Yesterday’s New York Times front page story on the Irish vote against the Lisbon Treaty (a slightly altered version of the failed 2005 EU constitution) was pretty clear: This puts the EU into turmoil. The details aside (how Lisbon was supposed to make the European Union more democratic and streamlined, etc.), the real point is that the EU is very popular with European politicians, but not with European folks, and that’s why most governments don’t want their people to be able to vote the way the Irish did (all others will vote in their legislatures). The elites don’t trust their own people. And when the folks vote the wrong way, the politicians accuse them of ignorance and then immediately look for a "legal arrangement" that can get them out of their fix. What the Europeans have
forgotten never learned is that before choosing (never mind legal arrangements), there has to be deliberation, and that deliberation has to be both deep and broad. A kind of civic education--or public diplomacy, if you like--has to take place and this cannot be simply the elites telling folks how to vote. A broader conversation regarding the purpose of the union has to precede the how of the thing. They once had a conversation like this--a couple of generations ago--then assumed that that conversation was enough, and the rest can be a matter of nice diplomatic (read secret) arrangements making sure that every country gets something rather specific out of it. Let’s put it this way: The EU politicians should have a decent respect to the opinions of their citizens that they should declare the purposes that would be fulfilled which impel them to the union. If they cannot do this over time, and be persuasive over time, the EU will remain nothing but this amazing confusion of accords, headed by an arrogant elite in Brussels. A constitution without purpose is not a constitution. There is no European constitution.