European Issue n°7
Borders Challenge Europe
Borders Challenge Europe
This speech was given during the Conference "Changing Societies and Transatlantic Relations" organised with the Center for Transatlantic Relations
At Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies - Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC October 27-28 2005
The issue of the borders of the European Union has become an important political debate that has mobilized public opinion in the Member States, especially amongst the founding countries. It has been one of the most successful arguments used by the opponents of the Constitutional Treaty. Now it is at the heart of the political debate on the future of Europe, and is influencing diplomatic relations with its neighbouring countries, and debates on Europe's global role.
After 55 years of continuous integration, Europe, which had was just beginning to establish itself in the international arena, now seems to unable it to set its own geographical limits.
How did this question arise – what does it really mean, what does it imply? These are the three questions we should explore in order to understand the issue of the enlargement of the European Union as a whole.
1 – The necessity of the European Union to define its borders is an inevitable part of the current debate on Europe. The desire to provide the European Union with a clear, acknowledged identity after half a century of on-going work implies that all of Europe should be provided with this vital feature inherent to all established political communities, limits.
However, the 55 years of building the union have been accompanied by striking success stories that have led to a rapid geographic expansion to such extent that by changing its dimensions, the Union's very nature has now been transformed.
Europe's Striking Success Stories
The integration and opening of European economies coincided with the spectacular growth in world trade, the practices of which had been anticipated and whose effects were put to good value. In 2004 the EU represented 45% of global exports.
The creation of a common market in 1992, the biggest in the world, (456 million consumers), as a result of its purchasing power, necessitated extensive deregulation, which ended up producing extremely positive results.
Standards of living improved on average by 2.5% per year between 1970 and 1990, or over 60%. More than 2.5 million jobs were created as a result of this integration.
France, for example, which emerged from the Second World War as a country that was relatively protectionist and which had a massive public sector protected by strict regulations, would never have experienced the growth it has without the Community: France's GDP grew 5% on average between 1950 and 1973, which was a higher growth rate than that of the USA. In addition, France had a GDP per capita that in 1972 was higher than that of the UK for the first time in its history ($12, 940 vs. $11, 992).
The mechanisms of solidarity between members of the European Union have played a major role. After each enlargement the new members benefited from the structural funds that brought them nearly 1% of additional growth per year. In 1973 the standard of living of the Irish represented 40% of the GDP/per capita; today it is 115%! Greece, Spain and Portugal have practically caught up with the EU average. Within the Union itself, the Common Agricultural Policy and the Regional Policy have encouraged the conversion of entire regions and economic sectors. They have enabled Europe to achieve independence and to modernize its manufacturing sector.
The opening of the European economy to global commerce increased the competitiveness of its economies, boosted growth and promoted the creation of global companies.
The collapse of the Bretton Woods monetary system, the first oil crisis and the emergence of ITs have all slowed Europe's economic growth. Although there has been much success, Europe is unwilling to call into question its generous systems of social protection and healthcare.
Europe's political successes are not insignificant
Sustainable peace has been established and is guaranteed by interconnected interests, common institutions that have been provided with supra-national powers and peaceful diplomatic relations between States. We can no longer imagine disputes arising between the countries of Europe, serious enough to degenerate into conflict. The "European model" developed in the wake of five successive treaties that strengthened integration. The Union has great influence over its neighbours and its model is well-regarded throughout the world. This influence notably contributed to the fall of the Iron Curtain and to the promotion of liberal democracy. It has proved to be the miracle by which the old continent found the path of reason and wealth.
Hence this has become the continent's "golden magnet" to which everyone wants to belong. The economy was at the base of maintaining peace in Europe, it became its best argument and therefore its greatest proponent. Requests for accession continued from the beginning right until now. Consequently, the EU has acquired a true political dimension as enlargement has accelerated.
The Acceleration of Enlargement
Since its creation by the Treaty of Rome in 1957 the Community that became the European Union grew in 1973, 1981, 1986, 1995, 2004. Accession by Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 has already been decided upon. Therefore, for the last 34 years Europe has been constantly growing, welcoming at least one new member every 5.6 years. The European Union started with six members and soon will have 27. The number of citizens has risen from 80 to 456 million.
