[...] President Klaus sees an unsettling new challenge: the zeal of Old Europe--France, Germany, Brussels--to impose collective choices on New Europe--Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Ireland. "Ten years ago," Mr. Klaus writes, "the dominant slogan was: 'deregulate, liberalize, privatize.' Now the slogan is different; 'regulate . . . get rid of your sovereignty and put it in the hands of international institutions and organizations.' "
"The current European unification process is not predominantly about opening up," he continues, "It is about introducing massive regulation and protection, about imposing uniform rules, laws, and policies." It is about a "rush into the European Union which is currently the most visible and the most powerful embodiment of ambition to create something else--supposedly better--than a free society."
The force that is creating these pressures is indeed the European Union. Its constitution must be ratified by all member states; four of the 25 nations have done so, and referendums will be held in France and the Netherlands this spring. If ratified, the EU will become the primary source of legal authority in Europe with "primacy over the law of member states." In other words, the 25 members of the European Union Council of Ministers--not the 750 members of the EU Parliament--will make the laws for 450 million people previously citizens of 25 independent countries.
So what is making President Klaus "more and more nervous" about the Czech people's future? His conviction that the authors and enforcers of the new EU Constitution believe:
That "competition is not the most powerful mechanism for achieving freedom, democracy and efficiency, but rather an unfair and unproductive form of dumping."
That "intrusive regulation, ruling and intervening from above are necessary because market failure is more dangerous than government failure."
That "the premise that government is ultimately a benevolent force, obliged to guarantee equal outcomes by redistributing benefits and privileges between individuals and groups."
Could the Brussels bureaucracy, for example, constitutionally impose France's 35-hour work week on the other 24 nations in the European Union? Indeed it could, and with a vote of only 15 of the member states (if they represented 65% of the population of the EU). A state voting "no" would have the law imposed upon it.
It seems likely that the European Union intends to centralize decision making in Brussels, while President Klaus believes in "the inherent morality of markets, in the ethics of work and saving, in the crucial link between freedom and private property. It is not possible (or desirable) to legislate a better world from above or outside."
PARIS, March 21 (AFP) - Consternation gripped the government of President Jacques Chirac on Monday after a second poll in four days showed a majority of the French public rejecting the EU constitution at a referendum in ten weeks.
The Ipsos survey in Le Figaro newspaper showed 52 percent preparing to vote "no" on May 29, with 48 percent for the "yes" - a spectacular leap of 12 points in just two weeks.
It confirmed the findings of Friday's poll in Le Parisien newspaper, which put opposition to the constitution at 51 percent. That was the first time the "no" vote had led in the polls and it sent a shockwave through France's political establishment.
Both surveys found that the main factor boosting the "no" camp was the conversion of many Socialist party voters. The rise in "no" supporters coincided with a wave of strikes and demonstrations in France, and rejection of the constitution is now the majority position on the country's political left.
The figures were disastrous news for President Jacques Chirac, who has put his political weight behind the EU constitution, and showed the difficulties of mobilising support for a document that few members of the public pretend to understand clearly.
They were also an embarrassment for the opposition Socialist party (PS) which is officially campaigning for the constitution but is riven by a deep internal split.
The rise in support for the "no" campaign was being watched with anxiety in Brussels, where insiders warned that a rejection of the constitution by so important a country as France would be a disastrous setback for the European Union.
"If France votes no, the constitution is dead," said Daniel Keohane of the Centre for European Reform. "The momentum is on the ‘no’ side. It's going to be difficult to regain and it's worrying."
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