Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Timing is (Almost) Everything

It does appear to be bad timing for the critical French and Dutch referendums on the EU Consitution. In fact, the critical mass of charismatic politicians at the peak of their political power has devolved into a catty group of desperate politicos pleading with their domestic constituency to trust them with the future of Europe.

As the FT wrote this morning:

Veteran EU diplomats wistfully recall the 1980s and 1990s, when Helmut Kohl, German chancellor, and François Mitterrand, French president, propelled the EU, aided by Jacques Delors, energetic president of the European Commission.

Today's enfeebled leaders are more interested in "bashing Brussels" to win over angry voters than building the European project.

As the article aptly notes, the "lame duck" crisis is not limited to France. Tony Blair is expected to resign before completion of his government's 5 year term; Berlesconi is facing certain demise; Schroeder was recently given a kick in the pants from a listless German public.

Even assuming passage, there is undoubtedly a need for key domestic figures to keep the wind in the Constitution's sails for several years to come. Are there adequate personalities in each of these key countries to shepherd the EU Constitution to smooth sailing upon its adoption? Are charismatic politicians enough or does a potential continuation of slow growth in major European economies threaten the Constitution while still in the crib?

My guess is that both important figures and a threshold level of economic success will have to follow the Constitution's passage to ensure its smooth reception among the masses. An unemployment rate of 12% coupled with 1% annual growth is surely a road to failure.

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