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Pierre de Charentenay SJ

Is there any Future for Europe?

Fifty years after the Roman Treaties

 

From: Stimmen der Zeit, 3/2007, S. 181-189
webmaster's own, not authorized translation

 

    PIERRE DE CHARENTENAY, editor-in-chief of the French Jesuits' journal "Études", uses the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Roman Treaties as an opportunity to think about the problems to be dealt with on the way to Europe's future unity. After the rejection of the constitution treaty by France and the Netherlands it was all about new confidence in Europe's mission.

 

Fifty years ago, on 25 March 1957, the "Roman Treaties" were signed, with which six countries took the path to a Common Market. Today twenty seven countries are integrated into a network of legal regulations affecting all areas of the economic and social life. Considerable things have been created, and the fathers of Europe can be proud of the successes of their initiative. It's true though that by the in France and in the Netherlands rejected referenda to the treaty about a constitution of Europe the so far deepest uncertainty became apparent with regard to the future of the European Union. As a result everything is questioned more than ever before. What has been reached remains fragile. A look on the way that has been covered could make the dynamics understandable and help with a new attempt.

 

The Reasons for a Treaty

In the year 1951 Robert Schuman initiated the project of the "European Community for Coal and Steel" (EGKS - Coal and Steel Community). Jean Monnet became its first president. Due to the needs of modernization at that time of numerous innovations then the efforts to deepen this community gained strength. France suggested the establishment of a "European Defense Community" (EVG). But in view of the fact that the decolonization was not yet finished and Soviet troops still occupied Austria, this idea was probably premature. By not ratifying it the French parliament in 1954 put an abrupt end to it.

The member countries of the Coal and Steel Community wanted to at least achieve a more comprehensive economical union - an area that was less delicate than the military one. Pressed by personalities such as Jean Monnet, Paul-Henri Spaak and Johan Willem Beyen, the governments agreed to a conference that took place at the beginning of June 1955 in Messina. Although the modalities of the integration were not yet exactly determined, it could get new common dynamics going. A circle of experts was established who negotiated anew and designed the outlines of a closer union.

 


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But the responsible politicians still hesitated. Nobody seriously believed in a complete customs union, in a European union. The French government under Guy Mollet was hardly interested in it, and with each somewhat more difficult debate blockades became visible. There was even fear of a failure, and the negotiations began to falter. But in 1956 two events accelerated the negotiations and an agreement, and confirmed the observation that nothing is done without challenge by a crisis: On the one hand the Hungarian rebellion, which was forced down by the Soviets, showed that a union of the West was more than ever necessary. On the other hand Europe's energy-political independence was directly threatened by the Suez crisis. The reaction to it was a union in the field of atomic research, the project Euratom. The last negotiations for it were pushed ahead by Paul-Henri Spaak and took place on the Castle Val Duchesse near Brussels

Thus finally on 25 March 1957 in Rome two treaties were signed: the treaty on the "European Economic Community" (EEC) and on the "European Atomic Energy Community" (Euratom). At the last moment still a preamble to it was formulated, in which the six founder countries announced the creation of "foundations for a closer and closer union of the European peoples". The United States of America regarded these negotiations with pleasure, for they had already connected the handling of the Marshall plan, which was economically to support Europe's reconstruction, with the establishment of the in 1948 created "Organization for European Economic Co-operation" (OEED), which in 1961 was transferred into the "Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development" (OECD) and so urged the European nations to co-operation. That is the Americans have promoted the first steps to a united Europe.

From that time on Great Britain however went its own ways. The country did not believe in the European Union and was convinced it would never function. In 1959 it even created the "European Free Trade Association" (EFTA), in order to block the development of the European Economic Community. Great Britain continued to be against a politically united Europe. When however the economic success of the union became apparent and the British enterprises wished a membership of their country in the European Economic Community, Great Britain from 1961 on tried to join the Union, but in 1963 and 1966 had to swallow two rejections by a veto of Charles de Gaulle. These were partially justified, because Great Britain wanted to negotiate everything anew, also the common agricultural policy. The economic integration actually became an enormous success. Customs duties were gradually removed, and the liberalisation of the exchange of goods made a more and more active trade easier.

