"Malta may on a non-discriminatory basis maintain in force the rules on the acquisition and holding of immovable property for secondary residence purposes by nationals of the Member States who have not legally resided in Malta for at least five years. . . . In the event that the value of one such property . . . exceeds the thresholds provided for in Malta's legislation, namely 30,000 Maltese lira for apartments and 50,000 Maltese lira for any type of property other than apartments and. . . ."
-- A portion of one of the 435
protocols annexed to the
European Union's proposed
There you have Europe's "crisis." The French, in a snit that was their serviceable substitute for common sense, wisely rejected the proposed constitution for the 25 member nations of the European Union. So there will be no constitutional law governing Maltese real estate transactions. Gosh.
Europe's elites, nearly unanimous in their desire to "pool" nations' sovereignties in E.U. institutions responsive only to those elites, warned that a French rejection might plunge Europe into bloody chaos akin to the dissolution of Yugoslavia -- perhaps even another Holocaust. Such synthetic hysteria revealed the elites' contempt for, and fear of, the European publics that the constitution was designed to further marginalize.
The so-called constitution is actually just an incoherent jumble of policies -- see above, and don't miss the protocol concerning the Sami people's reindeer husbandry -- for an incoherent jumble of vastly different nations. Supposedly a single nation's rejection prevents the constitution from coming into effect. But some E.U. officials, with characteristic mendacity, hope to press on, get 24 ratifications, then force the French to keep revoting until they produce the politically correct answer. Fortunately, the Dutch seem about to render an even more emphatic no today.
French voters who rejected the constitution were surly about their surly president, Jacques Chirac, who favors admitting Turkey to the European Union. Worried about their sluggish economy, the French fret that after last year's eastward expansion of the E.U. by the admission of 10 low-wage countries, French jobs will move east and low-wage workers -- the dreaded "Polish plumber" -- will move to France. The cognitive dissonance of the French is striking: They wish to lead a Europe from which they are effectively insulated.
It is fine for people who are not French to admire from afar how "civilized" the French are in cherishing their "way of life" -- short workweeks, many weeks of vacation, laws "protecting" labor by making it difficult to fire people. But those laws, by making employers reluctant to hire, help explain France's double-digit unemployment.
Cast a cold eye on this way of life -- this amalgam of desires for increasing affluence and leisure and weight in the world -- and "civilized" looks like a euphemism for "childish." Children are unaware of the costs of things, and the incompatibility of many desires.
The French "no" may have reverberations across the channel. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, recently awarded a third term, has made it clear that before the next election he will resign, making way for Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer. Blair's Labor Party can hardly wait. After three drubbings by Margaret Thatcher, the party, still nursing a curdled nostalgia for socialism, pretended conversion to common sense. It tolerated Blair, and his acceptance of most Thatcherite reforms, as the price of returning to power. But Labor longs for Brown, a dour Scot who embodies the cheerless egalitarianism of socialism understood as more and more queuing by more and more people dependent for increasing numbers of things on a decreasingly competent welfare state.
Blair, having promised to allow a referendum next year on the E.U. constitution, probably wanted to linger for a final triumph -- a British "yes." But polls suggest a "no" at least as resounding as France's. And now, the French having spoken, there probably will be no British referendum. So the Labor Party can sooner rather than later say to Blair what Cromwell said when proroguing the Rump Parliament: "It is not fit that you should sit here any longer!"
But let Blair sit until Oct. 21, the 200th anniversary of Lord Nelson's defeat of Napoleon's fleet at Trafalgar. The British will celebrate in the modern manner: very sensitively. The naval engagement will be re-enacted in British waters. But to spare French pride, that tender thing tethered to not much since Trafalgar, the fleets will not be labeled British and French. They will be called "red" and "blue."
Which will be which? Never mind. E.U. doctrine is that European nations, in their annoying particularity, regrettably once existed, but should no longer.