In order to strengthen the European project, the Union was welcoming and generous. The famous four Copenhagen Criteria (Democracy, Market Economy, Adoption of the Acquis, the EU's Capacity for Absorption) were soon reduced to three. They are variable and adaptable and are more political than technical.
Each accession signified the "selective" application of the criteria. For Greece, Spain and Portugal, the Community was content with their acceptance of the criteria. Austria, Finland and Denmark had no difficulty in respecting them. For the ten new members in 2004 the Commission demanded the approval of new laws and "the start of implementation"; for Bulgaria and Romania it is ensuring that they start to conform to the criteria. Croatia has been asked to co-operate with the International Criminal Court for Ex-Yougoslavia; and Turkey has been asked to effectively conform to the entire list of criteria. In reality these differences reveal a certain amount of disquiet. Whatever the criteria might be, the decision on accession is political. Both during the summit of December 1997 in Luxembourg that decided on the opening of negotiations to the six countries of Central and Eastern Europe and that of Helsinki in December 1999 that extended negotiations to six other countries, political factors were pre-eminent. We had to learn from the lessons given by the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The criteria had no influence in this instance.
Enlargement has become the EU's only real foreign policy with regard to its eastern borders. From the start the idea was to extend the EU across the entire continent. The integration of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe is the result of a process embarked upon half a century ago and has prevented it from drawing up any other type of neighbourhood policy.
Membership was the only thing that the Union had to offer in order to participate in the pacification and democratisation of the continent. What it achieved in enhancing democracy in Greece, Spain and Portugal, it did likewise in Central Europe and today in the Balkans. Europe wants peace and stability on its borders and each of the Member States pleads in favour of its neighbour's immediate accession to the Union. This is the case with Poland and the Ukraine, Austria and Croatia etc.
Should it continue this policy southwards? Turkey has benefited from this movement because at the start of the 20th century it belonged to what was called the "European Concert" and then joined NATO and the Council of Europe after the Second World War. The countries of North Africa were not so lucky and Morocco has been officially refused any hope of accession. The Caucasus is still waiting.
This type of expansion is undertaken with the risk of suffering a type of "obesity". The institutions will operate with greater difficulty, the European budget is inadequate to receive and help new members, public opinion is now demanding for limits to be set.
By Changing its Dimensions, Europe is Transforming its Nature as well
The Union, which was relatively homogenous when it was created, has now become a patchwork of States with extremely varied standards of life and development.
Between 1970 and 1990, the average income in Europe grew by 58%, inequalities were evened out, the number of people requiring aid from the State was divided by three.
The enlargement of May 1st 2004 increased the EU's population by 20% and caused the GDP/per capita to drop by 12.5%, global wealth (GDP) only grew by 5%. The number of Europeans living in so-called "poor regions", (GDP/per capita lower than 75% of the community average), rose from 73 million to 123 million. The average income in the ten new members is two to three times lower than the average income of EU15.
Within the Union the share of the poorest 40% of Europeans in overall available revenue was between 21% in EU15, it now lies at 18.7% in EU25, it will be 16.9% in EU27; with Turkey it will lie at 14.8%. Simultaneously the share of the richest 20% of Europeans was 38% in EU15, it lies at 41% in EU25 and will be 42% in EU27 and 44% with Turkey.
With Turkey the number of poor, ie those who live with less than 10$ per day which stands at 3 million in EU15 will rise to 64 million due to the great internal inequalities in this country and the size of its population. Above all, Turkey's accession will lead to a decrease of 20% in the EU's average income. At this stage the EU would cease being an economically homogeneous entity. Worst of all the vital factor of inequality between EU inhabitants would then become nationality, a unique and politically explosive situation.
Considerations about the Union's integration capacity have been swept aside due to political obligations and because the outcome was ambiguous. The Founder members wanted to achieve a high level of integration. This has been achieved in a number of areas (Customs Union, Trade Policy, Currency) Each member is supposed to join these federal policies, but neither the UK, nor Denmark, nor Sweden accepted the Euro. Likewise the Schengen Agreements were only signed by some Member States.
The door has been opened to "Europe à la Carte" that permits all the requirements of enlargement and complicates the smooth running of its institutions. Political integration has been pushed to one side as if it should naturally and spontaneously be resolved alone at a later date.