 


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The common agricultural policy guaranteed the supply and improved the productivity; even the periods for the realization of the Common Market were shortened. The Roman Treaties were by all means treaties of an economic union and not only of a free-trade zone, for they held obligatory rules of procedure and a common legislation. All member states were ready for a rapid development, except France, for it had lost several years because of the Algeria war. Germany and Italy registered growth rates of ten per cent. The conditions for the realization of the Roman Treaties were in those years of reconstruction after the war, the best one could imagine, and all countries extensively profited from it. Owing to the "European Economic Association" (EEA) of 1986, which extended the competencies of the European community concerning research, development, environment and a common foreign policy, the European dynamics developed further up to the end of the 90's. With signing the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 the community answered to the collapse of the Soviet empire with an additional integration element: the common currency. The Amsterdam Treaty of 1998 continued the integration of the community particularly in the social and institutional area. The Nice Treaty prepared in the year 2000 - in an extremely bad climate - the extension of the community from 15 to 27 members.

The completion of the European Union on the basis of the Roman Treaties is certainly remarkable. It covers the creation of a Common Market up to a uniform currency as well as a body of law that includes all ranges of the economy, of environment, research, education, law and many other fields. All Europeans benefit from these achievements. This union permitted an impressing development, which would not have been possible if the old borders had been maintained. European enterprises made possible an unusual technical and commercial progress. The research has been Europeanized for the benefit of everybody. A harmonization of the requirements and regulations made a comprehensive communication within the social and legal range possible.

The second grand achievement is the extension of the European community up to 27 member states. While the original conception considered only a small part of Europe, the European Union now covers nearly the entire continent and makes possible common dynamics, easy communication, multiple contacts and finally a reunification in which all member countries for the first time meet at eye level - far away from the former splittings. In the relationship between East and West the Europe of the year 2007 is something completely different from that of the year 1957, when it was still marked by the disaster and hatred of the world wars.

 


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The Blockade

At the beginning of 2005 the European dynamics was still in full swing. In the years 2000 and 2003 to 2005 two conventions drafted a treaty about a constitution for Europe, which with splendid celebrations was signed in Rome in the hall of the Horaziers and Curiaziers on 29 October 2004.The discussions in the European public ran extremely well. The members of the European convention made the experience of a thorough work, which led to a text that was defined as broad and as positive as possible. But these debates, which took place in the distinguished rooms of the European parliament, did not find any resonance in the public opinion. The newspapers wrote little about it, and the population stood apart. For this sealing themselves off the governments carry their part of responsibility, since they were unable or did not want to explain the backgrounds of the debates. Also the media proved to be reserved and did not take care of the necessary echo in the public. Under the chairmanship of Valéry Giscard d´Estaing, the president of the second convention, the responsible European politicians had tackled a reestablishment of the Union - a project that was perhaps too ambitious or premature, because the outside compulsions of the year 1956 did no longer exist. The dangers that threaten Europe today are vague and indefinite. Globalization does not yet appear as real threat, and the member countries show increasingly reservations against the requirements of a common work.

The time came when this treaty system had to be ratified. Several countries accepted it by a ballot in parliament. Spain and Luxembourg ratified it by a referendum, France and the Netherlands the same way of procedure on 29 May and on 1 June 2005 voted with No. This double No blocked the ratification process: The referenda planned in Great Britain, Poland and Denmark were suspended - despite the positive votes given by 15 of 25 countries. A plan 'B' - options how the European community should act in case of a possible refusal of the constitution - was prepared by the Bertelsmann-foundation and the "Centre for applied political research", but has officially never been brought up for discussion. All sorts of people now expressed suppositions how the crisis could be overcome, but none seemed convincing. In the meantime a renewed decision on this treaty was postponed to the year 2009. The 50th anniversary of the Roman Treaties passes by - without the "Roman Treaty II" having been signed.

 


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Ways Out of the Crisis

It seems that this constitutional treaty is dead. One cannot make to vote again neither those who voted for nor those who voted against it. One would have to ask a different question about a different project. In order to bring these suggestions once again into the play, it will be advisable to consider how much the non-ratification of a new treaty in economic, social and institutional regard costs. For example the European parliament today has less power than in the constitution is provided for: a retrograde step in democracy. As far as the social policy is concerned, the protective measures, intended in the Charter of the fundamental rights, cannot become effective. The impetus for the 'Project Europe' is gone, and years are being lost

.

Soon numerous suggestions of different kind were made for a way out of the crisis. The European commission always represented the thought of a ratification of the complete text. The Commissioner for Institutional Relations and Communication Margot Wallström (Sweden) on 22 November 2006 affirmed, "that the political substance of the constitutional treaty is to be maintained as well as possible". Its colleague Benita Ferrero Waldner (Austria), responsible for foreign relations, even said: "The text has to be enriched and not shortened."

