For a "Euro-Europe" on the Continent
Valéry Giscard dEstaing is a former
president of France, and Helmut Schmidt is a former chancellor of Germany.
They are co-chairmen of the Committee for the Monetary Union of Europe.
ParisJust before the end of the last century, the 15 heads of state
or government sketched out their plans for the European Union. But they
jumped too quick and too far with one foot while the other foot lagged
very cautiously behind
In addition to the ongoing negotiations with Poland, Hungary, the Czech
Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus, all of which have applied for
membership to the EU, they also decided to initiate membership negotiations
with Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Malta. The commission
went as far as proclaiming that by the end of year 2000 they would set
the timetable for the admission of seven or eight of the applicants as
well for the respective transition periods.
Yet Europes leaders failed to make progress in preparing the capability
of the European Union to absorb this enormous number of prospective new
The need for institutional reform is urgent. Already, with only 15 member
states, the existing institutions are not functioning well. If they remain
unchanged, they will become unable to function once the number of member
states is considerably increased. And institutional reform will become
even more difficult once the membership has been increased!
The obvious haste to enlarge the union, combined with neglect for institutional
reforms, can mislead the union into a sequence of severe crises during
the first decade of the 21st century. It also may end up diluting the
union into a mere free trade area with some institutions at the fringes.
Such a distortion of the nature and the historically unique goal of the
European Union might please some nationalists in several countries. But,
mainly, it would satisfy those in Washington who aspire to maintain some
control over Europe to facilitate Americas global geopolitical aimsand,
Some of the politicians who give grandiloquent speeches on Europes
future seem to know history only as far back as Hitler, Stalin and the
Cold War. They do not have enough understanding of the 18th and the 19th
centuries, especially of the history of the nations of the Balkan Peninsula.
Europes history in the past couple of centuries has been a history
of the emergence of nation states, competing and fighting each other,
most of them equipped with their own national language and their own national
history. None of these nations is easily willing to sacrifice its heritage
and give up it self-determination. It therefore takes many steps, one
after the other, to persuade people to gradually give up some of their
sovereignty to serve their own future progress.
This piecemeal approach, starting with the Schuman Plan of 1950, has led
to the unbelievable success of the present European Union. If the present
EU leaders believe in doubling the number of member states just through
the summary acts of ministerial councils and their bureaucratic assistantsthen
they might rather soon find themselves in a grave crisis, including with
their own national electorates.
It was the French who instigated the integrative process. From the beginning,
the Germans have accepted being bound into the union. At least since the
1970s, the French have accepted that the integration of Germany can only
become permanently successful if the French nation binds herself in the
same way. It is this mutual German and French insight that has enabled
the integrative process to proceed and overcome a number of crises on
The last crisis was around Maastricht, but the euro (which had been proposed
and in preparation for 20 years) was nevertheless created. Again: What
a success! If we did not have the European Central Bank system today,
some former national central banks and their currencies might be maneuvered
into situations of crisis, in which they would have to submit to conditions
enforced by the common will of the markets plus the strictures of the
International Monetary Fund. The single European market would then be
faced with threatening tensions.
(Concerning the euro, we disagree with the "benign neglect"
of the European Central Bank, and the absence of any support by the political
institutions. The same Europeans who criticized loudly the United States
for the "benign neglect" of the dollar, should avoid calling
for the same criticism!)
The will to maintain a considerable degree of self-determination vis-a-vis
the global powers will become an important additional strategic motive
for European integration. Individually, none of the European nation states
is in itself weighty and powerful enough to stand up to the major world
powers, which will surely be tempted in the century ahead to solve their
problems without taking adequate account of the interests of others.
Only if we act together to complete the construction of the EU into a
fully operable entity can the European nations expect to maintain influence
in the world. How else will we be heard when it comes to major decision-making
on new international law, on arms limitations, on how to react in the
case of wars in other parts of the world, on how to manage global trade,
how to deal with the effects of global warming, how to dampen the global
population explosion and how to handle the streams of refugees and displaced
personsand, most urgently, how to make the presently chaotic financial
markets into a stable and viable global system.
In the course of the 21st century, at the latest in the second half of
this century, the present singularity of the American superpower will
progressively wither away. There will be more than just one world power.
