Tomorrow a referendum on the proposed European Constitution will be held in the Netherlands.
Until a few weeks ago I was considering voting against the constitution. My main reason was a big disappointment with the document itself. It's a great idea to have a referendum about such an important decision, but I think it's ridiculous to have a constitution that is hundreds of pages in size and is so extremely detailed. A constitution should be a document for the common people, in common language, and not a political treaty or combinations of treaties for politicians. It must be readable!
The Dutch constitution for example, is about 30 pages. Dry text, fair enough, but readable and in a manageable size. The U.S. Constitution? Also pretty readable, about 20 or 30 pages, and fairly easy to read. But take the text of the proposed European Constitution: hundreds of pages long, describing in detail how each and every committee is supposed to function, what it's supposed to do and what the scope of their work is.
Now, I am not afraid of reading large amounts of text, but I must admit I did not read the entire text of the constitution, and I will bet that 99% of tomorrow's voters haven't either. That's a shame; I like reading and I've read the Dutch and U.S. Constitution a few times, but now I have to vote for something that I just cannot force myself to read completely. Obviously -- good and solid documentation of what the European government can and cannot do is important, but a document with this level of detail is not a constitution, it's a treaty.
However, when the date for the referendum was approaching, I realized that this was not an election on a single document but it's a chance to say "yes" or "no" at continuing European integration, and to indicate whether or not I support the ideal of a united Europe. And that is definitely the case, I believe it's great for European countries to join and work together to remove artificial barriers on economic and political cooperation.
I was only strengthened in my position when I heard to arguments of the "no" voters. I realized that I really am a "yes" voter: yes, I am in favor of an internal liberalized economic market, and yes, I am in favor of a stronger common foreign policy for the E.U. And by the way: no, I am not afraid that Holland will ever loose its identity, nor I am not scared of increased competition between countries -- I think that that will actually make the European economies stronger in the long run. The one thing that I believe is the very best reason for an ever closer union in Europe, is the extremely bloody previous century. Having German and France in one political group, having Poland and Italy making joint decisions is the best argument ever to support a strong Europe -- supporting different cultures, supporting diversity, sure: but fundamentaly being linked together.
There are a lot of problems to be fixed in the current European government, and the sheer size of the constitution is one of them, but voting "no" now will not make that any easier for the people working on that.
Of course, what will happen now the French said "non" a few days ago is unclear, but I that won't stop me from saying "ja" to the European constitution, or from believing in the ideal of Europe getting closer together.
I gave my registration card registration card to Bianca who delivered it to my parents today (thanks!), who will then vote for me tomorrow.
So Jaap or Mieke, if you read this: "ja", please.