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Saving sovereignty

Momentum is on the side of national sovereignty across Europe

Issue: "Simpsons: Fair or Foul?," June 11, 2005

Americans are touchy about any erosion of our country's sovereignty, which is why we won't be signing on to the International Criminal Court. That's also why asides by United States Supreme Court justices on the applicability and persuasiveness of international law furrow many brows and spark criticism of the high court.

Representative democracy ultimately means that the people are sovereign and haven't relinquished any of that authority.

American elites and foreign observers have criticized this attitude as insular and backwards, but it turns out that even the citizens of "old" Europe are reluctant to further diminish national sovereignty. The European Union is watching as the electorates of its 25 members vote in a referendum on a new "constitution" for Europe, one that would greatly strengthen the forces of European centralization. Member countries that have already voted approval of the elaborate document are Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

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But on Sunday, the most crucial vote to date was held in France, and despite frenzied campaigning on behalf of the constitution by French President Jacques Chirac and many other key figures in the French elites across the political spectrum, French voters decisively rejected the new constitution 55 percent to 45 percent. Turnout was high at 70 percent.

This bold rebuke to Mr. Chirac and the "one Europe" crowd is a severe blow to the EU, though not necessarily a fatal one. Mr. Chirac did not resign as Charles De Gaulle had in 1968 when a referendum he had backed failed; he merely fired his prime minister. But momentum is on the side of national sovereignty across Europe, even as trade cooperation and defense coordination mature. Could the American position be the way of the future in Europe?

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