The Nice Summit in December 2000 heralded a true political regression where national interests were the source of conflict that had rarely been seen before. It gave rise to a Treaty that simply extended the old operational rules of EU6 to an enlarged Europe. Bartering and technical adjustments gave rise to a series of baroque, complicated rules that still govern the running of the Union and that today are the source of a true institutional crisis.
This is why adopting the "Constitution" was so urgent. It was to settle most of the problems created by the expansion of Europe. But above all it was to boost the institutions enabling an improvement in the EU's future architecture. This failure is therefore a very serious one. It not only signals the rejection of a more efficient and democratic Europe but it also freezes the present procedures and institutions for years to come. It leads to a loss of confidence on the part of States and populations in the continuation of integration and the construction of supra-national mechanisms.
We can say that the Union is undergoing one of its most profound crises ever. It is experiencing difficulties in providing itself with a budget; it is still divided over economic and international policies; it is suffering in its daily operations ie in the application of the constituent treaties. The common institutions are weakened especially the Commission; the Parliament is still not well established; the Council is a venue for the confrontation of national interests made possible by a paralysed British presidency.
Evidently the low growth rate in Europe is partly responsible for this situation. Continued unemployment at around 10% of the working population, public and social deficits that paralyse government activities, the changes in the world economy and the emergence of new competitors have undermined confidence in European aspirations.
Europe seems to be treading water right now just as public opinion needs to be more involved, by this I mean Europe is now largely accepted and yet public opinion demands more influence in the way it is run. After irrefutable success the European Union, struck by the changing of its economic fortunes, is questioning its model and its future. Enlargement has weakened the "acquis".
2 – In a more competitive world, citizens aspire to greater stability. But the growing involvement of the EU in the daily lives of its inhabitants makes it difficult and increasingly dangerous to ignore public opinion when vital decisions have to be taken on a European level.
Midway towards a federal Union, Europe is now faced with a democratic demand and the need to involve its citizens more in its construction. In the face of a lack of true European leadership, public opinion has questioned Europe itself.
Conducted against a backdrop of economic problems, the campaigns for the French and Dutch referenda on 29th May and 1st June 2005 revealed the fears and questions that led the electorate to doubt the pertinence of the European project. Although the supporters of the NO vote took care of saying they were in favour of Europe, they played on a number of populist feelings, accrediting the idea that the construction of Europe was an inadequate response to the challenges brought by the 21st century.
By playing on certain fears they raised a number of questions about Europe.
Globalisation has led to large-scale outsourcing. This phenomenon is mainly directed towards Asia but has involved the countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well. These countries succeeded in drawing in a number of industrial companies with their attractive fiscal policies for foreign investments and the Flat Tax; they also benefited from the combination of a (still) cheap qualified labour force. Foreign direct investments have risen to over 150 billion euro and annual flow is higher than 15 billion€. At the same time the Union's major industrial countries have experienced a real decrease in industrialisation. In a period of high unemployment, these phenomena are unbearable and have generated suspicion about the enlargement, which was costly (40billion€ between 2004 and 2006). 54% of the new jobs created by the major companies in Europe between 2002 and 2004 were in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Although this phenomenon is now slowing down and although the enlargement is an advantage to all, including the economies of the 15 it is difficult to win short-term acceptance for the pertinence of this logic.
To this fear of an economic competition that was deemed unfair, we must add a second factor: immigration. In 2003 in EU25, Eurostat counted around 16.2 million legal immigrants from non-Union countries. The Commission believes for its part there are about three million illegal immigrants. Immigration is unequally spread across the countries, but pressure is increasing on Europe's doorstep notably from the countries of Africa and Asia. Italy, France, Spain and also Germany and Austria are at the front of a powerful migratory swell generated by misery. The integration of these migrants is increasingly difficult and all the major towns in Europe now have suburbs that no longer fit in with the modes and rules of common standards. Extremist political parties find their arguments in this, which are strengthened by a stagnating economic situation.
According to populations facing economic difficulties, immigration is also seen as a "challenge to identity".
The opening of negotiations with Turkey, just after the "great enlargement", stimulated this quest for identity. In most Union countries the prospect of Turkey's membership has been a source of universal rejection, sometimes well over 70%. In order to understand the nature of this reaction we should try to imagine President Bush putting forward Mexico joining the USA! The issue of Turkish accession is even more complicated in the face of demographic developments in Europe. With some 70 million inhabitants Turkey would be the second biggest country in the EU. In 2050 it would be the biggest. No one can reasonably imagine that the biggest country of a political Europe could be a country most of whose territory lies in Asia. Valery Giscard d'Estaing summarized this problem by depicting the image of the Turkish Prime Minister representing Europe during an annual EU-USA summit.
