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A one-way street?

Posted by Richard Thursday, May 25, 2006

Valéry Giscard d'EstaingThank heaven for Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. If we ever needed reminding that the political élites of Europe are represented by an arrogant, detached, totally self-absorbed technocrat, here he is for all to see, popping up in The Financial Times to give us the benefit of his wisdom.

And, oblivious to the fact that, even now – nearly a year after their rejection of the EU constitution - Giscard says the French should be given "a second chance" to vote on the treaty.

The very nature of his phrasing betrays the man – a "second chance", as if he was doing his countrymen a favour. But then the scenario he paints is positively surreal as he tells the FT that, "It is not France that has said no. It is 55 percent of the French people - 45 percent of the French people said yes."

There is a sting in the tail though, because the man's idea of a "second chance" is either a second referendum or a parliamentary vote - after next year's presidential elections. No prizes for guessing which one he would actually prefer. "If we had chosen to have a parliamentary vote last year the constitution would have been easily adopted. It is the method that has provoked the rejection."

Then, ignoring the very fundamentals of treaty law, he argues that because 16 out of 25 countries that have ratified the constitution – the latest being Finland – there is a "qualified majority". Effectively, he is saying – or certainly implying – that a group of countries can vote to take power from other countries. All he is concerned about is the "modalities" of adopting the constitution.

Nor does he think that the idea that resubmitting the same question to the French people is "anti-democratic". "People have the right to change their opinion. The people might consider they made a mistake," he declares.

Pity, therefore, that the FT did not put to him the logical outcome of this statement. If people who have said "no" can be asked to vote again, do people who have said "yes" also have the right to change their opinion – or is change a one-way street?

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