I have to admit that I take politics from a very romantic point of view. I think ideologies still exists (see previous post), I think politicians do politics because their beliefs drive them and I believe politics in their essence are honest. I also believe that people engage in civil society movements because of their ideological beliefs and their urge for participation and exercise of influence.
Not an easy life for me then . Think of the recent visit of Tony Blair to the current French Interior Minister – now already better known as one of the candidates for the Presidency of the great (!) Republic – Nicolas Sarkozy. Blair placed in the European socialist (PES) family and Sarkozy firmly among the European conservatives (EPP). In the light of the upcoming elections this is a strange encounter. Blair meets Sarkozy and not SÃ©golÃ¨ne Royal, the socialist candidate for the Presidency. Easy one, you will say. French Socialists are so far away for Blairism that indeed Sarko places himself closer to the British Prime Minister than SÃ©golÃ¨ne. Also, Blair is not the strongest part of the European socialist family, his policies being quite on the edge. Well, I think that in the light of the elections the move is still strange and the symbolism strong (see two articles: here and here).
The second thought which flows out of an earlier discussion with Saray is the debate on the European Constitution – my forever-love. The German EU Presidency is currently in the middle of a stocktaking exercise, meeting national high-level officials (more about the ridiculously non-transparent method on JEF’s website) and looking for ways forward. Merkel’s words (full speech here):
“We need to formulate new proposals by June. I will work to see to it that at the end of the German Presidency it will be possible to adopt a road map for the further constitutional process.”
So, we can expect a “road map” for the much needed institutional changes in June. She firmly stands behind the Constitution, which means that its adoption will be favoured in some form. Now, I’m a firm supporter of the content of the Constitution and someone that has been at the forefront of the campaigns for its adoption (see section About me). But there are things that bother me seriously. And they are again of symbolic and principled nature.
The starting point for my, yet again, romantic reflection on how the business is done is an innocent Press Release issued by the Youth Forum on the outcome of the preparatory meeting for the Youth Summit. There are six demands, this is the first:
“Future of the European Treaty: Europe needs a European Constitution and seriously involving European citizens in its project, either through a referendum or a Constitutional Assembly, and based on the scope and structure of parts one and two.”
Besides the awful wording, I congratulate my friends who have managed to put this bullet point in and I would of course agree with them that in the political setting, this is a nice achievement. But let’s take a step back. What message does this give of the Youth Forum and of youth in general? Part 1, Part 2? Constitutional Assembly? Out of those 60 people present at the meeting, how many have read the actual text? Out of those, how many have had the chance to vote first time around? Out of those how many have voted against? I think it fails to represent a much more vivid discussion on what the future of Europe should be like and what institutional improvements EU needs and under which conditions. Yes, I actually think the French debate in 2005 made a difference, although we lost.
The third thought stopped with the grand coalition in Germany. Besides proving to be a political nightmare for both sides and failing on major reforms promised (see here), it also has, yet again, a politically romantic substance. What if you campaigned for SPD throughout the election period, screamed against both CDU and CSU, voted for SPD on the day of the elections and then got a grand coalition of both SPD and CDU/CSE roughly two months afterwards. Right, you might well say that most people are pragmatic and don’t really give a s***. But think of this – ideologically it’s of course pervert, practically it’s a nightmare. And it doesn’t do good to the image of politics. Why bother then?
So we come to principles – a stock that normally ranks badly and brings low profits if not deficits. Where do I think we should find them? In two public arenas I would wish: civil society movements (youth ones included..) and among brave political leaders. There is still hope.