Although diplomacy should not be driven by opinion, any serious foreign policy cannot free itself from long term popular support without appearing to be increasingly illegitimate. Today, enlargment seems to be more and more illegitimate.
The need for protection exists everywhere, including in open economies and it is not rare to see governments reverting to protectionism, for a short time at least. Europe never acted this way until now. It is open and seems not to be enough protective against the competition from emerging countries. For example, the old Multifiber textile agreement entered into force on January 1st, 2005, leading to a threefold increase in Chinese textiles into Europe and triggering an urgent search for countermeasures. Europeans now mostly believe that the Union does not protect them from the pressure engendered by the liberalisation of exchange and globalisation, which is seen as being too brutal. The prospects of enlargement pay the price of this perception.
Finally we cannot dissociate the enlargement from Europe's ability to face regional crises. The Union was traumatised by its inability to prevent the Balkan war. The quest for a European Defence found new impetus in this. How can we justify that the Union wants to be present in the Middle East where no one has succeeded in establishing lasting peace? The Europeans are perfectly aware that if they accept Turkey, accession by Israel, the Lebanon and then the countries of Northern Africa would then arise.
The argument whereby the integration of a Muslim country within a Western political entity is a good example of secularisation for the entire group of Islamic countries is not a pertinent one. Turkey is not an Arab country and political Islam is largely identified with being Arab. Turkey does in fact entertain quite tense relations with most Arab countries. Turkish secularism is mostly imposed; it is constantly being questioned. Religious freedom and human rights are not in line with our standards. Turkey is a member of the Conference of Islamic States, an international organisation based on religion and whose activities are not believed to be positive for the world's stability. Finally, Turkey has a fragile relationship with most of its neighbours and puts forward a type of nationalism that can in no way be associated with the development of Europe – implying that in the near future the Cypriot problem, the status of the Kurds, the issue of relations with Armenia and the Armenians, the Byzantine territorial arguments with Greece will not find a solution.
All of these features were eradicated in Europe after wars and suffering that are still very much present in the minds of every family. Europeans do not want to return to this state of affairs. If we ignore these truths then we endorse the idea that the European project has completely gone astray from its original objective. From a project of peace through the creation of a unified political entity, it will have devolved into a mere democratizing device. This is a not insignificant but, without the approval of the people, unachievable prospect.
Europe is struck harder by the crisis of representation
This is a phenomenon that has been observed across the entire Western world. Everywhere we see the rise of abstention along with an increasingly high rate of defiance on the part of the citizens with regard to their political representatives. This is particularly true in the European Union. The participation rate in the European elections is constantly decreasing. In 2004 it lay at 45% in comparison with 63% in the first election by universal suffrage in 1979.
The European institutions are particularly open to the disfavour that has hit all representative institutions. They suffer even more from geographical distance and are considered as not being very democratic since the two most powerful institutions, the Commission and the Council of Ministers are not elected by universal suffrage and debate behind closed doors. Procedures are complicated, are linked to diplomacy and deal with extremely technical subjects. In addition to this few citizens can receive real information and be aware that these procedures and decisions affect their daily existence. National Parliaments are not closely associated to the ongoing work. Citizens believe that they cannot communicate with the powers that decide on the limits of Europe. Finally, the Union, being relatively recent, does not enjoy the kind of affectio societatis that only emerges after a long, shared period of common history.
Citizens have therefore not yet acquired a "European reaction" and continue to vote in terms of national issues that are actively encouraged by both governments and political parties. The lack of exposure to the media which European institutions suffer from obviously leads to ignorance and resentment: many national governments take advantage of this ignorance to attribute Europe's successes to themselves and to blame it for their failures; but the enlargement policy is a European one; it suffers directly from the questioning of its legitimacy.
In reality Europeans are questioning themselves and the European Union. Does what they share comprise an identity?
