After Germany’s EU presidency and an agreement over the EU reform treaty, it seems to be all quiet on the European Front. Unfortunately this doesn’t fit in with Europe’s actual situation: The game of nerves over ratification, without which the Lisbon treaty remains worthless, has already begun. Even if the reforms are ratified and the new treaty can before the next European Parliamentary elections in May 2009, Europe now faces its biggest challenge since its creation.
Along with the successful but inadequate treaty, the reform debate, which began with the European Convention in 2002, has produced one other thing. The realization that the old theory of integration no longer works. This theory, under which the economic synchronization of EU states in course brings about political integration, is finished. The dream of a European superstate is over. The past months have shown that it is practically impossible to get 27 sovereign states to achieve integration in all political areas with the same speed and to the same depth, and there is nothing to suggest this is going to get any better in the future.
As a result, the Europe of the future will be a selective Europe. Selective, in the sense that it will only develop in those areas in which integration is either supported by a vast majority, or where there is an overwhelming necessity.It will also be selective, because in the future not all members will commit to further integration, and some perhaps never. There are already ample signs of this. The common currency, the Euro, lies among them, along with Schengen, which aims to scrap border controls. The new treaty has, in fact, paved the way to such selective models. Some old serving Europeans shudder at the thought of a two-tier Europe, but this has been a reality for a while, and is becoming even more so: the question of which areas Europe must preside over, must be put forward. The newly established task force for the reduction of bureaucracy,success, is a subtle signal of this trend. Ironically, a Europe of the future will contain a great deal more of the British model than it does of the French or the old dreamers, the Germans.
So what goals does Europe still have? In the Berlin declaration on the 50th birthday of the EU this March, the heads of state and government gave us the answer: Europe’s goal is the peaceful and sustainable advancement of globalization. Europe’s business lies beyond its borders, not inside them.
What Actual Jobs Does the EU Face?
1. The EU must ensure that it remains an economic giant. The EU will only have international influence if it remains economically dynamic, innovative and productive. Furthermore, the single European market must be finalized, instead of caving into protectionist impulses. The liberalization of the labor markets, the reform of the social system, and an improved investment climate, could all release forces that make Europe more competitive, generate growth, and create jobs.
2. Europe must finally take on its role as a regional power. The Balkans and Eastern Europe still await European leadership. By December at the latest a question of war and peace will again emerge in Kosovo, and after ten years of peace in Bosnia, there are signs of a storm brewing. The EU must show its strength on these issues.
3. In view of the nuclear question in Iran, the EU must learn that in questions of international security it can – and must – make a considerable contribution. Only Europe has the power to put real economic pressure on Iran and thus prevent a military solution to the problem. In order to do this it must be decisive and united – neither of which have been great strengths of EU foreign policy.
Fourthly, Europe must finally recognize its full responsibility for the developing world. In the course of the 2008 EU budget reforms, a drastic change in agricultural policy and the closed-off subsidized market over which it presides, is well overdue.
This is also the key to the gridlocked WTO negotiations. The current fast-tracked bilateral trade agreements with ACP-states are no real alternative. Only through market access will countries in Africa and Asia have the chance to develop sustainably. The EU itself is the biggest example for that. Humble at home and confident abroad – that’s the EU’s new credo. This has nothing to do with visions of an unquestioned “ever-closer union”.Europe’s dream has changed. At first glance it appears to be smaller and less ambitious.But in realityits actually bigger than anything Adenauer, de Gaulle, Monet, or Schuman ever dreamed of. Much bigger.
Jan Techau is head of the Alfred von Oppenheim Center for European Studies at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). From 2001 to 2006 he worked in the German Ministry of Defence. Techau studied politics in Kiel and at Pennsylvania State University.
Translation by Cosmo Macfarlane
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