Confused Spaniards vote for EU charter

Spaniards might have voted by a large majority in favour of the European Constitution yesterday but despite a widespread government promotional campaign, nine out of 10 people had little or no understanding of the charter they approved.

Nearly 35 million voters were eligible to answer the question "Do you approve the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe?'' and they became the targets of an extensive government drive to promote the 325-page treaty.

The "Los primeros con Europa'' (First with Europe) campaign featured postage stamps, lottery tickets and an energy booster drink to counter apathy, called Referendum Plus.

Football stars and actors were broadcast reading extracts from the proposed text.

But a survey by state pollster CIS showed about 90 per cent of Spaniards had little or no knowledge of the constitution after the campaign.

That will not be worrying the prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, now.

He has successfully delivered to Brussels the constitution's first mandate from a European power.

The Socialist leader had campaigned hard to avoid a low turnout in a bid to deliver a strong result to his European counterparts in countries such as France, where there is powerful Left-wing criticism of the constitution.

While far from a resounding victory, a turnout of 42 per cent, with 77-80 per cent in favour, just about met his government's expectations and maintained the poll's credibility.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were among the first to vote after more than 57,000 polling stations opened. Security was stepped up, with more than 100,000 police on alert for attacks by Eta, the Basque terrorist group.

In a Madrid polling station in the central district of La Latina, Jose Luis Gonzalez, a retired 60-year-old, picked up a "Yes" slip.

He said: "We are here to be a part of Europe. It is almost the same as the Spanish constitution. The main point for me is freedom, freedom and freedom - against terrorism, for example."

"I am going to vote Yes,'' said early voter Raul Rodriguez, a 39-year-old lawyer. "This is a historic moment, even if we do not realise it.

"When Europe speaks with a single voice, it will be the most powerful in the world.'' In some areas, voters complained about a lack of information about election procedures.

"Almost nobody has come," said one poll official eyeing a half-empty ballot box in front of her. "Why? Because nobody knows what it is about."

Although his party supported the constitution, Mariano Rajoy, the centre-Right opposition leader, attacked the government for rushing an ill-informed public to the polls.

"This has been organised very hurriedly. There has not been enough publicity,'' said Mr Rajoy after voting. "If at least half Spaniards vote, that would give us more authority to support it in parliament.''

The referendum is not legally binding and will be ratified in the Cortes, the Spanish parliament, but significant opposition is not expected.

Reyes Velazquez Jordana, 49, a psychiatrist, said that she would vote No. "I always vote, otherwise you have no rights, and this time I have voted No because I believe that each country is losing its control over its affairs and its identity. Europe has achieved many things and Spain has benefited but this is unnecessary. Spain already has a constitution."

The government's espousal of the Yes vote, when it was technically forbidden from advocacy, has at times been crude. Mr Zapatero focused on the benefits of EU membership rather than the charter itself.

He implored Spaniards to vote in favour on the basis that the EU has financed four out of every 10 roads in the country. He pointed out that Spain had received £60 billion in subsidies since joining the EU in 1986.

His government has also invoked Spain's Basque terrorist problem by stating that the constitution would offer greater security.

Nice to see that the population knew what they were voting for. I just hope that Mr Blairs campaign for a yes vote will not be used in order to bamboozle the voters into thinking it is something that it isnt.

Excellent! An excuse to post this:

Why the EU Constitution is bad for Britain and bad for the US
By Charles Moore
(Filed: 19/02/2005)

In the stern old pre-Vatican II days, Roman Catholics used to be instructed not to read the Bible by themselves. The theory was that, if they did so, they might misunderstand what it meant and commit the error of "private judgment". Reading the Bible on your own was a Protestant idea, dangerous in the heady freedom it would give you. You might end up coming to your own conclusions.

I wonder if such a notion still lingers in the attitude of European governments to another process that began in Rome – the treaties that establish and extend the European Union. These are all drawn together in one new treaty, the European Holy Bible, otherwise known as the European Constitution. Several countries, including Britain, are committed to holding referendums on the subject. Spain is first off, on Sunday. According to the Spanish justice minister: "You don't have to read the treaty to know it's a good thing." In Spain, at least, it seems likely that the faithful will accept this secular bishop's advice: they won't read the constitution, and they will vote for it.

George W. Bush is a good Protestant, but I doubt if he has read the European Constitution. Why should he, indeed, since he is lucky enough to live in a country that will not be ruled by it? No reason at all, unless, as is rumoured, early drafts of the speech he will make in Brussels next week commit him to saying what a wonderful thing it is.

It is natural for Americans to like the sound of the word "constitution". They have the best one ever written in a single document. It consists, in the copy I have before me, of 12 pages, 11 if you exclude the list of the men who signed it. There are also amendments added over the past two centuries: they amount to another nine pages. If President Bush tucked himself up with it at his famously early bedtime of 9.30, he could finish it well before 10.

