Two cheers for the derailing of the EU constitution. Andrew Moravcsik’s argument—that the “no” vote was in fact a yes to the document’s modest substance but a no to its fuzzy post-national wrapping—is an appealing one. Moravcsik, like everyone else, sees in the referendum results a reinforcement of his own long-held positions. But his belief that the EU’s existing settlement remains robust is surely right. We are not facing a great unravelling, not even of the vulnerable-looking euro. A system which preserves national democratic politics for the issues most salient to citizens, while promoting high-level policy co-ordination and sovereignty-pooling in some areas, is viable for the long term.
But such a system can slip out of balance. After 15 years of rapid advance—single market, euro, enlargement, some foreign policy co-ordination—Europe’s political elites moved too far ahead of their electorates and have, rightly, been brought to heel. It is an especially depressing moment for Europe’s left. The poorer Europeans whom the left claims to represent are increasingly hostile to the EU. And, as Sunder Katwala points out, the response to this hostility divides rather than unites the left. The anti-reform left in France and Germany defends its conservatism with fallacious accounts of ultra-liberalism in Blairite Britain. In return, a Labour government now hopes to share power in Europe with the new generation of centre-right reformers: Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. (Labour’s newest recruit, former Tory MP Robert Jackson, says inside in his “open letter” to Merkel what ministers can say only in private.)
Apart from the unity of the European left, there are two other casualties of the referendums. One, to be regretted, is further enlargement (dead at least for now). The other, to be welcomed, is a further weakening of the messianic strain in postwar Europeanism. We can now more easily develop arguments based on national interest and pragmatic co-operation and see Europe as it is, rather than as a vehicle for our thwarted ideals.
Africa and development is another theme of this issue. David Rieff, irritated by the narcissistic assumption that good intentions are sufficient, reminds us of the politics of the Ethiopian famine and Live Aid’s collaboration with the Mengistu regime in the mid-1980s. On a more optimistic note, Jonathan Power returns to Tanzania after more than 40 years and finds the country happily released from Julius Nyerere’s African socialism.