My feelings on the upcoming referendum on the European Union Constitution are rather mixed and slightly confused. Part of the reason is that I'm an American citizen (a legal resident of Spain), and I view this from rather an outside perspective.
If I were British or Irish, I'd be very suspicious of the EU, and I would support some kind of associate membership in both the EU and NAFTA. I would vote no on the treaty.
If I were Spanish, I would hope I would be honest enough to admit that Spain has a very poor record at self-government, and that membership in international institutions--first the UN and then NATO and the EU--has been key in making Spain part of the international community. I would actually figure that full 100% membership in the EU would be a guarantee on Spain never sliding back to the old ways; you have to remember that Spain was a dictatorship until the old SOB died in bed in 1975 and that the Army tried to pull a coup as late as 1981. Democracy in Spain was established as recently as 1978. Eastern Europe wasn't free until 1989. That's only an eleven-year difference. Spain has also received lots of dough from the EU over the years, and it would be sort of selfish to pull out now that the people who are going to get the big subsidies are Slavs and Magyars.
I know that's kind of superficial, but if I were Spanish I would vote yes.
If I were Catalanista I would figure that the stronger the EU bonds are, the looser identification with the state there will be, and that therefore there will be more of an opportunity to hype regional identification. I would vote yes.
As an American I figure anything that binds democratic governments closer together is a good thing, and I think it is very positive that places like Poland and Slovakia and Hungary are already part of the West. I do not believe that a more united Europe will be a challenge to America; we are similar peoples, both part of the great Western civilization of the Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Christians. (This does not exclude Muslims or anyone else, by the way, since our tradition should allow other religions to freely express their ideas in our countries, of course.) Our interests are similar and our goals are similar, and in the long run things will work out with a lot of jaw-jawing and no war-waring, because there is no way a bunch of democracies are going to go to war, not even if the French somehow get hold of the central apparatus. As an American I urge you Continental Europeans to vote yes.
The best argument I have heard against the EU constitution is that it adds another useless layer of bureaucracy. Fine, I say. Let's vote for the party that promises to cut down our state bureaucracy and hand over its responsibilities to the EU.