These statements were answers to Nicolas Sarkozy's (France) plan, who suggested a 'Mini Treaty' that would substantially cover the first and second part of the constitutional treaty. Several members of the commission gave a positive reception to this suggestion - but only as their personal opinion. Since Germany for a long time represented the opinion that the entire constitutional treaty was to be taken up again and if necessary a social supplementary protocol be attached to it, it could join this idea and try to win also the other members of the union for it during its EU- presidency in the first half-year 2007.

What consequently still remains is the minimum solution that has been brought into the discussion by several people: to vote 'in small morsels' on some reforms planned by the treaty. Thus some of those great reform projects could be accomplished on the summit, without having to rely on the ponderous machinery of a treaty or a new constitution.

Since 29 June 2005 the European Union showed an unbelievable paralysis and an amazing inability to seize the initiative and get out of the irritating situation that two of the founder nations - after they have covered such a remarkable way with all other members of the union - say No to what they founded 50 years ago.

 


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About What One Is To Talk

The European Union needs a new "Conference of Messina", in order to understand what has happened. And it needs reliable leader personalities who are able to impart a vision to Europe. For 50 years Europe has been on the way to unity, and it has achieved considerable things. But the setbacks of 29 May and 1 June 2005 showed that the foundation is not sufficient. Now it is essential to work again on the roots of our living together, in order to get over this stage and to continue the way taken. The following suggestions are inspired by a European colloquium of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) from 9 to 11 October 2006 in Clermont Ferrand, where Philippe Herzog, member of the European Parliament, made several suggestions. According to them three fields of work present themselves to the Europeans.

1. A European 'Akkulturation'. The Europeans have a common fund of values, which they mostly do not know at all, because they have never really met Europe. They keep their distance from Europe. They know neither Europe nor the other partner countries from the inside. But their openness for it is clearly expressed in the inquiries that were made one year before the referendum: in autumn 2004 "Euro barometer" among the French found out an approval of the European constitution of 70 per cent and among the Dutch of 73 per cent. But the Europeans do not properly notice what has been achieved. Thus we will have to work in the next ten or 20 years on Europe from the basis, in order to explain it to everybody and to open people for the fundamental European values, for which the exchange in meeting together is substantial. The freedom to travel permits these many and diverse meetings, this discovery of the other person and this understanding of the differences. Everywhere partnerships between the schools are needed, a quintupling of the Erasmus Program for the promotion of students' exchange: a real European acculturation

.

2. The Economical and Social Model. Europe is a laboratory, to carry out necessary developments in the economic and social area. Perhaps one has fixed one's gaze too much on the European social model, and forgotten to work on the revival of the economy as well as the new definition of a model of freedom that can develop within globalization. The role of the states is to be redefined, the liberties are to be regained which were limited in connection with the state indebtedness, emphatically is to be looked for new forms of training and employment, and the ways taken for this are to be secured. It is not about standardizing social politics and economics for all countries, but an evening out between the nations and generations should be guaranteed. For example one cannot transfer the level of the Frenchmen's social claims to the Poles.

 

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Everywhere the requirements are to take into account the local situation, for example our aging societies. But everywhere we all must also adapt ourselves to the globalization and be ready for necessary changes.

France always wanted to carry through its own dirigiste and centralist model. Germany is rather orientated towards free competition with social responsibility, which on the other hand in Great Britain is left to private initiatives. In the European Union the arguments over these different models were led from the outset. For a long time the French view kept the upper hand, despite France's repeated refusals towards this Europe which was not sufficiently French. However the modernization of France would have been impossible without Europe. For France it is high time to understand that Europe will be more European, if it is not formed according to a French system.

3. The Political Union. The constitution treaty, on which should be voted by referendum, is an indication of the considerable symbolic effort to strengthen the political unity of the continent. It is important to save the progress of this treaty. A renegotiation by another convention is out of the question, because no meeting would be more representative for all opinions in Europe than the one that was organized. There can also hardly be a better text than the compiled one. Who dreams of a more "left" or a rather "right" treaty shows only that s/he does not want to accept the result of the democratic debate.

