Sunday, October 31, 2004

Further tales of referendums

(Warning: This will be a UKIP-free blog.)

Sometimes I worry about the sanity of the BBC staff. Angus Roxburgh, having described the childish antics of the MEPs over the EU Commission, then came to the conclusion that it was all Barroso’s fault and thanked God that there were some heroes around like Romano Prodi, who readily jumped into the breach and agreed to stay on as President. As if it mattered.

Then there is Rob Cameron, reporting from Prague:

“Outlining the debate in the Czech Republic over the EU Constitution is straightforward: there is no debate.
At least, there is little real debate over the nuts and bolts of the constitutional treaty itself. Not yet.”
Is there anywhere? With the final text not available and the yes campaigns insisting that the Constitution is just a supremely good thing?

Mr Cameron has managed to report something interesting. Apparently the Czech Republic is angling to be one of the last to hold a referendum, in the hopes that most countries would by then have signed up to the Constitution.

Jiri Pehe, an adviser to former President Vaclav Havel, has given the following slightly odd explanation:

“The government is relying on the fact that Czechs are not the most courageous of nations.
They can be almost sure that if all European nations approve the constitution, the Czechs will not say 'No' because they won't want to be the spoilers.
It's an efficient and effective strategy, but it's not the most courageous one.”
The President, Vaclav Klaus, about the only genuine free marketeer among the East European politicians, no matter what the over-imaginative commentators have been saying, refused to sign the Constitution. The Prime Minister, Stanislav Gross, who had to take over rather rapidly a few months ago, when his predecessor, Vladimir Spidla was forced to resign. His coalition government is fragile and cantankerous.

The campaigning groups on both sides are gearing up for the fight but it will be interesting to see how the government will behave.

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