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The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

, by Paolo Vacca

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Only few were expecting the “Berlin declaration” to be a landmark in the European history that would indicate the way out of the stalemate of the “constitutional treaty” and symbolize the dreams of the European citizens as well as the vision of their leaders for the future of Europe. The declaration issued on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Rome Treaties exceeds however everybody’s expectations in its worrisome combination of lukewarm rhetoric, acquiescence on Europe’s present and future, vague and non-committing targets and lack of vision and sense of urgency. In many respects it is the perfect mirror of today’s European Union.

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Why is Europe struggling so hard to find a way out of its political impasse and develop a bold and convincing vision for its future?

In the last ten years after the poor outcome of the Amsterdam Treaty criticism has focussed on the method to reform the European institutions. Inter-governmental conferences have been blamed as undemocratic and capable of brokering only low-profile compromises.

The alternative in the form of the European Convention has been blamed by some governments as detached from political reality and by federalists for lacking the power to act as a genuine constituent assembly. After the referenda in France and The Netherlands national ratifications are being blamed for leaving European choices to erratic national debates and making the yes of the many dependent on the no of the few.

While such criticisms contain some truth, at the same time they fail to see a much more profound trend:

the United States of Europe would be the only way to ensure the Europeans with a future of peace, prosperity and a serious say on the global stage, but the project of progressively transforming the European Union into a federation has simply become wishful thinking.

Successful widening + failed deepening = current stalemate

The combined challenge facing Europe after the fall of the Berlin wall (i.e. to reunify Germany, build the Euro, extend the Union to new members and at the same time deepen the Union’s political structures) has been lost. The enlargement of the Union to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe has been a crucial factor for Europe’s economic and political stability and so is today the prospect to enlarge the Union to the Balkan countries and later on to Turkey.

Nonetheless the enlargement, coupled with the lack of a political project around the Euro, has led to a Union with twenty-seven (thirty in the not too distant future) ever more heterogeneous members with very diverse attitudes on the Union, its structure, its policies, its place in the world and most of all the finality of European integration.

The attitude of some countries can swing with a change of government but the sheer opposition of some new and old member states to the prospect of pooling their sovereignty into a European federation is deeply rooted in their history and the nature of their political class and public opinion. No surprise that the Treaty establishing a European Constitution dissatisfies both the nationalists for being too centralistic and the pro-Europeans for being too weak. No surprise that today even the prospect to rescue a downsized version of the treaty is proving a hard task.

The way out - core Europe!

In the next months the national governments will search for a solution to the current crisis of the constitutional treaty in a somehow watered-down treaty brokered through a classical intergovernmental conference.

If they succeed, the treaty will improve certain mechanisms of a continent-wide yet loose Union, but it will change neither the structural nature of the Union, nor the direction of its development.

If they fail, they will leave Europe in disarray and at risk to unravel.

In either case, the ultimate choice is the same: accept the slow but inevitable development of the Union into a European version of the United Nations or try and rescue the project of the United States of Europe starting from a core of countries where the attitude of the political class and citizens make such project at least conceivable, even if immensely difficult. The natural frame of such a core is the Euro-zone, but most likely the group taking an initiative would be even narrower, comprising France, Germany and some of the other founders, possibly supported by others such as Spain, Slovenia and Austria.

Proposals for a core Europe are not new in the recent history of the European project. In the early Nineties Mitterrand and Delors raised the idea of a federation within a confederation to address the challenge of deepening and enlarging the Community. In 1994, a Kerneuropa was proposed by CDU-CSU’s Schauble-Lamers paper to complement the creation of the Euro with a limited number of countries. In 2000 the then German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer came up again with the idea of a vanguard for a federation. The Belgian Prime Minister Verhofstad has recently supported the idea of the United States of Europe between the Euro countries.

Every time other political urgencies and the enormous political difficulty of such a project have prevailed. Time for a choice is approaching again, maybe for the last time.

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- Reichstag, Berlin, Germany (cc) JWCImaging; source: Google images

Your comments

  • On 7 April 2007 at 22:09, by Laurent_k Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    Yes, a core Europe is a possible way to explore to revive the European building. But with one condition : it must be a true democracy unlike the current European institutions. This is a condition sine qua non if you want to get a support from people against the governments who don’t want this evolution (it would reduce their power and they are mainly interested by their personal power).

