I agree 100% with Donnacha’s last comments here. Jane, voting in any particular direction out of “gratitude” is not only nonsensical, it’s outright dangerous. Instead, and just by showing up at the booth with a clear understanding of the issue(s) and available choices put before the electorate, you can show such “gratitude” – although civic responsibility alone also warrants just that.
As I see it – and this comment is written by Spaniard living in the USA these days – there is a reasonable measure of generic “gratitude” that one can have toward the EU defined as the endeavor of intertwining national economies and the larger political framework for international relations with two essential, ultimate goals: to avoid any further possibility of another mass conflagration amidst demographic relatives, and to provide means to collectively elevate the wellbeing of citizens where national government policies don’t suffice.
In a sense, a bit like the US Constitution neatly delineates and protects “local” (state) responsibilities as distinct from federal government, the EU is little more than a filler for political decision making matter to plug in where national policies can’t reach. So, to project a “super state” entity onto the EU is not just delusional, given the clear insufficiencies in EU decision making discretion, it’s injurious and offensive to the concept of national governmental sovereignty, as well.
All the more loathsome, in my opinion, is to paint the EU as either reflective of, or worse: an extension of shortcomings at the national (domestic) governmental and political level. After all, while the European Parliament is a result of the electorate’s will, its limited powers are practically moot in the face of the European Councils, where national government leaders concoct agreements behind closed doors, and the Commission, whose members are appointed by those government leaders as well.
To oppose the whole idea of a Constitution – as a set of guidelines and principles to protect national sovereignty and clarify what exactly the powers of the EU can be, and how they are held accountable, is to oppose the EU altogether as a political entity. At the risk of painting a caricature, that is a fairly traditional or common position in the UK and Nordic states. And that is why I’d suggest contemplating, in those cases, the more straightforward alternative: to step out of the EU altogether. That is what honesty demands.
The Irish case is different – fortunately, I’d add. With all its domestic political intricacy, it does have (and has shown to have) a far more mature, bottom-line oriented approach to the EU, taking up responsibilities along with the deserved fruits born by EU membership. That is also why I deplore the “double whammy” that is the diffuse, contradictory and opaque front of “Lisbon opposition”. Not that I necessarily object to the notion of coalitions borne by convenience and a casually shared opposition, but because in my view none of its participants can demonstrate an inherently coherent and cogent stance on the EU that makes sense, precisely from a national point of view.
And that is also what I meant with the Dutch and French exercise in infantile behavior: their vote on the EU was a vote on shortcomings of leadership (or lack thereof) at a domestic level. Shame on such irresponsible, petulant and profoundly ignorant excuses of “citizens”.