A typical European does in fact exist even though the culture of differences, a popular "European sport" often hides this reality. Opinion polls show a common vision of the world where peace and solidarity are the Europeans' favourite values. In political terms this results in creating a divide from Europe's distant past, an attitude that reveres multilateralism, magnifies negotiation and "sanctifies" the law. This new European awareness is under threat from a limitless enlargement of the Union. The case of Turkey, whose laws, practices, size and army are so different from the member countries of Europe, unsettles these certainties that are already coming under attack from other angles. The fact that the USA and the UK are in favour of Turkey joining the Union strengthens this feeling and weakens significantly Ankara's chances since both countries are reputed, either rightly or wrongly, for wanting to negate Europe's identity.
Borders to Create a Common Identity
Europe should therefore be reduced to geographical limits within which common rules might be applied. The demand for borders might seem contrary to the original idea of Europe inspired more by Kant than Machievelli. It has become a quest for identity in a global context where each of us stakes a claim on his origins. Evidently Europe's borders are in Europe and not in Asia or the Middle East. Whatever the objectives and geostrategic analyses, the peoples of Europe want to position themselves in a geographical space. Why then should Europe be the only political institution not to have the right to a geographical identity?
Hence the definition of Europe's borders is not impossible. It can be achieved with the help of several criteria.
History confirms that Europe was built due to the federating power of the Roman Catholic Church. The Middle Ages invented an original, feudal political model that gradually enabled the construction of nations and consecrated the separation of the political from the spiritual. The century of the Enlightenment introduced science and rationality into the government of men. All of these periods of history are for Europe stages in the creation of civilisation and comprise the vital thread in the history of its people. These periods occurred within a space that corresponds exactly to that of the EU27, ie the present Union plus Romania and Bulgaria. We can add the Balkans. A question mark hangs over the Ukraine. But neither Russia nor Turkey share Europe's history, except by attraction, deals, invasion or conflict.
For nearly one thousand years cultural progress has gone hand in hand with these developments. EU25's borders correspond to the limits of Gothic architecture. The European mix of Power and Knowledge is inscribed into the walls of European universities from Pecs in Hungary to Tartu in Estonia, along with Heidelberg, Prague and Paris. Literature, music and painting support this identity and their "European mark" is recognisable the world over. Europe is a place of unequalled cultural creativity; a place of artistic exchange, the cradle from which a great number of landmarks in literature and music arose, an area where artists were the first to enjoy freedom of movement. This place was long time dependent on the two greatest European rivers, the Danube and the Rhine.
Geography confirms this approach. The Southern borders of Europe are edged by the Mediterannean and therefore cross the middle of the Bosphorous, without touching the banks of either Africa or Asia. To the East and in spite of Peter 1st's geographers' attempts whereby Russian territories were included in Europe up to the Urals, we are certain that Vladivostok is not in Europe, likewise Irkutsk. Russia itself, who is not a candidate member, has always hesitated between pro-European Westerners for whom, like Attaturk, "civilisation was Western" and pan-Slavism that gave priority to the fulfilment of Russian identity.
The issue of limits has therefore become critical for the Union and for Europeans. Economic unification and peaceful relations between States have gradually asserted themselves in the European mind. A Union between common political institutions that demands an increased transfer of sovereignty requires an acknowledgement of the borders in order for common rules to be accepted. Europe cannot ignore the need for identification that conditions the feeling of belonging. It is therefore the nature of Europe that is in the balance.
3 – The question of borders also raises that of the future of Europe, its nature and its role in the world.
The original idea of the Founder Fathers, who then had the support of the USA, was for Europe to be an economic Union with a political assignment.
By economy we mean the association of common interests that would gradually create common mechanisms, common policies and finally the start of a common identity. We have reached this latter stage with the introduction of the Euro that was accepted enthusiastically by European citizens. This event showed their acceptance of a supra-national construction that respected their national identities.
These founding theories are countered by the British conception of matters: Europe is an additional economic tool to be used to strengthen the nation, the only place for the true expression of Democracy.
The British European Affairs Minister, Mr Douglas Alexander, has just thrown down the gauntlet by clearly maintaining that there is no European identity and we must even do away with the symbols of Europe that create confusion with the national symbols. In his mind "the strength of the nation state is the fundamental building block of the EU". In other words the aim of Europe is to strengthen nations. This difference in opinion shows the lack of European experience on the part of the UK, the voluntary or fortuitous analysis made about the reality of construction of the Community and above all the negation of the acceptance on the part of public opinion of the idea of the unification of Europe. Even after the NO of May 29th this year, the French still say they are European and more than 98% of them acknowledge the European flag.
