Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Dutch "no" vote
on European Constitution

Peter Merry

Hi there, from a Brit living in the Netherlands,

So it looks like there has been a clear vote against the European Constitution (c. 63%) from a relatively high turnout of Dutch voters (c. 62%), following the "no" in France at the weekend. What's this all about?

Firstly, I should be very clear at the start that I would have voted "yes". In my opinion, it is a positive step in the direction of identifying which policy areas should be decided at which political level (in this case, national or European) - the essence of subsidiarity. Rightly, all the issues that are transnational and therefore should be decided at EU level (as no other strong transnational policy arena exists) exclude the possibililty of a national veto right. This has brought up a lot of critique around "losing power to Brussels". If people agree that issues should be decided at transnational level, then you can't have a national veto, as it reduces the policy area to national level again. The arrangement whereby 55% of the nation state members and enough nations to represent at least 65% of the population must agree is a powerful set-up which ensures decent representation while at the same time not allowing things to get stuck because a small minority obstruct. The only thing that I take issue with is the creation of a European Defence force as I don't see why we can't just use the NATO that we already have. One of the things I am worried about in Europe is the growing negativity about the USA, and I think that that relationship through NATO does ensure a certain level of stability in the Europe-USA relationship, which must be maintained to the best to of our ability (this effort has cost Tony Blair dearly).

I also believe that this is the first effort globally at true transnational governance (with teeth, as opposed to the UN). We are experimenting and prototyping. It will not be perfect first time round, but we need to support the development.

Secondly, I don't think referenda are useful ways of getting real opinions on a complex political question. I heard a commentator say the other day that people don't vote on the question itself, but on the people who asked the question. All sorts of other stuff gets mixed up in it - opinions on the current governing parties, other European issues such as the Euro, Turkey etc, which have nothing to do with the Convention itself.

Thirdly, the "no" camp is a real mixture of groups - primarily made up of nationalists and anti-globalists. So if you take the EU with a centre of gravity around Orange as Conventional, then you get a pre-conventional anti-argument from more populist nation-state Blue, and a post-conventional anti-argument from anti-globalist/capitalist/industrialist Green. Both play heavily on emotions of belonging and values. The passion in the campaign was far more visible in the "no" camp.

Fourthly, the "yes" camp was not able to articulate the case for transnational governance with clarity or passion. This camp was made up of most major political parties and NGOs (eg Greenpeace and Amnesty) in the Netherlands. The consciousness and language is not well enough developed to be able to communicate this complexity well. It didn't help that many of the politicians attempted to demonise "no" voters as extremists.

Fifthly, I believe it is very hard for a nation state which is in a "beta" / "gamma" state in terms of its own wholeness and identity to step forward with confidence into a transnational arena. This convention has arisen at a time when many of Europe's nation states are in crisis - certainly the case in France and the Netherlands. Given that a higher level of relationship (LL quadrant) and structures (LR quadrant) needs to transcend and include the lower, if the lower are not stable and the conditions are not right, then the higher won't emerge. No stable outward looking nation, then no step into transnationality. In 1797 Dutchmen voted in a referendum against the unification of seven provinces to create the Batavian Republic. Perceived loss of autonomy was a clear argument. Same dynamics, earlier levels of governance. It all came good later...

All politicians are now emphasising how good it is that there was at least a hefty discussion in the run-up to the vote. I can't help but feel rather desperate about this. Lots of discussion, much of it about things which had nothing to do with the Convention, and a poor outcome in my opinion. I feel very frustrated with the current obsession with representative and participative democracy. This all reinforces my feeling that our current governance systems are inadequate to the current transnational challenges that we are facing. We will not get a majority of people in favour of transnational governance quickly enough to deal with the life-threatening transnational issues we are facing. The only way this could happen is if we get political leaders who are able to explain (because it is really true) that the addition of a transnational layer of governance will actually clarify, enhance and strengthen other layers of governance such as nation states and local regions and cities. To paraphrase Ken Wilber, by limiting a level of governance (through true subsidiarity) we release it to express its true purpose and function.

Just needed to get all that off my chest. I know we can't push the river, but boy can it be frustrating sometimes...

With love, Peter

Engage! InterAct
Peter Merry
Evolutionary Change Facilitator
[email protected]

June 2005

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