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Divorced From the European Union

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," June 2, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENITA FERRERO-WALDNER, E.U. EXTERNAL AFFAIRS CMSN: The vote in France (search), and now especially in the Netherlands (search), these are real, important, serious setbacks. But at the same time, of course, we continue to work and to — nothing does prevent us from carrying all the important work in cooperation with the U.S.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: So the cause of European unity goes on in the face of striking rejections of the document under which it was supposed to happen. Can it really go on, and should anyone in this country care whether it does or not?

For answers, we turn to John Hulsman, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who specializes, among other things, in European issues.

John, welcome.

JOHN HULSMAN, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Thank you.

HUME: First of all, I understand the need for European economic integration. But this constitution seems to go well beyond that, or am I wrong about that?

HULSMAN: No, it's a bridge too far. And what's happened is that four perfect storms kind of came together. One, it's a lousy document. Just to give you one example, our constitution has seven articles. This has 448 articles. It can't be read by a human being.

Secondly, it's...

HUME: Was it really written heavily by Valery Giscard d'Estaing (search)...

HULSMAN: It is.

HUME: ... the one time French...

HULSMAN: The failed French president wrote a great deal of this, and at a certain point ... no dissent, despite there being deliberative bodies. And said, "We will go forward grandly and everyone will accept this."

And of course, this didn't work, because the European elitists fundamentally discredit it. Economically, the three big states of Europe, France, Italy, and Germany in the Eurozone core have tremendous economic problems.

In France, unemployment among people under 25 is over 20 percent. This is the group that voted no in the highest number. Five million Germans are unemployed, the highest number since the 1930s. And in Italy today, the Bank of Italy said there will be no growth throughout 2005.

You can't say, "Trust us"...

HUME: Well, why this necessarily a protest against that, though?

HULSMAN: Because if you are going to say, in an elitist way, "Trust us," you better be darn good at running the economy. And they weren't so. And so it's a mix of this elitist European graduate school, kind of, "We all went to the same school. We can handle the problems of our area without consulting much of anyone," with the failure to — I mean...

HUME: Stop here for the benefit of people who, like me, who might not know why this document meant what you say it meant to people about there not — the peoples of these countries not being consulted and their lives run for them?

HULSMAN: Because what it does is it's another step toward further European integration. There have been a series of treaties since 1957 on these issues. This treaty would push for a common European foreign minister. It would change voting rights within the various countries to make things better for the bigger states to push things through.

And for the first time, unlike these other treaties, they consulted the European people who said, "You didn't consult us over the euro directly," many of the people, though they did in France. "You didn't consult us over European Union enlargement, where 10 new members joined the club recently from Central and Eastern Europe. And now you are consulting us, at last, so we're going to say no regardless of what's in the document because we're tired of not being consulted."

HUME: Well, what were the presumed benefits of this document and this further integration?

HULSMAN: Well, it depends on who you talk to. And that's another problem with Europe.

HUME: What were the intended benefits?

HULSMAN: It varies between — I'll give you the two extremes. In France, they said, "Look, if we behave as a coherent super state, we can balance the United States around the world. We can be taken seriously, punch above our weight, and talk to the Americans as a relative equal." That's the ultimate goal.

The British goal, which is not the same at all, is, "Look, we need to work and make things work more efficiently so that we can move more economic reform through." So on one side you have the French who say, "We want socialism, protectionism, anti-Americanism." And at the other extreme, you have the Brits who say, "We're pro-American, pro-free market." And in the words of Cole Porter, something has got to give here.

HUME: Well, all right. So all this unfolds, and we Americans look across the big pond and we say, "Well, look at that. Isn't that amusing to see the French deal their leaders — and we don't particularly care for comeuppance and so on," and the elites of Europe who are fun to laugh at.

But what about the U.S. interests here? Condoleezza Rice was actually saying quite positive things about European unity today. Have we lost something in this vote or these votes?

HULSMAN: I mean, I think not. I think that Secretary Rice did. And I that's very much just the old speak of American diplomacy since the 1950s. She's in a long line of people who say, without thinking too much about it, "I'm for a united Europe, whole, free and united," without asking...

HUME: Well, of course, free Europe was not whole and free for so long.

HULSMAN: It was. So at the time in 1945 to 1957, this makes perfect sense. But what we're talking about now in these last 35 years is entirely different.

What we're talking about, and we're finally asking the right questions, what kind of Europe is this? Is this going to be a super state or a group of states? Is this going to be pro-American or is it going to be anti-American? Is it going to be pro-free market or anti-free market?

We have finally gotten, I think, because of what's happened here, beyond the slogan stage. It will take Secretary Rice and others a while to catch up, but I think these are the right questions that really should have been asked 40 years ago.

HUME: To what extent is the process of European integration economically hindered by this vote? Or does that sort of go forward on its own track?

HULSMAN: I think it largely goes forward by its own track. I think, though, that the danger in all of this is that you have huge divisions even there. The French voted very much saying the E.U. constitution is way too pro-free market. We want to protect our market. We're scared of globalization. We're not very competitive. Stop the bandwagon. We would like to get off.

HUME: Right.

HULSMAN: On the other side, I think you have the Dutch, which one of the most pro-free market people in the European Union saying, "Well, this document's too status, too regulatory." Part of the problem is that they disagree about what they don't like about it. And that's the problem with the whole project.

HUME: Well, it must have been some document to be hated by the protectionists and the free traders alike.

HULSMAN: Well, that's why it's vague and 448 articles. This is the problem when you put people in a room who don't fundamentally agree on what they're doing.

HUME: Four hundred and forty-eight pages and still not specific enough.

HULSMAN: And still not specific enough.

HUME: All right, John. Nice to have you. Thanks for coming in.

HULSMAN: Good seeing you.

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