Time to Redraft Europe's Unification
Paris, June 12, 2008 – The reaction of the European Union Commission to Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's latest organizational reform proposal, like that of the EU's strongest supporters in Europe's governments, has been much the same as it was to the French and Dutch referendum defeats of a proposed European constitution three years ago.
They cannot accept that the Irish voters really mean to say "no" to the Lisbon Treaty, and they resent that the vote in a little country of four million people really could block the march of European Union integration and mission.
Hence they feel the Irish must vote again, or their veto be ignored in some manner consistent with the claim that the Irish cannot be allowed to outweigh the combined opinion of the people of 26 European nations. (Of course, since none of the other 26 are holding referendums, we don't really know what they think.)
The Commission majority seems intent on integration and expansion to include the Balkan non-members, Turkey, the ex-Soviet states Ukraine and Georgia, eventually Russia itself -- and after that, who knows? Some see this as the great justification for European unification: the pacification of Europe and Eurasia, and even the Middle East, rescuing all from their histories.
The French secretary of state for European affairs, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, said of the Irish vote, "it's an incident....We're going on....Europe hasn't broken down and it's not in crisis." Another European diplomat says, "above all, we musn't give the impression that Europe has stalled." No panic please: there are still other states whose parliaments are being asked to ratify the treaty despite the Irish popular rejection.
The Irish prime minister has been called to Brussels to explain what went wrong and what might be done to make the treaty acceptable in a second referendum. "It's up to the Irish to tell us what changes they want," a French official says. London insists that despite renewed calls in Britain for a referendum (once promised by the Labour party), everything will go forward as previously planned. The treaty goes before the House of Lords next week.
But the conservative Italian Northern League, which wants a referendum in Italy, has congratulated the Irish. Roberto Calderoli, vice president of the League and a minister in the Berlusconi government, said: "Every time the people have been consulted they have torpedoed to spectacular effect a model of Europe that seems far from what they want." Vaclav Klaus, the conservative Czech president, says "the treaty is finished. There is no possibility of going on with it."
No one seems willing to recall what has long been evident, that at least two and possibly three European unions are wanted and needed. The first is an economic, commercial, free-trade Europe. It doesn't even have to be European. Edouard Balladur, the former French prime minister, proposes a transatlantic union on such terms, as do many in Britain. This Europe would be a partner or adjunct of the United States.
However it is a pipe-dream, because the United States is most unlikely ever to be willing to yield even the minimal element of sovereignty this association with major European states would require. Washington might allow the U.K. and some of the small Atlanticist European states into an enlarged version of the North American Free Trade Area, but might hesitate even at that, since the European members would very likely object to some of the economic and security rules the U.S. would demand.
The second possibility for Europe might be called Europe with a telephone number. It would be a true union or close federation with shared sovereignties, common values and legislation, and integrated institutions, of like-minded nations. It is what the original six members of the Coal and Steel Community had in mind, a true pooling of sovereignties and interests. It would have a common executive, a parliament, and a (undoubtedly pacifist) foreign policy.
It certainly could not include the EU's 27 or 30 members, or even 15, and probably could not accept more than one of the traditional great powers as member. One imagines it with Germany as its core, and including Benelux (possibly without French-speaking Wallonia in Belgium), Austria, and quite possibly Scandinavia and Finland.
It is possible that a second, and parallel, integrated union could also take form, undoubtedly with a different telephone number. It would be composed of France, Spain and Italy, and would have an interventionist and active foreign policy, meant to weigh in world affairs. Spain and France were major imperial powers, Italy a minor one, but all are open to the non-European world, with attachments to the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.
There are two final possibilities. One is to go back to the Europe of 12, which was small enough to be manageable and supple enough to conduct an international policy. The rest of Europe could function as a free trade zone associated with the 12, possibly joining in certain political or strategic undertakings as part of a "coalition of the willing." This would be two-speed Europe, at present unacceptable to most EU members.
The last possibility is for the existing and enlarged Europe to continue as an integrated economy and trade zone, loosely associated with the United States in a subordinate role, but with no foreign policy or international personality of its own because of the conflicting interests and conceptions of its numerous members. This is where Europe seems headed now.
© Copyright 2008 by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights Reserved.
This article comes from William PFAFF
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