The French people’s narrow vote Sunday to approve a treaty on European unity has come as a big relief to the Jewish leadership here, which believes integration of the European nations spells greater security for Jews.
“To us Jews, this vote means we are heading toward” a Europe “of democracy, of more tolerance, of greater mutual respect – a Europe in which we will be able to bring an end to ethnic and religious wars and advance human dignity,” Jean Kahn, head of CRIF, the representative body of French Jewry, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Kahn said the Holocaust could not have happened in a unified Europe. “Had this Europe existed back in the ’30s, I am convinced 6 million Jews would not have been murdered.”
The so-called Maastricht Treaty, which calls for closer economic, monetary and defense cooperation among the 12 nations of the European Community, was approved by a slim 50.95 percent of the French electorate in a national referendum Sunday.
Had the vote gone the other way, it would likely have scuttled the entire process of European integration.
Right-wing extremist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, a leading opponent of the treaty, told JTA before results were tabulated that French President Francois Mitterrand should step down no matter what the result.
Le Pen, who heads the far-right National Front, said he was confident of winning up to 20 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections next March.
The Jewish community has watched Le Pen’s progress with great concern. So far he has openly attacked North African immigrants while being careful to avoid attacking Jews. But from time to time he has let down his veil and referred to “cosmopolitans” or “the alien party,” felt by many to be code names for Jews.
Many hope increasing European unity will lead to the fading away of far-right parties such as the National Front.
But others believe it may have a contrary effect. To those who fear an over- centralized Europe, Le Pen may seem the only alternative.