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Oakley: European leaders 'wounded'

Discussing the Dutch 'no' vote on EU constitution


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CNN's Robin Oakley
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(CNN) -- Voters in the Netherlands soundly rejected the proposed European Union constitution Wednesday, three days after France gave it a thumbs-down.

CNN correspondent Robin Oakley spoke to anchor Fionnuala Sweeney about what may happen next.

SWEENEY: Now let's turn once again to Robin Oakley there. Robin, there is going to be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over the next two weeks before that summit on what to do next.

OAKLEY: There is. Everybody is going to be striking positions. And remember, we've got a lot of wounded political leaders all across Europe now who are going to be playing their different games.

Jacques Chirac humiliated by that result in France. What's he going to do? He's going to be going to that summit demanding that Europe moves in the direction of the French social model, which he's promised to protect. High welfare payments, good labor protection, that kind of thing.

You've got Tony Blair who's had a drubbing in the British election, he's wanting to take his six months in the presidency of the European Union starting on July 1 to drive for more economic reform -- just the kind that the French don't want.

You've got Silvio Berlusconi wounded in Italy. You've got Gerhard Schroeder in Germany having had a drubbing in regional elections. He's not going to be wanting to agree to that European Union budget with Germany continuing to be a big contributor.

[The] Dutch prime minister is going to have to show he is able to fight for his country now. The Dutch, one of the things they've objected to, [is] being the biggest per capita contributors to that EU budget. They are going to have a real old fandango when they get to Brussels.

As for what they do with the constitution, they can chuck it out altogether, they can cherry pick the bits that they want or they can say, let's all go on ratifying and see if we can get 23 countries to say 'yes' and then turn back on the two who've said 'no' and ask them to have another go.

SWEENEY: Within the last couple of minutes, the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has said the Dutch vote on the EU constitution raises what he says are profound questions for the EU's future. What will Britain's take on this be?

OAKLEY: Britain's take will be, you need to concentrate on the economics. Tony Blair wants to go forward with that social reform agenda, labor market reforms, all those kinds of issues. He will say, "forget these grand political projects." Remember, Britain originally opposed the idea of having an EU constitution. He's no great lover of that constitution. He will want to drive forward the economic program.

Some others, the countries who have retained the federalist dream of Europe, they will want to get back to the constitution in some shape or form, but they probably won't be in too much of a hurry to do it. They know there is this huge gap between leaders and electorates now.

SWEENEY:And how do they fill that gap do you think, will they be able to do it? And how long of a time frame are we talking here?

OAKLEY: I think it is going to take a new generation of leaders and who would give money on Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac still being in office two years from now each of them?


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