For the first time so many people showed their concern with the road the European Union has gone. In both France and the Netherlands the Left and Green group of voters made the difference in shifting the result towards the final “no”. The victory of the “no”-campaign cannot be called a vote against Europe but for a different Europe. It is a call for a democratic and social Europe.
First of all, the Left and Green voters made the difference in both countries although the greens and social democrats campaigned in favour the constitution. Of the greens in the Netherlands 48% voted against, more than 58% of the social democratic voters and more than 96% of the socialist party voters was against.
We, the Greens, are in favour of the constitution?
The Greens have to ask themselves the question how it is possible that leading Greens are in favour of the constitution but the base is not. One conclusion possible is that in the campaign for the constitution even the Greens lost contact with the grassroots. Coming out a grassroots movement the Greens have become a party like the ones they used to criticise. People like Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Joschka Fischer are clear examples of grassroots activists becoming “realist” politicians making deals for power that confl ict the idea of the average grassroots. This is also the conclusion I make out of the overwhelmingly strong “no” of the Dutch and French referendum. The Green group in parliament and the leading characters in many countries have lost contact with their grassroots. To get power they made compromises and ideals slipped away slowly. Now they have no understanding for the big number of people in their own party opposing the constitution.
The idea of the Greens in the Netherlands was to promote this constitution as the best possible compromise. This is a negative view on what can be changed. For most greens this “best” compromise would not create a “different” Europe in a globalising world. The Greens had the chance to struggle for a better and different Europe. Unfortunately, the top of the Greens decided differently. Green voters punished the Greens for this view. They want to change the EU and believe they can, with a “no”-vote. A constitution cannot be acceptable for greens as long as it contains unrestricted neo-liberal ideals and has an undemocratic structure.
Leading Greens in parliaments have to act to their ideals. They should join in discussion with grassroots organisations and listen to problems of these active citizens and act on that. The longer people stay in places like the European Parliament the more the real world becomes distant, and those in the institutions lose contact with grassroots.
Even some parliamentarians of the Greens lose sight of what their voters’ ideals are. Or at least they don’t act upon them. The MP’s have to go out in the real world more often and listen to their supporters. The way the Dutch Green party made their decision to be in favour of this constitution made clear that there is no democracy within the Green party as was meant to be.
Still some people argue for that this constitution has to go on. This is a waste of money as the Dutch and the French voters would be consulted again on the same constitution. Voting on the same or slightly changed constitution is an insult to voters in the Netherlands and France and most of all to democracy in general.
Must there be no constitution at all?
Europe must change. Massive protests at European Union meetings, in the European Parliament and from many NGO’s have led to a smaller democratic defi cit. Made as an undemocratically, supranational body the European Union has to be reformed. Fundamental errors have existed too long, now it is time to demand and struggle for a democratic Europe. After the “no” to this constitution, people made clear they want to have the possibility to rule for themselves and not give away more power to an undemocratic and neoliberal Europe. Why give your right to vote on national or local democratic institutions away to an undemocratic European Parliament? Most important and most realistic approach is to stress for basic democratic rules. It is clear that the people of the European Union demand a transparent and clear structure of the institutions. A democratic Europe will also have more public support for everything which comes from Brussels. For example, the European Parliament should have full power to amend or reject all proposals from the Commission. It also should also have the possibility to make initiatives. The European Commission should be chosen by the European Parliament and not by the member states.
The Green parties in particular have to stress that a more democratic Europe is the only solution for a broad consensus over Europe. Therefore we must start a constitution with a readable short text with common values and parts that we can all agree on. A constitution with an economic system or without democratic rules and procedures is unacceptable.
There is a need for a social Europe. A Europe which only stresses more liberal market economy is not the way Europeans want to go. Social policy must be made and neoliberal directives must be stopped. We as Greens can provide a different way of living in the long term. Do we want to compete with the Chinese and the USA and become an EU where people work 50 hours a week, don’t see their children anymore?
Where the division between poor and rich keeps getting bigger and bigger as it has the last decennia more and more?
The greens have the possibility to go for a social, ecological and human Europe. We need a constitution that unites instead of divides. Green leaders have to understand their grassroots again and stick to their ideals.