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EU constitution post-mortem

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the constitution's chief architect, blames Chirac for its failure. Why? Well, it seems Chirac made the tactical blunder of, you know, letting the voters actually see the document.

A crucial turning point for the fate of the constitution in France came last March, Mr. Giscard d'Estaing said, when he phoned Mr. Chirac to warn him not to send the entire three-part, 448-article document to every French voter. The third and longest part consisted only of complicated treaties that have already been in force for years.

He said Mr. Chirac refused, citing legal reasons. "I said, 'Don't do it, don't do it,' " Mr. Giscard d'Estaing said. "It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text."

As a friend of mine would say, I have no words.

But it does bring to mind an illuminating conversation I had with a Dutch girl a dozen years ago. We were both living in Paris at the time, and everyone's attention was focused on the upcoming French referendum on the Maastricht Treaty. The Treaty was approved in a squeaker, but with the polls showing a tight race, the EU crowd was sweating it leading into the election. Clearly peeved at the thought that the whole brilliant, enlightened enterprise might unravel at the hands of the great unwashed, she said, "I hope the Dutch aren't stupid enough to have a referendum."

Can't you just imagine what wonderful things the European bureaucrats could bring to pass if they weren't burdened with annoying little concepts like "democracy" and "consent of the governed?" My friend was probably correct to fear Dutch skepticism, however. Holland thoroughly trounced the EU Constitution, by a much wider margin than the French.

In some ways, the Dutch vote strikes me as more significant than the French vote. Smaller countries like the Netherlands are beginning to learn that they'll always be second-tier members of a bloated, pan-national super-bureaucracy, which will exist the way France and Germany want it to, or not at all. Let's just say I'm not overly optimistic about the EU's long-term prospects.