  • On 9 April 2007 at 00:59, by Anne Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    How can you get the support of the people when the people have not been told the truth here in the UK? The “Treaty Establishing a Constitution” was only a tidying up exercise. the EU charter of Fundamental rights was likened to the Beano Comic.

    You cannot get the support of the people when the people do not KNOW what they are supposed to be supporting.

    Now of course, when the British people see for themselves the Commission ignoring the DEMOCRATIC votes of the peoples of two Countries, especially through the incorporation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights without the required TREATY, all confidence is lost. So many articles and new Agencies from the rejected Constitutional Treaty are, and I use the expression “Coming in through the back door” that it makes a mockery of all Democracy.

    Remember, the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain only joined what they were told was, a Common Market for trade. Their loyal oath of allegiance is to the Crown and the United Kingdom and always will be.

  • On 9 April 2007 at 13:02, by Valéry Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    If their leaders told the « citizens » of the UK that they joined only a common market then they where lied to and may feel free to leave. The European unification process has always been a political process and not merely a business opportunity. The new treaties (that the UK have accepted) have always made progresses towards a more unified and more democratic Europe instead of the useless League if Nations that the British eurosceptics wish to see. As far as the constitutional treaty is concerned the UK has nothing to say as the treaty has never been discussed in a democratic debate there (and it actually is mainly a tidying up exercise). If the British people wish their vote to matter then they will support a democratic Europe instead of a European Union where the Foreign office takes decisions instead of elected representatives.

  • On 9 April 2007 at 13:07, by Valéry Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    I believe that the Constitutional treaty was the only way to maintain some momentum for European unification after the badly-organized enlargements. THe failure of Chirac to have it ratified has stopped the process. If there is no hope to move forward with all the members states then yes, a core Europe is needed. I am however pessimistic on the political vision of our present leaders that would allow it to happen.

  • On 9 April 2007 at 16:47, by anne Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    Even you, in a reply have also said "it (the EU Constitution) is only a tidying up exercise. Why, when you were doing so well? The EU wanted in article 1-7 total legal personality.... and I will explain to you what exactly that meant as far as the British people are concerned and why we can never go any further into the EU. (I am only giving you one and perhaps the tiniest Article from the EU constitution. We can only repudiate the EU treaties thus far and get out leaving the rest that remain in (I believe that it will be 10 in number eventually) to carry on integrating. In our Country, our Prime Minister has the privilege, the honour to sign Treaties-and commit our forces to war, under what is called the Royal Prerogative. It is this Royal Prerogative that under article `1-7 of the EU Constitution that would be so very casually given away to foreigners. This Royal Prerogative, does not however belong to any British Prime Minister for him or her to give away.

    When leaders are either ’afraid’ or perhaps ’ashamed’ to tell the people what they are doing in the people’s name, then there is something dreadfully wrong with the whole.

    The people know they were lied to in 1972 NOW, but you see we trusted our politicians then, we had no where to go even if we had thought lies were being told. We are talking of honourable men and women, but recorded in Hansard now that we can access those old pages are those lies and the same arguments went on in those days as they do now. Here is one little example for you. “The Lord Chancellor, Lord Kilmuir to Edward Heath,”The Crown would be called on to transfer part of its treaty-making power to those organs of the Community“and =”But to transfer to the council or the Commission the power to make such treaties on our behalf, and even against our will, is an entirely different proposition".

    You wrote, “The new treaties (that the UK have accepted)” The UK Governments accepted, but not the people. Certain people have gone to court to try to stop their Governments from taking the UK any further in to the European Union, and in a peaceful way. These Treaties can be repudiated of course and the Government would have us believe that all they have to do to remove this Country from the EU would be to repeal the European Communities act 1972.

    Please recognise that this Country can never allow anyone to speak for this Country on a permanent basis and forever. We the people, are duty bound not to allow that to happen. Our Allegiance is to and will always remain to this, our own Country, as, in the end, so will yours.

