PositionCrisis of European Union

Irrespective of the referendum result in France this weekend, the European Union now has to start facing questions it has ducked for years. The member states' habit of dipping in and out of EU politics as they choose has been exploded by the mood of the last few weeks.

For the first time in decades, there has been evident concern among EU heads of state and government at what is happening to the EU. Senior political figures are displaying anguish at the prospect of a popular rejection of the new treaty they have put their names to. And some of their desperate rhetoric equates a No vote with a crisis for Europe.

They are wrong. If Europe faces a crisis, it is not because of a bad result after a bad debate on a bad proposal that has fallen foul of bad political judgement. The referendums on the treaty have simply aggravated a chronic condition into an acute phase. The underlying EU disease is member state duplicity about the EU.

EU leaders have repeatedly cobbled together last-minute solutions to challenges they have failed to grapple seriously with, ranging from enlargement to fudges over the euro or liberalisation, and they have hoped to get away with it at home, often declining to take political responsibility for the decisions they have made.

For a long time, this approach has...

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