Go Stuff Your Bloody Ballot Box!
America’s constitution is not very impressive. The whole thing fits on about 10 pages. Aside from basic rights, the rule of law, and a definition of representative government, it’s about as interesting as a mobile telephone contract. It would barely cover the bottom of a large bird cage. Just about any idiot can read it and that opening line, ‘We the people’, is not very inspirational; it’s just about average people. If you want impressive, you need the European Union. With 20 official languages and counting, the proposed EU Constitution comes in at between 450 and 600 pages. If you want inspiration, you start a constitution with the words ‘We, the King of the Belgians’. This rousing opening phrase has inspired a whole new generation of Europeans to become stamp collectors.
The EU countries have taken different approaches to deciding on whether to ratify the new constitution through popular referenda. Six of them aren’t going to have one; three of them are not likely to have one; ten of them are sure to have one; five of them have not decided whether to have one and perhaps will need to have a vote on that. One of them, Spain, has already had a vote and voted yes. The Czech Republic is probably going to agree as well. After all, in Protocol 9, Title IV, Article 33, Paragraph 6, the Valchovny Plechu Frydek Mistek steel plant gets 292 million Czech Krone for restructuring the business. (That’s on page 225 of the English version of the addendum to the constitution. It’s probably on page 1,705 in the Czech translation.) Denmark will likely vote no. On page 298, there is the Protocol on the Position of Denmark. Most Danes like Denmark exactly where it is. The French appear to be favouring a no vote on the basis that the constitution does not reduce the working week to 20 minutes. The Irish are favouring a yes vote, hoping for European funding to build a new 18 lane motorway from Dublin airport to Cafferty’s saloon in Malahide. But even if the yeas carry the day in every referendum in 2005, there remains that troublesome island directly to the west of Europe; and a no vote in any one country will scupper the whole idea.
The United Kingdom will conduct its referendum in 2006. Many in Europe hope that the Brits will vote yes. Since Britons don’t think they are part of Europe, the outcome is somewhat in doubt. One clue to the attitude of the average British voter might be found in their view of the Channel Tunnel. Europeans think of it as a gateway to the continent, an artery of commerce and cultural exchange, a thoroughfare of understanding, and a sinew of continental unity. Britons understand it’s a 32 mile long, rigid, concrete, steel-reinforced barge pole that ensures that the UK will never drift closer to Europe. At least the EU Constitution is big enough to cover the bottoms of all the cages in London Zoo.