I should be surprised if the State Department, the Washington faction keenest on turning Mr Bush into a Euro-enthusiast, has encouraged him to go to bed with a copy of the European Constitution. My copy, published by TSO (note that the former name Her Majesty's Stationery Office has quietly been relegated), is 511 pages long. I do not claim it would keep Mr Bush up all night – in fact, I guarantee that, if he tried to read it, he would still be asleep by 10 – but it would wake him and the First Lady up with a start as it slipped from his nerveless hands and crashed, all 2lb 8oz of it, on the floor.

If he did spend 20 minutes with the document, however, the President would see that it was not what is normally meant by a constitution. Rather than confining itself to the division of powers by which a country should be governed – head of state, parliament, judiciary, what's local and what's national – it lays out scores of pages telling people how to run their lives. It supports positive discrimination, outlaws the death penalty in all circumstances, commits itself to high public spending, compulsory consultation with trade unions about changes at work, "the exchange of youth workers", "fat-free breakfasts", "distance education" and "the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen" (I made one of these up). And it imposes all these on nations that have their own governments and electorates.

It also contains a great bundle of miscellaneous provisions about such things as abortion in Malta, "Hot Rolling Mills Nos 1 and 2" for a steel company in the Czech Republic, some rather frightening-looking stuff about the nuclear power plant in Slovakia and "the right to provide services by natural persons who do not enjoy hembygdsrätt/kotiseutuoikeus (regional citizenship) in Åland". This is not a constitution, certainly not a constitution intended to be understood by those it affects. It is a vast agglomeration of decisions made by governments to take power over citizens of vastly differing countries.

If one had to point out only two aspects of the treaty to Mr Bush, I would first draw his attention to Article 1-16, which commits all member states to a "common foreign and security policy". "Member states," it goes on, "shall actively and unreservedly support the union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the union's actions in this area." That would seem, at a stroke, to prevent Britain (or any other member country) from acting unilaterally in military or political alliance with the United States ever again. In his interview with Alec Russell in today's paper, the President expresses his objections to the EU as a means of projecting global power and supplanting Nato: that is exactly what the European Constitution is trying to bring about.

Second, I would draw attention to the opening words of the two documents. The US Constitution begins, famously, "We the People…". The European Constitution begins, "His Majesty the King of the Belgians…". That gives you a fair idea of the different spirit of each document.

The European Constitution is a headache for President Bush because Tony Blair is his best friend abroad, and Tony says it's great for Britain. Thanks to Tory nit-picking over the war in Iraq, which they had supported, and to Tory pettishness about the White House's reaction to this, there has never been a time when the Conservative Party has had less influence with a conservative President.

So New Labour has the way clear. The classic diplomatic argument that our "influence" will nullify any potential problems that the document contains seems quite seductive. Endorsement of the European Constitution appears to be the electorally neatest way of claiming George's debt to Tony, and that is certainly what our very able man in Washington, Sir David Manning, and our very able reptile in Brussels, Peter Mandelson, will have been telling Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State. They have probably not urged her to remind the President that, according to the polls, the British are likely to vote "No".

Well, it is for America, and not for us, to decide whether it wishes to encourage the birth of a superpower whose big cheeses want it to be the global rival of the United States. All we British can and should say (which our Government won't) is that there's nothing in that for us, and hope that Americans therefore question whether it's really so marvellous for them. By all accounts, that question is being asked hard and repeatedly in the White House this weekend.

Soon, probably next year, we shall be asked to vote on the constitution ourselves. The No campaign has been arguing for quite a long time that every household should be sent a copy of the European Constitution. The Government is proving rather evasive on the point, but what possible objection could there be, apart from the health-and-safety threat to our postmen's spines?

It would weigh scarcely anything extra to throw in the US Constitution with each envelope, thus offering the most instructive possible comparison.
Heard over the weekend that even if they vote the constitution in it will not be legally binding *WTF* but it will be in the UK, great thinking Brussels.

The constitution vote was taken by a mere 42% of the population. The Spanish govt. decreed that ONLY Spanish nationals could vote. The foreign vote here is sizable and the Brits and Germans voted in many Partido Popular (Sp. equivalent of Conservatives) to local govt. in the regions. Zapatero knew the damage the "foreign" resident vote would do to his referendum! Hence a YES vote.
The reason why only 42% of the Spanish population voted is because the result in Spain was a forgone conclusion. Zofo your post also contains a typical piece of anti-EU hypocrisy.

On the one hand -
“If we go any further in the this EU malarkey Jose Foreigner will be telling us what to do”

Then on the other:
“What’s wrong with Jose Foreigner he won’t let us decent Brits and the boxheads -sorry I mean those fine Germans – vote in his election and tell them what they should think”

Before you get me totally wrong I will be voting no to the constitution when we have our referendum, but only because it doesn’t contain the necessary democratic safeguards. I would be happy to vote yes if it did.

