The Vote Against the EU

Is the French and Dutch voters’ rejection of the proposed first constitution of the European Union a good sign for Catholics? I say it is.

It is an indication that the nation-state system may not be ready to be swept into the dustbin of history. (To go into effect as planned by November 1, 2006, the charter needs the approval of all member nations, whether by referendum or parliamentary vote.)

It is not that the Church favors the nation-state system as a matter of moral principle. In fact, it could be argued to the contrary. The Church opposed the breakup of the Holy Roman Empire and the rise of the modern nation-state system brought on by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the treaty that ended the Thirty Years War. One could quote from the encyclicals, from Pacem in Terris to Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, to make the case that the Church favors the establishment of the rule of law over the sovereign nations of the world in the name of peace and social justice.

But there are world communities and there are world communities. The French and Dutch voters may be correct in their estimation that the world community being planned for them at this moment in Brussels is likely to bring more bad things than good. The Church has long made the point that it does not require us to support one form of political organization over another. The Church has had cooperative relationships with kings and emperors, and even been on good terms with certain dictators (Franco in Spain and Salazar in Portugal come to mind), if those dictators appeared to be the only effective way to hold back the advance of Marxist revolutionaries. In our day and age, the popes have been more than cordial to the leaders of the world’s democratic nation-states. There is nothing inherently morally deficient about the nation-state system, or with maintaining that it offers the best approach to preserving liberty and a just society in our time, in the face of the one-world schemes being proposed as an alternative.

What motivated the French and the Dutch to vote down the EU? The analysts seem to agree: They feared the prospect of being swallowed up in an ever-enlarging Europe. They turned out in large numbers to reject the plan to unite the 25 member states under a single constitution and blueprint for a federated Europe. (If the European Union were to be established, the relationship between France, Great Britain and Spain would be comparable to that between Nebraska, California and Maine. It would be a United States of Europe.) Nearly 55 percent of the French voters opposed that idea. The Dutch were even more opposed, with 63 percent voting against the EU.

Indeed, one wonders whether the voters in the 9 countries that have ratified the union — Austria, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain — would also vote to reject the treaty if a referendum were to be held in the coming weeks. I suspect a good number of them would. Tony Blair reflects the growing apprehension over what the EU means for the people of Europe. On a recent trip to Italy, he told reporters that the EU needed “time for reflection” and that it was too early to say whether Great Britain would proceed with its referendum.

The Associated Press interviewed voters in France who rejected the treaty. They spoke of fear that their national interests were going to be “sold out” to “bureaucrats in Brussels.” They complained that immigration was transforming their way of life and causing the 10 percent unemployment rate in France. They are convinced the European Union’s transnational identity would make it more difficult to deal with these problems, especially since Turkey will be a member, giving Turkey’s Muslims the freedom to immigrate wherever they wish within the EU. A 32-year-old film editor said he was “afraid for democracy” and that “the way the EU operates is very opaque.”

It would be a mistake to assume that large numbers of the French and Dutch voters who rejected the union were driven by concerns for Europe’s Christian cultural heritage. The motives of most who voted against the EU come closer to what we call populism in the United States. But their opposition to “faceless bureaucrats” in Brussels gives them common cause with those who are distressed about Europe’s drift into a post-Christian era, including Pope Benedict XVI.

The mid-20th-century French writer Charles Maurras once wrote that were two Frances, the pays l&eacutegal and the pays r&eacuteel. By pays légal he meant the France of the secular intellectuals spawned by the Revolution of 1798, a France hostile to religion and the ancient customs and folkways of the French people. It is the kind of Europe — secular, rationalist, materialist and transnational — envisioned by the proponents of the European Union.

By pays réel he meant the “real France,” the France of Joan of Arc, the patria, the France that lives in the hearts of the French people, a France where religion, honor, courage and self-sacrifice endured, whether or not they could be analyzed in a test tube or explained by an Enlightenment philosopher. It used to be called the Europe of Altar and Throne. Whatever traces of it remain would be destroyed in the homogenized future being planned for the EU by the multicultural educationists and the international business community and media elites, who see the nations of the world as nothing more than a workforce and market for their products.

For a short while, after he finished his final term as mayor, Edward Koch hosted a radio talk show in New York. The way immigration was transforming New York City was frequent topic of discussion. The callers objected to being made to feel as if they were foreigners in their own neighborhoods. Koch scolded them for their “provincialism.” He spoke in glowing terms of the new “diversity” of the city, of how the experience of interacting with the vast numbers of newly arrived immigrants from the Third World brought an “excitement” and “vitality” to his life that he would not trade for the “blandness” of Middle America. He asked the callers to face up to the advantages of New York becoming the world’s first “universal city,” the “city of the future.”

You are right: Koch was uncomfortable with America’s pays réel, what some call “fly-over country.” I suspect that the proponents of the European Union feel the same way, whatever their country of origin.

No doubt there are many in our time who feel more at home at international business conferences and film festivals than at the holiday festivities and sporting events favored by the masses. They are drawn to the vision of the future implied by the European Union. The results of the referenda in France and Holland indicate the masses are catching on to what is being planned for them — the ascendancy of the pays légal — and don’t like it.

James Fitzpatrick's new novel, The Dead Sea Conspiracy: Teilhard de Chardin and the New American Church, is available from our online store. You can email Mr. Fitzpatrick at

(This article originally appeared in The Wanderer and is reprinted with permission. To subscribe call 651-224-5733.)

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