Despite France's historic attachment to the idea of European integration, ongoing unemployment problems as well as immigration issues contribute to the recent unpopularity of the European Union in the French republic. The French public sees little to gain and much to lose from continuing down the path to federalism. Ireland stands at the opposite end of the spectrum. A virtual Irish miracle in economic growth has freed Ireland from its economic dependence on its neighboring island, the United Kingdom. Thus, France and Ireland provide divergent perspectives on the European question. First, I discuss French attempts to balance Europeanism and nationalism, emphasizing in particular the increasing influence of the National Front (FN). Second, I examine the Irish republic and its use as a model European nation with high economic growth and continued support for Europeanism as well as nationalism. Finally, I draw lessons from these examples on how to better balance the goals of European integration while maintaining established beliefs about national identity.
In France, for instance, President Mitterand approached the referendum with the hope that in supporting it he would be able to capitalize upon the strength of pro-Europeanism in France to garner support for his Socialist Party in the forthcoming election and for his own candidature for re-election as French President. In the event it worked the other way round: the unpopularity of the Socialist government, and an increasing distrust of the President, led French citizens to vote against Maastricht. Given all the reasons which may be adduced from internal political and economic circumstances for the French to vote against the government, and, as a consequence, against ratification, the small majority in favour was a measure of the astonishing strength of pro-Europeanism in France. 
By concentrating on popular fears and an economic recession, opponents of integration in France focus their attack on three key issues: national identity, sovereignty, and unemployment. To many Frenchmen, it seems clear that the integration endorsed in the Maastricht treaty would result in further reductions of "French autonomy and distinctiveness." The expansion of the Brussels bureaucracy under the European Commission and Council reduced French autonomy by increasing regulations and European-level directives. As Jacques Delors, former President of the European Community's Commission, predicted, the Brussels bureaucrats control "80 percent of what affects [Europeans'] daily lives." Consequently, Le Pen and the National Front protested that any further strengthening of the European Union would serve to decrease French national identity. Le Pen's xenophobic stance on immigration complemented his rhetoric against the Maastricht treaty for, among other things, the EU plans to allow labor to move freely across borders. Consequently, Le Pen utilized the tangible French fears about immigration to bolster his arguments about the possible loss of French identity in a federal Europe. Fears of losing French culture play no small part in Le Pen's recent electoral success as well as the Maastricht treaty's electoral mishap, thus exacerbating polarization in the French polity.
Another issue that affected the popularity of the Maastricht treaty involved national sovereignty. After the Single European Act of 1987, the European Union instituted a policy of majority voting. By dropping the unanimity clause, the EU introduced the utility concept into the governance structure. With qualified majority voting, the EU can choose the best option for the greatest number of countries, rather than submit to the influence of any single country. For France, the new voting structure could endanger the cherished agricultural price supports. The implicit weakening of national sovereignty as a result of qualified majority voting and bureaucratic expansion reinforced European political dominance just as the single monetary unit will strengthen European economic power. As a result of these factors, questions of national sovereignty began to play an integral part in determining French opinions on integration during the 1990s.
Finally, economic concerns
may have had the greatest impact on popular sentiment against the government
and the Maastricht treaty. Unemployment became a rallying point for
the National Front against immigration as well as Europeanism. At
11.7 percent, the French unemployment figure continues to be an obstacle
for integration in the French polity. Political
leaders in France, such as Mitterand and current President Chirac, have
their hands symbolically tied by European integration policies: "The government's
commitment to European integration and monetary union sets limits on the
amount the state can spend on creating new jobs, or on new social benefits,
without risking inflation and a weakening of the Franc, which is tied to
the German mark." Similarly, French farmers
fear that France will lose its one major economic benefit from the common
market: agricultural price supports. As the United States increases
pressure for trade liberalization, it becomes ever more likely that France
will be out-maneuvered and overruled in the EU Council, thus losing the
popular farm price supports. While established
leaders are severely constrained on these two important issues, Le Pen
remains free to raise the nationalist flag by endorsing politically unfeasible
policies combating unemployment and supporting French farmers. Consequently,
as a result of unemployment trends as well as increased pressure for trade
liberalization, support for the National Front has increased in recent
years. As David Zane Mairowitz contends:
While national electoral support for the National Front has reached a maximum of approximately 15 percent, its impact has been more far-reaching. According to Mark Kesselman, "The FN's propaganda has borne fruit. For example, a poll after the 1995 presidential election indicated that one-third of all voters and fully 43 percent of pro-Chirac voters hoped 'that the ideas proposed by the National Front will be seriously considered by the newly elected president.'" Both the UDF and the RPR were forced to reevaluate their positions on the European Union due to the successful publicity campaign of the National Front. Eventually, the UDF conceded that the original goal of a "federal European Community" seemed unrealistic while Chirac and the RPR increasingly look inward, rather than to Europe, for solutions to French problems. This change in fundamental political beliefs illustrates the extreme influence the National Front currently has on the French polity.
