I am really not the person who ought to be commenting on the Dutch “no” vote, but in the spirit of “we ought to say something,” I’ll hum a few bars.
What are the implications? Ivo Daalder is worried:
This is bad news for America — which needs a strong, outward looking partner to meet the many challenges we all now face. Even the Bush administration appeared in recent months to understand that Europe could be that partner. But if Europe is busy debating its future it cannot be an effective partner — leaving the United States to deal with the world’s many problems very much on its own.
We’ll have to wait and see. Recent evidence suggests that the Europeans can certainly walk and chew gum at the same time, and it isn’t clear that ratifying the constitution would have demonstrably enhanced the diplomatic leverage of the European Union. On the bright side, this may be just the shock that European elites need to really start addressing the fundamental problems faced by the EU, such as the “democratic deficit” (yes, I know the new voting system was more democratic, but I mean in the more fundamental sense of moving beyond the European Union as being what Andrew Moravcsik characterizes as, in essence, an “inter-governmental” bargain).
I suppose the worst-case scenario is that many of the gains since Maastricht could unravel. The most recent rounds of European integration have been driven, in part, by a sense of inevitability. The French and Dutch votes are certainly a blow to that notion. Some are even speculating that the EMU could be in trouble – and European officials are trying to squash such talk lest it spook the markets. The consensus seems to be that further enlargement is, in the short term, off the table.
There’s good coverage of these, and other, concerns in the Financial Times.
But even severe setbacks don’t necessarily mean an end to European integration. Since it began, the process hasn’t exactly been smooth. The fact that it will require more than inertia – or the ‘hidden hand’ of market imperatives – to sustain it doesn’t look, in retrospect, all that surprising.
UPDATE: It looks like European officials also think they can multitask:
“These are real, important, serious setbacks,” EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said. “But at the same time, of course, we continue to work and nothing does prevent us from carrying (on) all the important work in cooperation with the U.S.”
“Some people have suggested we will now be too absorbed in our own crisis to pursue our external policies. I promise you this will not be the case,” she told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a joint news conference.