Today's date:
Summer 2001


The European Power

Valery Giscard d'Estaing, a former president of France, is Europe's ranking elder statesman.

Paris-The essential weakness of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's project for a federal Europe like the United States is that it takes for granted a common will in Europe on the necessity of building an effective political system, and that any differences only concern the means to reach that goal. I do not think that this common will exists today: Everybody can note the differences of approach among Great Britain, the Scandinavian countries, Spain or even candidate-states such as the Czech Republic.

If Schroeder's proposition has the great advantage of "shaking the shaker'' of the limp European way of thinking, the discussion will progress only when it takes into account the present realities of the European debate.

Whether one decides in favor of a federative plan, or for an intergovernmental proceeding, drawing the line between national and local competencies on the one hand versus Union competencies on the other is unavoidable.

Failing such a clear partition, the management of the Union will get only more entangled and subject to bureaucratic drift. One can only approve, for example, the idea to give back to the member states the management of regional aid. The Belgian presidency in the second semester of 2001 will propose the most effective and realistic method to define this sharing of competencies.

The other reality is this: From now on the enlargement of Europe and its deeper integration constitute two different processes that require different approaches.

Since the decision to enlarge the European Union to 27 members (meaning more states than North and South America combined, with as much distance between their levels of development), it is out of the question to turn back. Yet it would be unrealistic to search for a high level of integration among these disparate entities.

The main problem is to make the whole, diversified group work well through good governance. It is to this issue, more practical than political, that Europe's leaders must give priority in the coming decade.

The other key issue is the creation of a European political power, able to balance the megapower of the United States. As Schroeder has by now discovered, that political power will likely be continental as the chances of Great Britain accepting a federative structure are minimal.

This European political power already has two embryos: the group of Founding States, that must maintain an active solidarity, and the states of the Eurozone, among which definitive monetary unity from 2002 on will weave an ever closer intimacy. The growth of these embryos has to be strengthened and developed.

The confusion caused by the German leaders of the 1990s resulted from their systematic assertion that it was possible to simultaneously realize the enlargement of the European Union while moving forward toward political unity.

This chimera resulted in the bastard treaties of Amsterdam and Nice, in which neither good governance for a greater Europe nor realistic progress toward political union for those states with a federative will can be found.

As long as nobody is determined to deal with these issues separately, the confusion shall go on at the risk of creating a disillusioned public that will too readily yield to the calls of the sovereignist sirens.

Greater Europe is too varied to mold itself into a federal structure. At the same time, the individual European states, Germany included, are too small to carry any weight in the decisions of the international community. These two facts dictate the only viable future: a European Community with a federal structure built within the larger development of a greater Europe.

After all, the American continent does not organize itself differently!

We must thank Schroeder for having at last provided the foil for the real debate, or rather two debates, on the future of Europe: a project of good governance for the Europe that keeps enlarging, and a federative project for those states that long for building a European political power together.

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