Despite the National
Front's best efforts, however, support for European integration is not
completely diminished in France. After all, the Maastricht treaty
was ratified. Similarly, opinion polls have never shown a lack of
support in France for "Europe." In the Eurobarometer rankings, a
poll published by the European Commission to monitor European opinions,
France consistently ranks high among its fellow countries in support of
Europeanization. In one poll designed to determine
personal loyalties, the French considered themselves the most European
of all the countries except for Italy. While
the rise of the National Front points to a weakened consensus on the European
Union in France, all other indicators, including practical treaty ratification
and opinion polls, suggest continued French support for European integration.
In France, European integration and economic recession have heightened
domestic tensions, thus polarizing the polity. Under these conditions,
political leaders in France must decide if they will endorse a deepening
or a postponement of integration. Thus far, mainstream French politicians
have supported deepening integration to maintain their influence in Europe
relative to Germany; however, as domestic tensions rise, pressure from
extremist groups threatens to overwhelm the consensus for integration.
Another benefit of European
integration for Ireland is a broadening of the economy. Since joining
the European Economic Community in 1973, Ireland's economy has liberalized,
thereby attracting new foreign capital. As
a result of this new investment, Ireland has experienced rapid industrialization,
with increased employment in both industry (from 24 percent in 1961 to
28 percent in 1986) and services (40 percent to 56 percent in the same
years) while employment in agriculture declined from 36 percent in 1961
to 16 percent in 1986. This broadening of
the Irish economy due to diversified trade and increased industrialization
serves to strengthen Ireland in foreign affairs as well as in its domestic
In addition to decreasing its terms of trade with England, membership in the EU has created a unique economic expansion in Ireland. As the Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, John Bruton explained recently: "'I would like to make the point that we in this country have the lowest interest rates in 30 or 40 years, the lowest mortgage rates. . . . [Without the Maastricht criteria,] there would be a greater tendency to currency instability, . . . higher interest rates, more expensive houses, and fewer jobs.'" Additionally, as the Irish Times foreign editor Paul Gillespie notes, growth rates in Ireland are the highest in the EU. In 1995, the Irish GDP grew at a real rate of 7 percent. As Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission, states, Ireland is one of the "'success stories of the EU,'" with mostly positive effects from membership in the EU. With such strong economic growth due to membership, Irish support for the EU seems only logical.
As a result of the strong economic impact of the EU, the Irish public has maintained strong support for the EU since Ireland joined the European Community in 1973. Nearly 70 percent of the Irish people supported both the Single European Act of 1987 and the Maastricht treaty, which had so much difficulty in the French referendum and elsewhere.  According to Paul Taylor, this strong support "turned out to be support for a system which provided 6 percent of GNP through subventions and grants from the EU--the highest rate of per capita financial support in all the member states." However, not all support may be attributed solely to economic growth and expansion as Irish nationalism continues to affect every issue concerning Ireland.
Unlike most countries, Ireland believes its national identity has actually been bolstered by the European Union. As Paul Gillespie contends,
Yet, as Haas maintains later in The Uniting of Europe, it is this "conflict and consensus, unity in diversity" that distinguishes the European polity. Despite the common goal of integration, European countries lack a complete harmony of interests. The European Union must acknowledge these differences in order to satisfy all of its constituents. Conflict characterizes the French example. Because the French economy remains weak, the National Front has an attentive audience for its nationalist ideas. Therefore, France must emphasize unemployment to satisfy the public. As a result of the slow economy and the perceived threats to national identity, support for European integration remains limited in France. The political elites, and not the public, maintain France's commitment to a united Europe.
Ireland provides a direct contrast to the French example. A consensus in Ireland can be directly attributed to a strong economy and strengthened national identity. These factors in Ireland in the 1990s ensure broad-based support for the European Union. Nonetheless, improvements in Ireland's terms of trade must expand upon the economic success of the last two decades for both the public and the elites in Ireland to continue supporting further integration.
