Group of European Pensioners from Savings Banks and Financial Institutions


Index of documents > Euromeetings Magazine > Euromeetings Number 10

IN a few minutes, it will be eight o’clock. The evening of this Sunday, 21st may, I find myself, as many of my fellow countrymen, staring at the television screen, waiting for the result of the referendum on the Constitutional Treaty for Europe. The verdict will son be known.

Being myself a real Europhile, I am still confident that, despite the negative polls, common sense will prevail and “Yes” vote will triumph. However, at this very moment, I remember some worries and fears expressed by my friends from the Group. I remember particularly a discussion with Diego Carrasco and José López during the last Euromeeting in Islantilla. I understand their fear of seeing France, one of European Union’s

co-founders, cast a negative vote.  Eight o’clock. The dice is cast, and the result is announced: France has voted No by a large majority. Instantly, I think of my friends from the Group; what will they think about this refusal? A leader writer from a well-known French magazine wrote that 'if No won the voting, France would be remembered for failing to live up to the expectations it had arisen and for being indifferent to its role in History'. Therefore, I ask myself: will our Group look down on the French Federation because

of this rejection?


The French Federation has always shown, during the Euromeetings, its strong Europhile convictions, its willingness to work hard for the success of Group’s actions and influence. Could we then let ourselves be swallowed by this No, whose meaning is more domestic  than European?


This referendum took place in France in a context in which the most popular matters were the problems to

make a living, the unemployment or the health system’s situation. This No vote has been, to a lot of French citizens, a way of punishing their Government’s policies, in particular its inability to tackle unemployment.



Will this French crisis lead to a longer European one? Time has passed and we have not seen the so

announced “cataclysm”. Europe will keep on going on, maybe limping, but it will definitely not stop its course. History will remember this No vote from France as a pause to relax and think, a little break, but also as a regrettable delay in the construction of Europe.


Many pro-no partisans affirm they are in favour of Europe, and that they do not reject the great aims of the

European cause. Most of them demand another Europe, better than the one we have been offered, more socially- oriented. They wish to maintain the so-called French social model, although nobody in Europe considers it its model. Moreover, is it possible to think that there may be, in any of the EU countries, a social model that could be applied successfully in the rest of them? There are obviously social measures in several member states that Europe should keep, but there is not a unique, perfect social system.



This French negative reaction means also in a way that our efforts to make people love Europe have been

unsuccessful. Europe has often been represented as an obscure economic and legal system, and takes usually the form of a source of nuisance for its citizens. We are stuck, we have no project in mind, nothing to guide our steps, we are lost in uncertainty.  We don’t recognise our identity anymore, we just faintly recognise what we are, and we do not know yet our destiny in this Europe of 25 members.


The moment has come for every decision-maker to do some self criticism. Nothing has been said about a project for the future. How can we justify Europe without explaining its use and its past and future contribution? The lack of debate prior to the referendum lead to some kind of frustration, or even a lack of understanding. We are all responsible for this lack of information.


We are also “Euroindifferents”; let me give you an example: many people know that June 21st is celebrated

in most European countries as the music day, but few are the ones who know that May 9th is Europe’s

day.  The construction of Europe is an amazing project with a lot of chances of success. European citizens have been able to change a tragic History of conflicts, death and suffering. They have managed to silence the weapons and change the ruling of force for that of law. They have created a space of freedom in a continent shaken by centuries of struggles.


The European Union has also known how to prove its ability to promote commercial projects that may create

thousands of jobs (like Airbus or Ariane). Lately, the big success of European technology in aeronautics

(A380), space developments (like Galileo, the satellite navigation system created in response to the American

GPS) or nuclear energy (creation of the ITER thermonuclear fusion reactor in Cadarache, France), shows how

a united and determined Europe can face any competitor.


French voters have said No to European Constitution, but for most of them it did not mean a rejection of

Europe. During the referendum campaign, the French Federation opted not to take part in the debate, because of its usual biased influences. But more than ever, the head members of our Federation remain united to the European Group. We are firmly determined to keep on working so that our Group can make a better contribution to the development of a Europe for the people, social and humane, that will listen to everyone, and particularly to older and disabled people.


European social space and social protection, two subjects already analysed during our Euromeetings, will

become a reality if there is a common willingness to reach them, as we have already done with the common

currency. We are aware of the challenges that will have to face all the actors, be it politicians, trade unionists or association or NGO’s head members. But we should not forget the words of Jean Monnet, one of E.U.’s founding fathers: “There will be a Europe, but it will grow step by step. Europe will do exist, but only through progresses and setbacks, through a balanced game of give and take”. In order to make Europe advance, remarkable men, those who designed Europe, have always tried to work through compromises, trying to find the middle ground. They gave away things in order to be able to demand. Jacques Delors, former President of European Commission, stated it clearly: “Europe is not a granted credit, it is our legacy to History”.


Europe’s construction must not avoid the “step by step” strategy. The path to reconcile the differences

among us will be long and hard, but this makes our challenge more exciting and enriching. My friends from

the Group, there is no need to worry: this challenge will keep alive our commitment at your sides,

in our fight for an improvement of social protection in Europe.


Jean Claude Chretien

Vice-president of the

Group - France