‘It was a real debate, top quality politics’
PARIS, May 29 (AFP) - France voted Sunday in a referendum on the European Union's first-ever constitution, with final opinion polls pointing towards a "no" that would have far-reaching consequences throughout Europe.
The following are the opinions of eight voters – both treaty supporters and rejectionists – in Paris’ 18th district, a popular neighbourhood in the north of the capital.
THE YES CAMP:
Rachel Allouche, 46, accounting secretary: “Europe is the future. If we want to be strong enough to face up to the United States, we have to vote for Europe. We’ve got the euro, now we need to coordinate the rest. It’s like a marriage – first you buy a house, then come the children, it’s a natural evolution.”
Lionel Sandler, 55, cook: “Ever since I was young, I’ve been hearing about Europe, about the plan to unite the continent. Voting ‘yes’ is a way to create a better future for my son. People try to scare us with their talk about foreigners – but the French have always come from other places. My grandparents were refugees from Lithuania and Moldova after World War I. The foreigners in my neighbourhood aren’t stealing anyone’s job, they are just hard working and that’s okay.”
Lo Glasman, 34, singer-actor: “I voted ‘yes’ because I don’t think we’ll get a better constitution anytime soon. It’s a great step forwards, and there has been a real debate, top quality politics. I just hope the best camp wins – I can understand those who voted ‘no’, and if they win I hope history proves them right.”
Eric Picard, 39, musician: “When I see all the different ‘no’ supporters, I don’t see what alternative they could offer. Protest has its place in democracy, but it has to be constructive. Enlargement means we have to question some countries’ ways of doing things. There are sacrifices involved, and it’s true that it’s often the same people who pay the price. But look at Thatcherism in Britain – it was tough, but Britain has become a happier place than France. We are in a capitalist system, and Europe is heading more and more that way, but it still has the least damaging social model in the world. In communist China, a system that is supposed to protect the weak, you see capitalism let loose to the point of slavery. Here at least, there’s an effort to keep the balance.”
THE NO CAMP:
Francois Robin, 62, doctor: “I feel informed enough to see that this whole thing doesn’t stand up. People are being asked to vote about nonsense, the question isn’t even clear. It’s a political mess and people are sick of it.”
Jeanne Bouches, unemployed, 30: “The constitution really doesn’t matter – but I came to vote because you have to, don’t you? We are stuck in a one-room flat, the two of us and our son. We’ve been asking for a new place for years, but nothing ever happens. What difference is Europe going to make? I haven’t really followed this debate, but I’m voting no. Why? Well because I’ve heard it’s going to let more foreigners into France, and they’d end up having more than we do.”
Jean-Paul Brandhuy, social worker, 33: “Politicians talk about the common people – as if we were a different species. Well now we’re having our say. When they talk about Europe, all we hear about is Airbus. Look at the euro, I couldn’t make ends meet when it was still the franc, now it’s just hopeless. With two children, earning the minimum wage, I can hardly afford my travel pass. France doesn’t give a damn about people like me, so Europe is going to care even less. The constitution? My girlfriend tried to read it but she didn’t understand a thing. If the whole of Europe was voting, I’m sure they’d reject the treaty by 80 percent. But like they say, in a dictatorship you have to shut up, but in a democracy you can just keep on talking.”
Francois Lequeux, 30, educational worker: “Even if it’s a bit irresponsible to vote ‘no’, we have to show that we’re against the current politics. We want a society that puts people at the centre. This vote is the common people speaking. We know it’s idealistic, but it’s about setting a new course. I want my vote to make people realise what’s going on. And a change of government in France.”
Subject: French News