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