The new members are perplexed and worried by these differences in opinion. For them, belonging to Europe was above all joining a collective system of security – NATO - that is supposed to protect them from renewed threats from the East; secondly, it was accession to prosperity thanks to inclusion into a single market, but it was also the acknowledgement, guarantee and respect of their European identity, notably in terms of their history and culture. This is why it is highly likely that the question of borders will rapidly become one of their major concerns. In spite of any strategic considerations on the part of these countries' governments, who are eager for peace on their borders, their public opinions are already thinking differently. A referendum on the accession of Turkey in Poland or in Hungary would certainly result in a hefty rejection.
Although the question of the nature of the Union raises many differences, the role we would like it to play in the world is a subject of greater consensus.
What role is there for Europe in the World?
Its regional role is already considerable.
Europe exercises real leadership on its borders since it is generous with its neighbours and is an inevitable player in economic terms. The Fall of the Berlin Wall, an event of global proportions that motivated a renewed involvement on the part of the USA in the region, is already part of the past. We are no long living in a time where the main beneficiary of American financial aid was the Ukraine, which had to disarm its nuclear missiles. We have past the time when the Baltic countries preferred giving their gas and oil to American companies. Regional realities have taken over and the economic logic of proximity wins over political and sentimental considerations. In the face of pressure from Russia the Baltic oil companies prefer to deal with European companies; the Ukraine is asking for membership, Poland's army is in Iraq, and is now accustomed to receiving cheques for its farmers from the Common Agricultural Policy. The "European machine" is working. But is it strong enough?
In order not to give up the idea of a political Europe that guarantees a greater voice in the international arena and to improve its foreign policy with regard to its borders, the Union invented the "the neighbourhood policy". The idea is a simple one: the Union is prepared to share everything with its neighbours except for its institutions.
The European Neighbourhood Policy, that now has a budget of nearly 1billion €, aims to complete or replace the regional co-operation mechanisms that the Union had established to help its neighbours and that rose to 3.7 B€ between 2000-2003.
The TACIS programme is part of this providing Russia, the Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus with 1.33B€ in aid or the MEDA programme that helps Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, the Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Palestine to an amount of 2.4 B€.
The Neighbourhood Policy that was initiated in 2003 and confirmed in 2004 really took off in 2005 with the adoption of definite "action plans" with Moldova, the Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority. Similar agreements were announced with Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The aim is to avoid the creation of more rifts, whether economic, cultural or political, around an enlarged European Union and to export European stability and prosperity. The main objective of this strategy is to bring these countries closer to European norms in terms of law, justice and economy and to stimulate co-operation in terms of the fight against terrorism, the proliferation of arms of mass destruction and the resolution of regional conflicts.
The recent enlargement showed that the Union could not expand indefinitely and had to provide itself with a specific policy with regard to its neighbours. It started to do this with Russia by establishing close co-operation agreements. This is what it should have had the courage to do with Turkey which would have been promised membership of an economic entity but not of the common political institutions.
Elsewhere in the world the Union already plays a considerable role. It is the foremost trading power whose overall GDP is close to that of the USA; it provides nearly half of the world's development aid (16 billion dollars $) and is involved in all areas via its economic diplomacy. Europe is a model of regional political integration, studied with interest in many regions of the world thereby attempting to convey its unique message often meeting with interest and reciprocation. This is the case in terms of the protection of the environment, development aid or cultural claims. It could play an even greater role if it provided itself with the political means. But internal challenges have now pushed the impetus of enlargement into a secondary role.
Europe focussed on the renovation of its project
The failure of the Constitution is an alarming check on the unification of Europe. It is the cause of serious institutional problems that will occupy Chancelleries and opinion for many months to come.