  • On 10 April 2007 at 16:09, by Anne Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    You wrote, “If there is no hope to move forward with all the members states then yes, a core Europe is needed”.

    And it shall be 10 in number=it is written. The United Kingdom of Great Britain shall not be among the ten.

  • On 11 April 2007 at 09:52, by Peter Matjašič Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    Dear Anne,

    I have been following your comments closely and I appreciate you speak out so openly about your thoughts on Britain’s role in the EU. I personally believe in a united, transparent, democratic and federal Europe (not necessarily a federal state mind you), in which also the UK takes up its part. A Europe of citizens, in which decisions are taken in accordance with the subsidiarity principle (thus at the level where a problem arises). In this respect for me a federal Europe means giving more say also to the regions. If you feel your aleagence with the British crown only, good for you. But if the majority of the British really do feel this way and see the EU as nothing more than a free trade area then by all means you should have an open and democratic debate about it in the UK and reconsider the option of leaving the EU. One way of making the EU more democratic is by having an EU-wide referendum on the next Constitutional Treaty (whatever form or name it might have in the end) together with the EP elections in summer 2009. If the majority of EU’s almost 500 million citizens and its 27 states say yes, it should be adopted. Those who vote no, e.g. potentially the UK, should re-define it’s relation with the EU. If the UK chooses to stand alone and believes it can tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow in that way, that’s your choice. But don’t stop me or hold me back if I want to move forward with creating a true political Union and a united Europe.

  • On 11 April 2007 at 18:48, by Anne Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    Thank you for your honest thoughts Curlypeter. An EU wide referendum eh? As long as each country was counted separately. Far better to let such as our country go rather than hold it by the force of Treaties. (Of course, Treaties can be abrogated) I follow ’most’ of the debates in our Parliament and when debating EU legislation, it would appear they have to come to a “said” conclusion and work their way round to that conclusion. That is not what I call ’democracy’. To ’scrutinise EU legislation in MP’s language is to go through it perhaps to familiarise themselves with what Laws the EU has decided upon at that moment in time. They can alter a “maybe” to a perhaps or a dot to a comma, but that is about it.

    Any person born in Britain automatically owes their allegiance to the Crown and the Country. (It is as if they have said the oath of allegiance from the day they were born here without uttering a word.) This is why I chose the word “Crown” carefully and not the person that happens to be King or Queen at any particular time. The Crown also represents the Country, the Crown is continuity. I cannot hold any allegiance to any other Country and neither can anyone else lawfully. One can only have one master. No one can have allegiance to two such vastly different organisations.

    We cannot have an “open and democratic” debate because there is not one Member of Parliament that is prepared to do as you do and state quite openly what you want and what THEY have signed the 60 million people up to in this Country. Even now, to keep the British in the EU they are preparing to drop the word “Constitution”, to fool the people once more. In my book’ if you cannot tell the truth quite openly, you must be doing something wrong or are ashamed of having your name tagged to what you are doing.

    The EU will crumble of course and there will be bloodshed, even America had its civil war to get where it is today. Much of what the EU is taking upon itself (and yes, I am aware that they are pushing Articles from the EU Constitution without the proper legal, legal base) the Nation States are best to do for themselves. We pay our MP’s to Govern and they want another rise for doing what, about 20% of the work they should be doing. The people in all different Countries will not always contentedly continue to do that.

    When I look at what is “in the pipe line”-such as the ’Motorway in the Seas and Oceans’ I think Nelson must be absolutely spinning in his grave.

  • On 11 April 2007 at 23:30, by valery Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    ““‘The EU wanted in article 1-7 total legal personality....’””

    The EC already has legal personality : this is nothing new at all. It is simply making things more coherent and allows the Union to act internationally as the EC does already. It does not remove the possibility for member-states to sign treaties.

    ‘You wrote, “The new treaties (that the UK have accepted)” The UK Governments accepted, but not the people.’

    The UK is a democracy and those treaties have been accepted by the Parliament : your argument is invalid.

    ‘ Our Allegiance is to and will always remain to this, our own Country, as, in the end, so will yours.’