In order to continue the work begun, which was now interrupted, at the beginning of 2007 the route over the governments' conference must be chosen which suggests reforms that are taken from the treaty. Thus the opportunity would be given to obtain with a decision of the heads of state a new Euro-political progress. It can specify possibilities and limitations of subsidiarity, i.e. of the authority of the Union and of the member states. Institutional reforms are necessary and can be accomplished without difficulties. They then permit the continuation of large projects like that of a common energy policy, the development of "cleaner" transport systems and a broadly laid out policy of lasting development

.

It may be that all these projects cannot be carried out at the same time. Europe is to remain differentiated, i.e. it is to advance in small steps, possibly not all of them at the same time within the same area, but intent on an approximation in the common deepening of the community. It is above all important that the citizens recognize themselves in this Europe, and that they regain the confidence in the large projects which concern them directly - e.g. in the mandatory civil service of young people.

 


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Border and Identity of Europe

Finally still another serious and delicate question is to be discussed: the extension of the Union and the borders of Europe. The problem is directly linked with the awareness which the European citizens could get of the political area they live in. How can they call themselves Europeans, if they do not know what is meant with this designation? The regular extension of the Union makes the identification with a certain territory and people more difficult, because both of them continually change. This is an important criterion in compared with the view that the union were a concept, a network of regulations and values, which exists independently of a geographical territory.

It is urgently required to take a break in the extension process, which we have experienced since the beginnings. Ten countries in 2004 joined the European Union, and in January 2007 another two were added. Can one now suddenly stop there? The time of such a break must be determined more exactly. It is called for after the integration of all countries of the Balkans lying between Greece and Italy. Some of them - like Slovenia - are already members of the union; others - e.g. Croatia - are candidates; and the others are obviously destined to join as quickly as possible. But the obstacles opposing such joinings must not be played down. France has here already acted unfortunately demanding a referendum for the joining of each new candidate that after Romania and Bulgaria still applies for membership. The joining of the Balkan countries however is morally and politically indispensable. Morally because this region needs support and is to be included into the dynamics of the whole of Europe, so that a difficult peace can be secured, and a region that has suffered much be developed.

But after those accessions a break must be proclaimed in all clarity. Ukraine and White Russia are at present too much bound to the Russian world to be reliable candidates before long. There remains the complex problem Turkey: As is well known the negotiations with this country after many months arrived at an impasse. Its relations with Cyprus have not advanced, and the situation of religious freedom is still unacceptable. Above all the nationalistic and Islamic parties in this country gain strength and stand for a clear difference to European values and for a refusal to join the European Union. The election for the presidency in April 2007 will be an important test for Turkey's future. Experts even think that Turkey has no longer the genuine wish to integrate itself into the European Union but only waits that its accession is refused by the Union. One way or another one reckons with very long negotiations with this country - also Turkish politicians such as the Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül.

 


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Hence one should make it quite clear to the European public opinion that the extension break must take place before the joining of Turkey, and that thereby the European Union has got a period of about 20 years in order to deepen its work, and to strengthen the attachment of the citizens to this political reality.

 

Meet the Challenges of Globalization Together

In order to get on with European politics, one must regain confidence in the European mission, for there is no longer a fundamental need for Europe as at the time of the establishment of a peace order or in view of the threats of the year 1956. New motive powers would have to proceed from a reflection on globalization and its effects. This after all is the common concern that we are also to face together. To it people must be motivated in a new and effective way. Though the way to European unity is no love-story, it was nevertheless an emergency association. The necessity to create Europe was little obvious and poorly understood, but it must be made clear as the task of a reasonable historical process.

The European mission is directly connected with globalization and its challenges. That is the dictates of the hour. The challenges proceeding from China's or India's development, the possible competitions or commercial conflicts with them; the relationship to a marginalized, but so near to us Africa; the intervention in armed conflicts, from which we too often have kept out - particularly in the Near East -; the negotiations with the United States, which are not the only masters of the world - all these questions should cause us as Europeans to find together again, in order to tackle them.

As the present misery shows, we have no chance at all, if we do it off our own bat. There is no lack of tasks that can lead us out of the present numbness - and were it only the simple question about a lasting development. For there our reactions are mostly too short-winded and levelled against our future well-being as also that of the following generations. The future of Europe beyond a local policy, which often lacks farsightedness, is promising. May the constitution treaty be dead: but ahead of Europe lies a future, provided that the citizens are able to open to this reality, which has been disturbed so sensitively by the French and Netherlands 'No'.

 

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