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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Boulogne-sur-Mer, France. 15 June 2005

The main points of the following thoughts were given by Bill Porter, ICF’s Founder President, in an informal round table discussion led by reporter Giles on BBC 2 TV's Daily Politics programme on 15 June 2005.

The recent referendum in France was not so much a vote on the issue of the European Union Constitution as a chance for many French persons to show what they thought,, plus or minus, of their leaders and in particular Chirac and Le Pen. Even those who wanted to vote on the Constitution were baffled by a 440 page document received at almost the last minute, which would have required several hours of study. However, many briefing books and pamphlets were published. Producing a few flash bestsellers and, doubtless, some enlightenment.

The Pas de Calais where Boulogne is France's largest fishing port gave the biggest NO vote of any French department - 69.5 per cent, although there were some islands of YES, such as Le Touquet, the seaside resort where I live, which gave a resounding YES, certainly due to its support by Leonce Deprez. the town's MP Mayor, whose local influence is considerable. So I am in the wrong place to get an explanation of the NO, although many think that it is a hangover from the department's high unemployment figures. Even a YES stance by Jack Lang, one of Pas de Cala1s' most influential Socialist MPs, was ineffective.

What can be done? For a start the idea promoted by Giscard d'Estaing (a former President of France and the Constitution’s main drafter) that nothing can be done, that there is no Plan B, should be dropped. We have an array of elected politicians, appointed administrators and trained diplomats, who are paid by the electors to solve problems. And so they should get on with it, and we should encourage them to come up with a uniting vision for Europe and practical proposals for the structures of an outward-looking Continent. An inward-looking. siege mentality Europe would be doomed to failure and disintegration. But a Europe motivated by what it can do to bring peace, justice and prosperity to the whole world will contribute to a great civilisation and be a happy place to live in.