    I have no allegiance to any country. I am sorry for you if you do.

  • On 21 April 2007 at 09:11, by Valéry Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    Maybe you should read these answers to your argument :http://www.andrewduffmep.org.uk/pages/myth-sovereignty.html

    There was a referendum in Britain on the issue and it has been debated and the pro-Europe side won. Obviously the British citizens may change their minds (although I believe that given the choice they would choose Europe rather than the USA which is the only alternative, frankly) but this should not prevent the countries that want to move forward towards a more united and more democratic Europe to do so.

  • On 21 April 2007 at 09:37, by Valéry Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    You write : when debating EU legislation, it would appear they have to come to a “said” conclusion and work their way round to that conclusion. That is not what I call ’democracy’. To ’scrutinise EU legislation in MP’s language is to go through it perhaps to familiarise themselves with what Laws the EU has decided upon at that moment in time.

    European legislation is made by the European Council and European Parliament, not the national Parliaments. National Parliaments vote only on national laws.

    However many governements choose to ask for a debate to the national parliaments before voting in the Council so that the MPs views can be taken into acount. Citizens have their say in mot policy areas by voting for an MEP. MEPs vote - or reject the European lows. They have a very important influence on their content. This is perfectly democratic and this website’s team is promoting the move for more democratic reforms by allowing the European Parliament to have their say on all isssues and the Council to vote by majority and not unanimity on all issues so that a single government cannot block a law as it is undemocratic to have a minority impose its will on a majority.

    As far as the national parliaments are cocnerned, many European laws actually allow national governments - and hence parliaments to implement the law by the means they choose. In these circumstances, only the objective - chosen through the European institutions - is binding. Only because it has been decided upon already.

    I am sorry to say that your comment is biased.

    You wrote : "Any person born in Britain automatically owes their allegiance to the Crown and the Country".

    This is not true : allegiance is a choice. Individuals cannot have an "automatic" allegiance. This is simply a political myth. In a democracy, the citizens are the masters, not the government not the Crown. And individuals actually do belong to several communities : their country, it is tru, but also their town, their region, their church, their politics, Europe and mankind. Every person has a multiple identity and it is a good thing that the political system reflects this. Europe is not "another country". I am European because I was born French, I did not choose to be European instead of French. Both are true because they are not different entities : one is a part of the other.

    You wrote : Even now, to keep the British in the EU they are preparing to drop the word “Constitution”, to fool the people once more.

    Actually this is not true for two reasons : the so-called constittuionnal treaty was not a true constitution but merely a new and improved traty ; secondly the future treaty is going to be different and much less important. We are actually in the French version of this website publishing an article condemning Tony Blair for his lack of European commitment and his plans to stop the European constitutional process. He his proving as we always thought that his "pro-Europe" attitude was just for show-off but that he lacks a true European vision, or the courage to defend it.

    You wrote : The EU will crumble of course and there will be bloodshed, even America had its civil war to get where it is today.

    The EU will do fine because the Europeans need to be united to protect their interests in today’s world. Their progresses are slow because the weight of the past is heavy and because many people have not abandoned yet the dangerous nationalists myths of the past but it will go on. The constitutional treaty includes an article allowing any member-state to leave the Union when they see fit so there is no danger of a civil war. Please feel free to leave this Union when you see fit : I am confident that you will come back. Britain has already - several times - tried to do without the European unification process - and has always realised that its best interest was to join it instead of remaing outside. It is in the best interest of the British citizens, as well as the French and othrs Europeans , to have an organisation defending efficiently their interests when facing the USA or China, because the national states cannot do this properly on their own.

    I am looking forward to read more of your nationalist ranting again as they are rather entertaining.

  • On 23 April 2007 at 21:29, by Anne Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    To reply to Valery. I wrote, "The EU (Meaning the whole European Union,) wanted in article 1-7 total legal personality....’””

    Valery wrote: "The EC (European Community) already has legal personality : this is nothing new at all. It is simply making things more coherent and allows the Union to act internationally as the EC does already. It does not remove the possibility for member-states to sign treaties".

