Thursday, December 02, 2004

French Socialists say YES

The French socialist party's membership has voted yes to the European Constitution in an internal referendum. This probably kiboshes the former prime minister Laurent Fabius's attempt to rebuild his career after his disgrace in the contaminated blood scandal. I'm not sorry, especially given some of the No camp's arguments - Fabius argued that the constitution wasn't socialist enough because it didn't provide for European tax harmonisation. This may seem counterintuitive for British readers, who are more used to seeing it criticised either as a mechanism to prevent socialists from putting up taxes, or else a means of forcing everyone to have higher taxes. Fab's argument was just that - that tax rates outside France should be pushed up so as not to compete with French industry. A depressing and negative view of socialism, I think, and one with a big problem.

Namely, if as he said Estonia has a zero corporate tax and France has 30%, what reaction can be expected from the Estonians? I think we can exclude "joy", "goodwill", and "gratitude" from the list. "Fury"? "Resistance"? "Grumpiness?" "Francophobia?" All possibles, surely. This is a key point about Europe. Whatever the central institutions are like, they have to be a zone of consensus between the member states - and this is most likely to be achieved if the amount of stuff to argue over is minimised. Trying to prejudge the basic political direction of member states is well over the mark. If you want a more socialist settlement, you'd do well to start at home, or in the European Parliament. Nobody will thank you for trying to rig the constitution to your advantage.

Le Monde report

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