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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Head-to-head: French EU referendum
France held a heated debate on the EU constitution ahead of the referendum on 29 May, with opinions sharply divided.

Copies of the proposed European Union constitution are mailed to French citizens
The French government is sending a copy of the text to every voter
Some said the treaty was too economically liberal and not social enough, while others said it protected social values and would help the enlarged EU function efficiently.

Here, journalist Bernard Cassen, director of Le Monde Diplomatique, academic and political activist, argues against the constitution, while Florence Deloche-Gaudez, professor at the Centre for European Studies at Sciences Po in Paris, argues in favour.

BERNARD CASSEN

The constitution is a profoundly undemocratic text, because it gives a constitutional basis to the liberal economic model.

If in an election, a country chose to make a break with economic liberalism, the government would not be able to put this into practice. Even people who agree with the liberal economic measures already in place reject the notion that this should be set in the constitution.

Bernard Cassen. Photo courtesy of Le Monde Diplomatique
I think that a French Non will set the agenda, and will trigger incredible mobilisations throughout Europe
Bernard Cassen
Characteristic elements of this economic model in the constitution are: the independence of the central bank; the pre-eminence of the free market; unfettered free movement of capital, goods and services; the prevention of public aid for companies and the prevention of any fiscal and social harmonisation.

On the social side, the text does not go far enough. For example, the Charter of Fundamental Rights focuses on the fundamental right to free movement of capital, services, goods and people. I've never seen a social charter put as a principal aim the free movement of capital - it colours the whole thing.

It also fails to mention the right to retirement, the right to abortion, contraception, or divorce. In any case, the Charter is useless because nation states are not obliged to implement it.

We need to encourage solidarity between member states - at the moment we have a situation that encourages social, fiscal and environmental dumping, and outsourcing.

Once people reject it, we will be able to renegotiate - it says so in the text. I think that a French Non will set the agenda, and will trigger incredible mobilisations throughout Europe. If the French Non wins, there will be parties in every EU country.

Bernard Cassen is a journalist and the director of Le Monde Diplomatique. He is also honorary president of the French anti-globalisation collective, Attac, as well as Jean Monnet chair of European political sciences and emeritus professor at the Institute of European Studies at Paris 8 University.

FLORENCE DELOCHE-GAUDEZ

The constitution enables a Europe Union of 25 countries to make decisions more easily, which is crucial if we want a Europe which is not just a free-trade zone, but has political and social ambitions.

I think the debate in France sometimes loses sight of what a constitution is - a means to divide power and regulate the way decisions are made.

Florence Deloche-Gaudez. Copyright: Philippe Dobrowolska
It's too risky a chance to take - to reject the constitution in the vague hope that we might get something better
Florence Deloche-Gaudez

Contrary to much of the criticism, the constitution does have social ambitions, which are enshrined in Article Three, such as promoting social justice and social solidarity among member states, promoting a social market economy, and defining its social values and interests.

There are many on the left who think that rejecting the constitution will mean they will get the chance to renegotiate the constitution and get something better. But when will this renegotiation take place, and what text will we end up with?

Until May 2004, the eastern European states were not involved as full members states in drafting the treaty, but they would a second time, and they prefer the "Anglo-Saxon" economic model to France's. It's too risky a chance to take, to reject the constitution in the vague hope that we might get something better.

I think the partisans of the No vote are really criticising a system that already exists - and which is what we will have to fall back on if the treaty is rejected.

Florence Deloche-Gaudez is secretary-general of the Centre for European Studies at Sciences Po in Paris, and author of La Constitution Europeenne: Que Faut-Il Savoir? (The European Constitution: What Must You Know?). She is also a regular contributor on the subject of the European constitution on France 3 television.


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