    I reply, "The EU Constitution would have given full legal personality to the Union. Although the ‘European Community’ had that right, the ‘European Union’ did not, so, under a new (mini) Treaty or the revival of the EU Constitution would mean its status in the world stage, increases. Actually, the EU has already signed a treaty on our behalf and is recorded in Hansard Lords18th June 2003 at the beginning of the “Official Report of the Grand Committee on the Extradition Bill”. As the Committee was to debate an Extradition Bill, it seemed to me a little pointless when an agreement had already been made between the USA and the EU as a whole by EU Commissioner Antonio Vitorino.

  • On 23 April 2007 at 23:47, by Anne Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    I refer to “Any person born in Britain automatically owes their allegiance to the Crown and Country.” You Valerie do not agree. This is obviously where our Countries are at odds with each other. What I have written is true. Our Judges, Magistrates, MP’s Members of the Police Force and Members of our Army, Air-Force and navy, etc all swear allegiance to the Crown (Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II) and through the Crown to our Country. No Member of Parliament, although democratically elected may not take up their seat until they have sworn Allegiance to the Crown and country. Two democratically elected MP’s from Northern Ireland cannot take up their seats in Parliament because they refuse to make their oath of Allegiance to the Crown. That is their choice.

    This allegiance is very important indeed because the violation of that solemn Oath is the very essence of Treason. Even EU Commissioners take the making of their allegiance very importantly too for Romano Prodi on 17th September 1999 said, “We have just taken our Oaths of Office before this Court and are fully aware of the solemnity of the occasion: the oath binds us legally but even more perhaps, it is a commitment we have made before each other.” It also explains why we can never accept the EU Constitution or be a Citizen of the European Union which incidentally, I have already renounced EU citizenship that is if one can renounce a concept of citizenship re Maastricht version.

    Allegiance may be a choice for you, for a person born here in the UK we have no choice and long may it continue. I am not European, I am Anglo-Saxon, so once again there is a difference. This is why we welcome all nationalities here in the UK because we are already a great mix of people.

    Re dropping the word “Constitution”. For the first time it was clearly written in the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe (Meaning the European Union) that EU law too precedence over the Constitutions and laws of nation States. As the Constitutional Document is meant to be for all time (They talk of 50 years hence) and should we accept now even a Mini Treaty with all the Articles in it that the EU wanted to allow its voice to speak for all nations, our Constitution would be destroyed. That, according to R v Thistlewood 1820 “to destroy the Constitution is an act of treason”. To accept the EU Constitution or Treaty as it is at the moment, It obviously would violate the solemn Oath of Allegiance.

    Mr Blair said on 20.4.2007, “The truth is that the Conservative Party will probably argue for a referendum if you move a comma in an existing treaty,”he added complaining that crafting a policy on Europe is about choosing between “isolation” in Brussels or “treason” in London. So he is aware of the situation. He is very pro-Europe he has not as yet changed.

    Two years to leave the EU in the rejected Constitutional Document. We cannot go any further into the EU. The way the EU is going at the moment by activating Articles that actually NEED a treaty base (EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Agency) is showing many people that the EU cannot be trusted, they are abusing their position and probably an legal challenge will be made. The EU’s present action is putting off more people from the EU than ever before because if they will take advantage of the situation now, when two major Countries have rejected the EU Constitutional Treaty, what will they take advantage of when they have even more power. Not a wise move.

    You say I am biased. We pay and vote for our Government to govern us. That is what they should do. Of course I may be classed as biased. I am a true subject of the Crown and if called upon to defend our Crown and country, this is what I will have to do.

  • On 24 April 2007 at 11:24, by Peter Matjašič Replying to: The Vision is lost - only a “core Europe” can revive it

    Dear Anne,

    thanks a lot for all your comments but now it’s going a bit too far in repetition. We got your point which actually has little to do with the core of the subject developed in the present article on only stressed the need and confirms the idea of a “core Europe”. I advise you to read also other EN sources about the EU and be open to others opinion as we have been to yours:-).

    Here a few links:

    http://www.euromove.org.uk/opinion/em/the-european-movement-is-the-real-democracy-movement http://www.federalunion.org.uk/ http://www.whathaseuropedone.org/

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