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by RAY FLEMING l ROME, as the saying goes, was not built in a day. Nor, it seems, will the European Union be built in 50 years.
The foundations are there, as are many of the buildings, but the miracle of a Europe structured to make its presence felt in the world will probably take a little longer after a majority of the French people on Sunday chose to put their parochial concerns ahead of the grand vision that their president urged them to embrace. Before any French readers of this Viewpoint protest, let it be said at once that if it had been Britain voting on Sunday, or tomorrow instead of the Dutch, the majority would almost certainly have put their parochial concerns ahead of whatever brave future Mr Blair might have envisioned. In his remarks yesterday on the outcome of France's referendum on the EU constitution Mr Blair was wise to call for “time for reflection”.
The leaders of the EU meet in Brussels on June 16 and that will be quite soon enough for the first assessments to be made of the extent of the damage that the French vote has done to the EU's present and future. hereafter, from July 1, for six months as Britain takes over the EU presidency, Mr Blair will have direct responsibility for restoring confidence in the existing European Union after the shock delivered by the French voters. eanwhile, the blame game will go on. The most extreme example is the suggestion that the problem began with Michael Howard, who bounced Tony Blair into promising a referendum, which bounced Jacques Chirac into doing the same when he had almost decided to rely on a parliamentary approval that he would easily have obtained. he saddest aspect of the whole affair is that the French people's fear of the mythical “Polish plumber” should have led a nation that has given so much to European civilization to quit the leadership of the European Union it helped to establish.