For both countries, questions of national identity continue to be an essential part of the integration process. While countries remain unified in their support for the concept for Europe, a diversity of domestic concerns precludes complete consensus between states. In France, for example, the National Front illustrates how European integration threatens and challenges French distinctiveness. Irish leaders emphasize how the European Union has promoted its national identity by weakening the relationship between England and the republic. As long as the European Union realizes no universal solution exists, all member states can be satisfied to some degree. Significantly, the consociational model depends on this heterogeneity of interests: a major characteristic of the model is that a country must be focused more on its domestic concerns than those problems that it shares with neighboring countries. Subsidiarity plays a vital role in calming fears in this aspect of integration. Subsidiarity, or the policy of keeping government action as close to people as possible while retaining efficiency, became the guiding principle of future integration with the Maastricht Treaty. If the European Union can successfully stabilize the European economy while allowing governments to address domestic problems, then opponents of integration may find themselves unable to argue against a united Europe.
This analysis indicates that European elites must deal with a two-level game by addressing both the elites in other countries and domestic constituents. As Mitterand discovered in the Maastricht Treaty referendum, diplomacy will not resolve domestic problems. Therefore, political elites must be cognizant of domestic tensions before supporting further deepening of integration. Also, European-level elites must realize the enormous burdens integration places on some politicians and provide some relief to them.
The above discussion confirms
that support for integration is a function of domestic concerns such as
the economy and national identity. These factors determine whether
countries will be conflictual or consensual towards a deepening of the
European Union. This relationship can be illustrated in a simple
For Ireland, the blend of economic expansion and strengthened national
identity indicates a consensual attitude towards European integration.
Germany, which seems to continually experience high unemployment while
affirming a strong sense of national identity within the European Union,
maintains broad support for, or at least less resistance to, further integration.
At the opposite end, many observers in the United Kingdom, which has a
fairly strong economy, fear a united Europe as a threat to English national
identity. Finally, France, with its struggling economy, must also
address perceived threats to national identity from the European Union.
From this model, it seems clear that national identity is a determinant
factor for whether constituents in the various countries see integration
as an economic opportunity or a threat to domestic economic strength.
Already a significant factor, national identity will become even more important as the monetary union removes each country's currency, a symbol of national sovereignty. While Europeans do support the concept of Europe, "[they] are against a Europe which threatens national identity and cultural diversity. . . . They are, however, in favour of a United Europe where national and regional identities and cultural diversity are respected, protected and defended . . ." As demonstrated in the Irish and French cases, national identity and Europeanization are not mutually exclusive; they are interactive phenomena, mediated by economic conditions.
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2. "Mad John Bull Disease," The Economist 23 Nov 1996: 60.
3. Taylor 140.
4. Reuters, "Study: French 'Hatred of Foreigners' On Rise, " Chicago Tribune 23 Mar 1997: 11; Roger Cohen, "For France, Sagging Self-Image and Esprit," The New York Times 11 Feb 1997: A8.
5. Cohen A8; Mark Kesselman et al., European Politics in Transition, 3rd ed. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997) 215.
6. Alan Riding, "French Approve Unity Treaty, But Slim Margin Leaves Doubts," The New York Times 21 Sept 1992: A8.
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8. Taylor 145.
9. Riding A8; Kesselman 229.
10. "France Self-Destructs," The New York Review of Books 28 May 1992: 29.
11. "France Self-Destructs" 29.
12. Stanley Hoffman, "Goodbye to a United Europe?" The New York Review of Books 27 May 1993: 30.
13. Kesselman 229.
14. Taylor 64.
15. "France Self-Destructs" 28.
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18. "France Self-Destructs" 29.
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21. "France Self-Destructs" 29.
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23. Kesselman 215.
24. "France: L'Etat C'est L'Europe" S6.
25. "France: L'Etat C'est L'Europe" S17.
26 Taylor 163.
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28. John Clements, Clement's Encyclopedia of World Governments. Vol. 12 (Dallas: Political Research, Inc., 1996-97) 185.
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35. Smyth "Bruton."
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38. Smyth "Bruton."
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40. Taylor 145.
42. "Europe enhances national identity - President."
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44. Haas 6.
45. Taylor 79.
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