A final point, I notice that the same sort of people who complain about British PMs getting to far *********** of US Presidents (Her Majesty the Maggie did it in the 80’s, St Tony of Blair does it today) also tend to be the most anti EU. They also tend to ridicule the EU is an irrelevance, a talking shop that never does anything when problems like Iraq come along. True, the EU is divided we rarely speak with one voice, and on the occasions when we do – Kyoto Protocol – we have no power to back it up. But who (irrespective of the colour of the party in power) is always the first to break with Europe especially if there is a dispute with the US? And in the big picture - dwindling oil production post 2015, global warming, mass movement of populations from south to north, globalised world markets etc, whose real long term interests are served by a divided Europe. That Europe of separate nation states who slaughtered 60 million of ourselves in the last century. And who made a shed load of money before joining the two major conflicts of that century half way through, and each time went away a f**ck of a lot more powerful and richer. No I’m not anti-American. This is just the way the world is, all big powers have done this in the past, including the Britain when we were top dog. Smaller countries can only protect themselves agaist this by banding together. We have a choice 25th state or 51st state or the fat happy and rich Immorality of Swedish/Swiss neutrality.
I agree with Rioja DOC, the vast majority of people in Spain are very happy with the EU, that is why they have none of the bizarre UKIP/Tory Eurosceptic rants that we see in some of the more simplistic press in the UK.

as for the Spanish not allowing foreigners to vote in the refereundum, makes sense me. After all, imagine the Uk press if the 00s of thousands of overseas visitors here could vote.

One final point, this so called Eurosceptic british public, dont get that bothered either, how many as a % of voters actually got out of bed in 2004 Euro elections and voted for UKIP? Not very many at all, and I bet UKIP will not win one seat in the next general election, and the tories will get trounced yet again (and I am not certainly not voting labour). This is a non-issue.


RiojaDOC said:
And in the big picture - dwindling oil production post 2015, global warming, mass movement of populations from south to north, globalised world markets etc, ... blah blah blah
Slightly off topic, but I remember having sleepless nights and nightmares as an 11 year old in the early 70s when my geography teacher at school assured us that there was only 5-10 years worth of oil left, a new ice age was coming, we would revert to a hunter-gatherer society etc etc. I liked my creature comforts and didn't fancy that at all. I am currently unsure what to be frightened about: global warming; terrorism; immigration; big Europe; little Europe; George W Bush; Vladimir Putin; drugs; Ken Livingstone; Michael Howard; cholesterol; AIDS; the Atkins diet?

Will signing up to the European Constitution - thus enshrining subsidies for French artisan cheesemakers as a fundamental human right - affect any of this?
RiojaDOC said:
The reason why only 42% of the Spanish population voted is because the result in Spain was a forgone conclusion. Zofo your post also contains a typical piece of anti-EU hypocrisy.

On the one hand -
“If we go any further in the this EU malarkey Jose Foreigner will be telling us what to do”

Then on the other:
“What’s wrong with Jose Foreigner he won’t let us decent Brits and the boxheads -sorry I mean those fine Germans – vote in his election and tell them what they should think”
No mate, no hypocrisy with me at all. I'm all for the EU (ducks) but having seen exactly what happened where I live and the vast influx of votes, I can only conclude (and follow up what some of the press are saying) why foreigners are not allowed to vote.

I don't think that the vote was taken as forgone by the Spanish electorate - apart from the papers, there has been no comment or interest whatsoever in this by my mates of their mates. No one has read the blasted constitution and very few people care or understand what it's all about (in my neck of the woods). At the end of the day, for a country that is supposedly pro EU, 42% is a poor showing.
I can see how the Spanish see the EU as a shining light of pluralistic democracy, but then they were under a fascist dictatorship until the late 70s. However, we have one of Europe's longest standing liberal, common law democracies, and thus many people in the UK see the EU as leading to the destruction of this and direct rule from Brussels by unelected Commission members.
The Continentals have a completely different mindset to us on the whole EU thing. I watched the Euro bandwagon arrive in town (literally) a few years ago when I was in Belgium. It arrived, put up a big stand in the town square, told everyone the Euro was a "Good Thing" for a few days, then packed up and moved on to the next town.

The locals simply accepted it all a face value, with no discussion and certainly no resistance to the idea. Then again, the Belgian frank had only been around for about 160 years, as had the nation state, so perhaps there was no sense of loyalty to the status quo.
We (as in the vast majority of brits) have a completely different view on europe compared to continental europe. We have had to resist umpteen attempted invasions by our neighbours over the last millenium, and as such we still have the island mentality ingrained in our psyche (not that tha is a bad thing).

I think we should still be involved in the leadership of europe but not allow the buearocrats in brussels to take over controlling the everyday running of our country. We should retain a degree of seperation from federal europe in order to keep some impartiality, whilst maintaing a strong relation with the US. That way we can have the best of both worlds and remain as the important link between the spams and great unwashed that is europe. :twisted:

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