Between enlargement and deepening: a choice of political structure for Europe

, by Translated by Florent Banfi, Lionel Luttenbacher

Between enlargement and deepening: a choice of political structure for Europe

One of the objectives of the founding fathers of Europe was to unite the peoples around a peacemaker project. The objective is commendable considering the two world wars, not to say civil, that unleashed hatreds and animosities over the continent and a cold war that had cut Europe in two for over 40 years.

That goal quickly materialized - from 6 in the founding Treaty of Rome in 1957, the European Union (formerly the European Economic Community) now has 27 members. In 2004, 10 new countries of the former East block have joined us. Any sincere European can only rejoice that the continent has finally unified peacefully and that famous sentence of Victor Hugo “A day will come when all nations of the continent, without losing their distinct qualities or their glorious individuality, fuse together in a higher unity and form the European brotherhood,” finally takes shape. But what direction do we want to give this continent reunited at last, a simple integrated economic area guarantor of certain principles (freedom, democracy, human rights) or do we want to see the emergence of a real political and strategic power?

The question of enlargement represents more the institutional future of Europe than anything else, the choices were made and are continuing, namely an enlargement without deepening and strengthening of structures and a deliberate omission of a people needed dialogue, made the European project insoluble, misunderstood, abstract and without viable political vision.

The Copenhagen criteria have become insufficient

According to the European Council held in Copenhagen on 21 and 22 June 1993, “The accession will take place as soon as an associated country is able to fulfil the obligations resulting from the required economic and political conditions …, in particular the adherence to the goals of political, economic and monetary policies.”(Conclusion of the Presidency of the European Council in Copenhagen on 21 and 22 June 1993, Bull. EC 6 / 93 p. 13).

In summary, Europe is open to all countries that are democratic, respectful of human rights, have a market economy and are able to integrate into their legislation the “acquis communautaire”. The Copenhagen criteria are therefore essentially political (in the liberal sense of the word) and of good management.

These criteria seem to be more than satisfactory for a Europe that wants to be a large economic space and to guarantee certain principles, but at the same time less than sufficient for the emergence of a political power worthy of the name.

They should therefore be complemented with more political criteria (such as a real willingness to delegate to a higher authority a significant portion of the national sovereignty), strategic (sharing a common vision regarding the major economic and military issues), geographical and cultural (belonging to a European cultural sphere and taking into account the subjective conception of the nation-state, i.e. the will to live together).

The question of the limits of Europe

The question of the limits of Europe shows different faces, according to the idea that one has of the purpose of the European project. The Turkish question is revealing more than any other accession the divisions that still exist inside Europe. An important gap divides, on the one hand, those member states which are in favour of the accession of Turkey and viscerally against a political Europe and, on the other hand, other member states, opposed because principles that are indeed sometimes questionable.

For some people Europe is and shall remain a large economic market, guarantor of certain principles and of peace in the continent. In this view, the accession of Turkey does not raise any concern as long as the country meets the well-known Copenhagen criteria and advances on the chapters opened by the European Commission. The definition of the European project and its borders are to be redefined before any further enlargement.

The other vision is that of a political Europe. In this scenario, the accession of Turkey is problematic, but the root of the problems is not religious: although most European countries have a Christian characterization, in other countries that intend to join the EU - as Kosovo or Albania – the majority of the population is Muslim. The reasons of the concern lay more on a geographical issue, at the point of putting in danger the very term ’Europe’: on what basis shall the EU refuse the accession of Mashreq or Central Asia countries?

It is therefore necessary to define rapidly the geographical borders in order to create a political space.

If Europe wants to become a credible and viable political entity it must be uniform in all its components. How can we develop a foreign policy or a truly European defence with diametrically opposed views? The UK will always prefer the open sea to the mainland, to use a Churchill expression; some Nordic and Eastern countries favour their relationship with the U.S.; while in other countries, like France and the Benelux states, the idea of a European strategic independence is regarded as feasible and desirable.

The choice is today between an unlimited expansion and a structural deepening, a heterogeneous group functioning with the unanimity rule in an intergovernmental system - where national selfishness dominates - or a politically united entity that respects the eccentricities and peculiarities of the member states.

The future necessitates clear and quick choices if we do not desire a Europe that remains a large economic unit without a credible policy, soon driven away forever from the international arena as an important global actor.

Image: drawing; source: European Commission.

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