16 07 2005

In European news, the E.U is in self-described deep crisis. First, France and the Netherlands voted to reject the proposed European constitution, which has all but scuttled the nearly 500-page document, putting a halt to what had seemed like the increasingly inevitable complete political union of Europe. Second, the EU’s summit last week broke up without coming to any resolution of the ongoing controversy over agricultural subsidies.

Many people, mostly of the neoLiberal persuasion, are worried. They see this as a victory for reaction. I’d rather see it as a victory for that prime Green Party value, local control. Given a choice, people declined to live in a Federal Europe in which unelected bureaucrats could overrule popularly elected local officials and laws. We in America know what that looks like: The Supreme Court just gave the DEA permission to ignore local medical marihuana laws. Talk about mean-spirited…but I digress.

It’s also worth noting that these elections were one of the few times acceptance of the EU constitution has been put to a popular vote. The states that had already ratified the EU constitution—most of the rest of Europe—had mostly done so at the legislative level, and not given their people a chance to decide the question directly. That’s something else we’re familiar with in this country—legislative bodies that don’t follow the will of the people but instead cater to special interests—think of the gap between the overwhelming popularity of single-payer universal health care among the American people and the political impossibility of reigning in the medical/insurance establishment and doing something about it.

The main issue that crashed the EU’s most recent summit was agricultural subsidies, which means something very different in Europe from what it means here. The bulk of American agricultural subsidies are paid to industrial-scale farmers who grow for the industrial-international market. In Europe, agricultural subsidies largely support the current evolution of traditional peasant culture, farmers who grow food for the people of their own regions and countries. Those countries are looking at the increasing tenuousness of international trade and the rising price of the petroleum that moves it, and saying “no way are we gonna scuttle local production of our food and start trusting that it will keep on coming from a politically and ecologically unstable place thousands of miles away.”

Now, if only we’d gotten that smart here in America….that’s what the Green Party would like to see, but when push comes to shove the democans and republicrats are both pushers of NAFTA, CAFTA, and GATT, all of which are designed to internationalize agriculture. So, the ruckus in the EU is positive in two ways: the people spoke up for keeping more local control when they voted against the EU constitution, and their governments listened and stood up for them when the question of cutting farm subsidies—and destroying an important component of their national culture—was raised.  I’m not saying the EU is a bad thing. I’m impressed with the way borders have been opened and the need for military spending has been re-evaluated and refocussed. But I don’t want to see a homogenized, deculturalized Europe, any more than I enjoy seeing it happen in America. They stood up for themselves and won over there, and we can do it here.




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