Friday, June 03, 2005

Serbian and French worker

Imagine the following story. A French worker worried that he might lose his job, angry at Jacques Chirac decides to vote against the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe. He is worried that the Constitution might elevate certain values to the status of constitutional principles and in this way completely impede any construction of the welfare state at the European level in a conceivable future. The French worker is not necessarily racist or nationalist, he just gives priority to the maintenance of the French welfare state over the creation of a political Europe-ideal that he does not necessarily dislike.

A Serbian worker on the other hand is asked, from the European Union to accept complete liberalization of the economic system of the state. He is asked to suffer, to lose his job, so that Serbia is able to undergo a transition process, necessary for the country to enter the EU. He is asked practically to sacrifice his proper life, for the benefit of the country and its future generations.

Voting against the European Constitution the French worker send a clear message to the Serbian worker: I don’t care much about you. Notwithstanding the fact that you sacrifice so much to join the Union I am ready for my own benefit to postpone your entry into Europe.

This is exactly what the French and Dutch voters by the way did. They, according to numerous sources, prolonged the accession process of not only Turkey, but possibly of the Western Balkan countries and possibly even Bulgaria and Romania. This is just one negative aspect of the French and Dutch no votes. Look at it in this way, political situation of the Western Balkan post-war societies is very fragile, there is a direct link between economic decline of the certain (large) portions of the population and political radicalism that breads conflict and eventually war. The political elite in the countries of the Western Balkans is able to maintain a relatively stable political order only thanks to the carrot of EU membership. Only, in sight of such a, what they increasingly believe to be a bright future (before the French and Dutch “no” votes) are the Serbian workers ready to sacrifice their living standards so that their children can have a prosperous future. Only the prospect of EU membership is able to facilitate the, e.g. Kosovo’s independence from Serbia or is able to tame secessionist forces in the frail states of Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The longer these countries wait for EU membership, more likely is it that their population will become disillusioned with the EU dream. Euroscepticism in the candidate countries will most likely bread a return of violent nationalism to politics. Voting for the “no”, to be provocative, the French worker sends a message to the Serbian worker, I am not ready to sacrifice anything for the common EU future, I do not care much if this means that war will happen again in your country, I do not want it by all means, but I hold my welfare state dear enough to be able to risk a portion of responsibility in what happens in the Balkans. The French worker might say to his Serbian friend, “even if the no vote delays your EU membership for a couple of years, so what, this will not mean that war will break out once more in the Balkans”. I am not sure, this is a negative aspect of the “no” vote once should be seriously worried about. This dilemma brings us to the fundamental questions concerning the nature of the EU polity, maybe EU is not sacrificing for, maybe the welfare state is more important, maybe its better that we all go our own way, back to 1939.

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