The Union's economy, with a few rare exceptions, is undergoing a long lasting crisis. Whilst the world underwent exceptional growth in 2004 of 5.1% and in all likelihood this will rise to 4.3% in 2005, Europe reached a ceiling of around 2%. The main economies in the Union are faced with a structural crisis and new competition from emerging countries. This situation demands vigorous reforms that are made difficult due to internal political agendas and multiple elections. Enlargement is therefore no longer the European priority. Many even believe that it is an obstacle to bringing order back to the European Union. Negotiations have been opened with Turkey in a climate of reciprocal mistrust and these may also bring a series of crises and tensions contrary to the desired end. Turkey's instability and internal contradictions are in this respect quite worrying. It has already revealed itself to be a tough partner, primarily putting forward its own national interests regardless of the general interest of Europe.
In a way and seen from Europe the time for "deepening" has come, albeit a little late, whilst the time for enlargement has now passed.
In addition to this the development of the Union and the internal differences that have become apparent have now made it possible to kick start Europe by employing other methods. Since the Union seems to be in danger in its present form, voices of authority in France, Belgium and other Member States have put forward the proposal for new political initiatives using a "hard core of States" as a base. The alternative would be then to accept all enlargements and to create a new political entity with a few countries or to refuse any more enlargements, notably to Turkey and to be entirely dedicated to the political reinforcement of the Union.
Both paths are dangerous and could have destabilising consequences.
The first hypothesis would be hard to accept for the new members of the Union, notably the smallest. The Union would be reduced down to a kind of "Council of Europe", a small scale UN to which we would confer economic responsibilities. The second might cause crises on the EU's borders. Would Turkey accept being rejected by European public opinion; today this seems highly likely since referenda will be necessary to ratify its accession.
In both cases the Union will have great difficulty in finding a common position.
Within the Union itself the differences in opinion about the nature of the EU, its policies, about its trans-Atlantic relationship are indeed likely to destabilise the existing structure. With respect to this British policy is particularly criticized. The present crisis over the Union's budget on which the funding of the 2004 enlargement depends is quite revealing. The UK is said to have one foot inside the EU, since it cannot be totally disassociated from continental Europe, whence it draws its prosperity, while keeping its other foot outside, as it is still determinedly hostile to political Europe and does everything it can to thwart it, notably by pushing towards enlargement. It is the best advert for those who want the unification of Europe to start from a new basis – a basis that would be continental and closely knit. In this hypothesis any future enlargements would not take place and some that have already taken place would de facto be brought into question.
Within this context the position of the USA is important. The support provided by President Bush to the opening of membership negotiations with Turkey strengthened its opponents and kindled the idea that the USA was against European unity.
For its part Europe is hesitating between the objective of being a New Super Power or a great Europe. Probably reason would have it that all contribute in facilitating the creation of a powerful Europe, its serenity recovered and self confident, an ally to the USA but independent and influential in the international arena.
In this regard, for all the recent work which has been occurring since the appointment of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State and the visit of President Bush to Brussels, Europe feels that there is a real need for a coherent European policy on the part of the USA, one that shows more solidarity towards a struggling Europe, which is more voluntarist showing clear support for the work undertaken by Europe for its political unification. It is in our common interest for political Europe to succeed, on both sides of the Atlantic, that are so closely linked by values and the economy, as D Hamilton and J Quinlan brilliantly demonstrated.
The pessimism of these analyses should not wipe out at the stroke of a pen everything that the European Union has already succeeded in achieving. Europe is strong. The nations of Europe, which are held by binding treaties, ensconced in new practices and limited in their actions by a great number of interlinking interests, would not find it easy to free themselves from the European dimension.
However, the spring of 2005 marks a true turning point in the history of the construction of Europe. The failure of the Constitution and the reasons that pushed the populations of two founder countries to reject it are proof that the Union has entered a new era. Will it be able to overcome this new crisis?
The economic equation is a difficult one to solve. Political tension is running high. Enlargement is a constant pressure on governments and on the Union which does not have the financial and political means to overcome this pressure alone.
Will the European Union have to choose and what will it choose - between the necessary objective of continuing work towards developing Democracy on its borders and the urgent imperative of becoming stronger both in terms of its institutions and its policies?
Enlargement beyond its geographical boundaries is to some degree one challenge too many for Europe. Today, it appears that Europe is simply not up to this latest challenge. Forcing it to do so may well end up wiping out 55 years of acquis, thereby bringing us back to an unstable, unpredictable Europe, one that would grasp at any opportunity in order to maintain its existence.
The need to reconstruct a healthy and more fruitful trans-Atlantic relationship might then stumble across an additional obstacle.
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN