economy. In Ireland the Labour Party may have secured the support of advanced liberals but the trade union movement ignores it in favour of doing business with the ruling Fianna Fáil party in the corporatist arrangements which have been dominant since the late 1980s. To be fair, the SPD have been trying to grapple, not terribly well, with core economic issues. It now looks likely that the anchor party of European social democracy will be cast into opposition later this year by the German electorate and will have time to consider the issues raised recently by Franz Munterfering. I’m less worried about a turn by the left towards insular nationalism then I am by the prospect of continued pessimism/defeatism on key economic issues of vital interest to both organized labour and those who could potentially be brought into its orbit. For social democrats, it is as important to clearly delineate where economic interests differ as it is to articulate and affirm the universalist values of liberal democracy.

14

charlie b. 05.30.05 at 6:32 pm

Eirepol: “social democratic parties must renew themselves politically and electorally”. Does that mean “win”?

“the SPD have been trying to grapple, not terribly well, with core economic issues” Does this mean “lost”?

“For social democrats, it is as important to clearly delineate where economic interests differ as it is to articulate and affirm the universalist values of liberal democracy.” Does this mean “say something useful”?

15

otto 05.30.05 at 8:02 pm

“I’m sorry Otto, but you’re dead wrong on the facts here (I’m writing as someone whose job it is to follow these things pretty closely).”

Well, we disagree here. But this is just an appeal to your own authority, not evidence. You provide no evidence here, and neither do Schimmelfennig, Sedelmeier, Torreblanca or Wallace. Intense French opposition to EU enlargement is first assumed, then explained away. But it never existed with the intensity asserted.

“France was quite unequivocally opposed to Central-Eastern European enlargement in the early 1990’s as anyone who was around Brussels then will tell you. They feared, quite reasonably, that enlargement to the East would magnify Germany’s influence, and also water down parts of the EU that they liked (broadening v. deepening debate), while also potentially jeopardizing the CAP over the longer term.”

France had all these concerns – in mild degree. Ross Perot versus NAFTA: that’s unwavering opposition. France and EU enlargement: some anxiety, nothing more. They could live with enlargement as part of the wider EU deal.

“As for the last Constitutional Convention – I lost count of the attempts to make it exciting to the public through various roadshows, publicity events, interviews, leaks etc etc. All failed, of course – but that’s the point I’m making.”

These are claptrap consultation exercises which no one would think could support any policy but more centralisation of power at the EU level. A bit like much government or political “consultation” – see Adonis et al on the Poll Tax or the Labour Party’s big Consultation or Bush’s roadtrips for Social Security reform. It’s a mockery of participation which was rightly derided. Or do you think that mainstream UK public opinion’s (and many interest groups) view that the EU shd do much less was somehow reflected in the process? Or there is anyway in which it could have been?

I say that 1. many consultation processes are really a sham and lack of enthusiasm for them reflects that 2. the EU constitutional convention was really one of those. You will agree with 1. at least. And I will be suprised if you think that 2. isn’t at least partly true in this case. I am of the view that it’s 100% true.

“The facts simply aren’t as you say they are.”
Well, so far I am unpersuaded.

16

Henry 05.30.05 at 9:13 pm

Otto – my evidence is from having been around Brussels during that period, and talked to various people there. But even if you don’t want to take my word for it, this isn’t a bold claim that Schimmelfennig or I are making here – it’s generally accepted. Take a look at some of the other people who Schimmelfennig cites to, for starters. Or any of the academic literature on the topic. This is what (French) people were saying at the time. And as for the Constitutional Convention – the way it was structured was indeed an attempt to drum up public support. As far as I can tell, you don’t really seem to disagree. You just seem to dislike the end that they were pointing towards, the inherent elitism of the process and the notion that membership for Turkey could be anything but a plot foisted on the EU by anglocentric outsiders. Which are all reasonable viewpoints – but you’re letting your feelings about the legitimacy of the goals prejudice your views of what was actually happening in the politics at the time, and as a result getting the empirics pretty badly wrong.

17

Ben P 05.31.05 at 12:26 am

I’m slightly puzzled, eirepol:

What do you mean by “This is the essence of Blairism,” precisely? That it has been able to link the middle classes with traditional working class voters via a kind of idiosyncratic economic populism?

18

Publius 05.31.05 at 1:22 am

How neat; I dig through the comments and learn of a political philosophy I’d never heard of before: postmaterialism. I love it. From what I can read (and comprehend) of fit, it seems to fit my values and goals fairly well. Not quite Zen Buddhist detachment, or gospel-accurate Christianity, or 60’s drop-out or SubGenius Slack, but as close as I’ve ever seen in a political philosophy– quite refreshing. It’s the perfect antidote to early-industrial-age Marxism or the American-style advertising-saturated consumer-aholic Republicanism of “go get me my goddamned oil for my SUV and I don’t give a shit who you have to kill or torture to get it!”.

I agree that postmaterialism is never going to take root as long as there are so many on this planet with so many acute and desperate material needs– and as long as those who are rich in material wealth met are bombarded with advertising making them to feel inadequate and to greedily, endlessly crave more and more and more–, but a man can dream, I suppose.

19

abb1 05.31.05 at 2:21 am

Yabonn, I don’t know, if you read this for example: The Death of Globalism (sorry about the color), you’ll see that he uses ‘nationalism’ (especially what he calls ‘positive forms of nationalism’) simply as an antonym to ‘globalization'; protecting national socio-economic system from devastation caused by free flow of capital. I think this is exactly what’s going on here.

20

nikolai 05.31.05 at 8:38 am

Henry,

The reason I can’t get my head around your argument is that if France was *unequivocally* opposed to Central-Eastern European enlargement why didn’t they veto it? Surely France must have at least come around to a pro-enlargment view for it to happen – or am I missing something?

nik.

21

Henry 05.31.05 at 8:56 am

Hi Nikolai

It’s a very interesting story – and the Schimmelfennig piece is the best account I’ve read of it (although it does have a fair amount of IR jargon in there – it’s writtne for the academic audience). What Schimmelfennig says – and I think he’s right on this – is that the French were never able to publicly act on their true preferences so as to veto membership because of how rotten this would have looked, given the public pronouncements that EU leaders had made about the birth of democracy in central and Eastern Europe etc. Effectively, they were shamed into compliance with a normative discourse that they didn’t internalize.

22

otto 05.31.05 at 9:01 pm

Henry: Easy, Tiger!
In turn:
1. “I spoke to someone privately” is no evidence at all. Yes, others agree with F Sch. – I cited some – but none demonstrate what they claim. Neither have you.
2. “And as for the Constitutional Convention – the way it was structured was indeed an attempt to drum up public support”. I do agree that it was an attempt to provide public support (or more accurately perhaps, reduce criticism based on “transparency”-type grounds). I dont agree with your original statement that it was designed to create “debate”. On the contrary, it was trying to limit and constrain debate. It was trying to build public support with an illusion of participation. It failed, as illusions often do.
3. “You just seem to dislike the end that they were pointing towards”: I haven’t made any normative statement here about the value of the end in question. Only that the end in question was pre-ordained, despite the appearance of consultation provided by the convention, so the ‘debate’ in the convention was of very limited use to many in European civil society who do not approve of that end. This statement would be true whether or not you or I agree with centralising more authority in at the EU level.
4. “the notion that membership for Turkey could be anything but a plot foisted on the EU by anglocentric outsiders”: My view of the social forces behind Turkish accession to the EU is a separate question from any view of the Convention. The UK is not an outsider. And one should on a site like this be able to make an interest group or social forces argument without it being referred to as a “plot”. This is the same logic as saying that not taking Bush (or insert your favour politician) at his word is to indulge in “conspiracy theory”. If you think that there are other important social forces behind Turkish accession, please name them.

4.”getting the empirics pretty badly wrong”
I stand by my empirical claims an against some intemperate and largely evidence free criticism: 1. France did not unwaveringly oppose EU enlargement. This is a very common exaggeration. 2. The pre-ordained conclusion of the EU convention (more centralisation of power at the EU level) meant that rejection by the elements of civil society whose views were excluded from the process was always a very likely outcome.
3. The British and US governments are the main forces behind Turkish accession to the EU.

23

yabonn 06.01.05 at 5:13 am

It’s a very interesting story [...] Effectively, they were shamed into compliance with a normative discourse that they didn’t internalize.

It’s an interesting story indeed, but is it falsifiable?

Maybe i was shamed into eating a croissant instead of a pain au chocolat this morning, despite an unvawering opposition to it, but then again, maybe not. Maybe i hadn’t a policy on croissant-vs-pain au chocolat. Maybe i’d have chosen pain au chocolat, but made up my mind on croissant, after all.

And i’m not even an abstract entity composed of millions of people, various agendas, changing goverments, evolving policies, different representatives, presidents, ambassadors, bureaucrats etc, like france. So in my case, unwaverance should be easier to diagnose.

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