The European Union is still far from being able to administer strong common
foreign and security policies, and thus still far from being a world power.
It will take great efforts to convince the old European nations that the
future weight of our aging societies and of the protection of their interests
depends on our will to integrate further.
Whether the United Kingdom will in the end decide to fully join the EU
remains to be seen. As long as the English nation prefers to sit on the
fence, halfway within and halfway outside the union, progress will primarily
depend on close cooperation and leadership by the French and the Germans.
They will wish to maintain the global security alliance with the Americans,
but they will at the same time strive to preserve their self-determination.
At present the accession of the Polish, the Czech and the Hungarian nations
into the EUaltogether 60 million peopledoes deserve high priority.
But the first priority must be institutional reform. (What an excellent
field for political initiative for members of the European Parliament!)
The accession of Turkey and thereby the extension of the future common
foreign and security policies to the borders of Syria, Iraq, Iran and
to the Caucasus region is, to say the least, not a priority at all.
In some cases economic association would be more appropriate. It would
be unwise to suddenly expose some fragile European states to full market
competition with highly developed European enterprisesthe fate of
the former East German industry does not invite any repetition. It would
also be unwise to invite millions of workers to migrate into Western Europe,
where they might be tempted to stay because they can earn five or 10 times
higher wages than at home.
Europes leaders ought to take these social and economic issues into
account before rushing ahead without preparation.
The process of enlarging the EU to absorb 27 countries and about 530 million
people differs from the initial process and cannot lead us toward a single,
Several options have been proposed: Europe at different speeds, Europe
organized in concentric circles, a two-tiered Europe.
Now that the process of enlargement has been launched, it is clear that,
from the human perspectivethat is between the next 20 and 50 yearsEurope
will develop along three different lines:
1 The organization of the European space, as defined by enlargement.
This organization will address economic and free trade issues, accompanied
by a limited level of political integration: at the most, the existing
one. The priority is institutional reform in order to achieve operability,
otherwise the system will collapse, as the commission did, last year.
The worst solution would be to hide the inability to reform under a cloud
of false compromises!
In this European space, every nation, including Germany and France, will
accept what they understand to be in their interest, with an adequate
level of solidarity. They will keep under national command those questions
and affairs that do not require common solutions or regulations. The principle
of subsidiarity must, at last, become enforceable.
2 The second line of development will be the organization of a European
This process is well engaged, now with active support from Britain. To
be operational, it must be based on the countries which possess a significant
military capability and on a public commitment to accept a mechanism of
quick and effective decisions.
3 The third line will address what remains of the initial ambition of
It is obvious that full integration is not a realistic goal for 30 countries
that are very different in their political traditions, culture and economic
To attempt integration with that many countries can only lead to complete
failure. It is obvious, also, that integration cannot be imposed on any
country which refuses it.
The only realistic option, then, is that integration will be developed
by those countries that have the political will to do it and whose economic
and social conditions are nearly identical.
At the moment, all such countries belong to the euro-zone, whose population
already exceeds that of the United States.
Will some of these countries embark on a new path, aiming at integrating
some of their political competences on the basis of a federative approach?
Such an approach certainly needs an initiative from the founding countries,
France, Germany and Italy, plus the Benelux, and some other good-willing
and determined candidates. For this process to be effective, it will need
additional institutions: a Council, a Parliamentary structure which could
have operational links with the national Parliaments, but probably not
a Commission. In effect, these will be "institutions inside the institutions"
that already exist for the EU.
The only constraint that could be imposed by the non-participating countries
is that this new grouptentatively called "Euro-Europeans"will
respect all the commitments of the large European Union, and that the
new institutions cannot enter in conflict with the competence of the existing
With all the limitations of analogy, this new grouping will constitute
a political entity on the large European continent just as the United
States of America constitutes a distinct political entity on the North
Our leaders are mistaken if they believe quick enlargement can paper over
the problems left unresolved by the conferences in Maastricht and Amsterdam.
They are also mistaken if they leave these leftover issues to a new inter-governmental
conference without beforehand jointly establishing clear political guidelines
for their diplomats.
Europe needs leadership by responsible persons who have the confidence
and trust of their electorates, the will to state clearly their objective
and the determination to again shape history.
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