On a number of fronts, 2003 is going to be an historic year for the European Union. The Convention for the Future of Europe has edited the first plan for a European constitution, to go into effect in 2006. The European Union has approved its expansion from 10 to 25 members, most of which will come from the former communist bloc of the East. Moreover, the Iraq war has made clear the lack of unity among nations of the Old Continent with regard to foreign policy. Going forward, what is the future of the new Europe?
To respond to that question, one needs a perspective that goes beyond merely economic issues, according to Carlos Del Ama, professor of the UniversityofNavarre, who is an advisor to the UN and the EU, and member of the Academic Group that worked with the Convention in the draft of the future European Constitution.
The [existence of the] European Union, he says, has permitted its members to enjoy 50 years of peace thanks to the fact that Europe abandoned a policy of “action to take control” before the founding Treaty of Rome in 1957, and has turned into a “community of communication.” This change has taken place through means of a dialogue between the EU’s basic institutions – the Commission, the Council and the Parliament – which are forums of negotiation and debate. Moreover, to guarantee compliance with laws, there is a Court of Justice.
Del Ama warns that “the fundamental problem is that we are passing beyond living in several worlds that are side-by-side, into living in one shared world.” Starting from now, citizens have to choose “between living under the Empire or in a free Confederation of Worlds.” This doesn’t mean that must choose between the United States and Europe, but that America and Europe must decide jointly on a way to coordinate two different approaches to globalization.
The solution to the “problem” of globalization is the European Union – a model that transcends Europe itself, Del Ama notes, adding that “Europe can offer a model of international unity and coexistence that could be imitated in the interest of global coexistence.”
A European Constitutional Plan
The most immediate challenge for the new Europe under construction, according to Del Ama, “is the approval of its first Constitution.”
This June, after 16 months of work, the Convention for the Future of Europe presented a draft of the first plan of the European Constitution during the Summit of Salonica in Greece. Starting next October, at the Intergovernmental Conference, negotiations will begin for approving a final document that reflects the consensus of all member states. It is hoped that the document will be approved before parliamentary elections at the end of May 2004, when most countries will submit the constitution to a referendum for approval.
The referendum will be not only an act of democratic legality, but also an important tool for letting citizens learn about the text of the Constitution. However, Del Ama warns that “before a referendum takes place, you have to make the rules of the game very clear in order to avoid [the possibility that] the rejection by one country paralyzes the plan.” If that should occur, two hypotheses are being contemplated: The first is that those countries that don’t approve the new constitution can stay in the current union. The second – supported by [former French president] Giscard d’Estaing, president of the European Convention – is that those countries that don’t approve will stay outside the Union, taking into account that the [new] Constitutional Europe will not be a continuation of the previous European Union.
Although most European leaders are quite satisfied with the draft of the future constitution, two topics could complicate the work of the Intergovernmental Conference. The first involves power sharing in the future Council, the highest executive organ of the Union. The plan for the new text breaks with the [current] system of proportional voting, which was approved by the European Council at Nice. The new plan would create a system of double majority: One involving countries and the other involving demographic weight. This means that, in order to approve a proposal, it will be necessary to get a favorable vote from half of the countries – plus one more country. Moreover, it will require the votes of states that represent at least 60% of the European population.
According to Del Ama, “This change has two advantages: First, the system is very clear. Second, there will be no need to tweak things each time the Union is expanded or an important change in its democratic structure takes place.”
Midsize European countries such as Poland and Spain – each with a population of about 40 million – have complained that this measure favors the ability of bigger countries like France (59 million) and Germany (82 million) to block their efforts. Spain has demanded that the EU take another look at the new formula for sharing power. Del Ama does not give much importance to the possibility that Spain might lose some power in the Council, since the topics of greatest importance for that country have already been negotiated, and the proposals that can emerge from now on – such as creating a European army – are going to count on getting support from Spain.
“Spain is not interested in renegotiating power within the European Council, but only in the proportion of parliamentarians that it lost in the Nice voting, in order to acquire greater weight within the Council,” Del Ama says. The Polish situation is different, because officials there are going to want to use their power “to renegotiate some membership agreements which are not convincing to them.”
The power struggle that will show up in the news reports about the Intergovernmental Conference “will refer to the balance of power in the Council, but the struggle behind the scenes will be about the weight of each country in the Parliament, which will henceforth be more important than [the balance of power in] the Council,” Del Ama contends.
The second topic of debate has nothing to do with worldly powers. The omission in the constitution’s text of a specific allusion to Christianity has generated a certain amount of controversy. No one doubts the cultural and spiritual importance of Christianity in the history of Europe, but some people doubt the advisability of including a reference to this belief in the Constitution. Del Ama, who has participated in the debate about the constitutional plan, believes that to do so would “raise hackles.” He adds that Giscard d’Estaing, president of the Convention, proposed a very appropriate formula, which was not successful. It referred to “a fundamental Christian religious heritage.”
A great number of Europeans are secular. Moreover, in Turkey – a solid candidate for entering the European Union – a majority are Muslims. So, too, are the immigrants who arrive in Europe from North Africa. The inclusion of Christianity as one of the pillars of European culture in the Constitution “would amount to alienating or excluding an important part of the [citizenry] of the future Europe,” notes Del Ama.
In his opinion, it would be enough if the future Constitution referred “to the religious, humanist and religious tradition or heritage of Christianity and to the applicability of its values in European society today.”
On the other hand, the Constitution introduces notable changes in the functioning of the European Union, such as the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs and that of “Mister President” – or European President – the main spokesman for the European Union at the international level. The President’s official mandate would last two and a half years, and could be extended by a new term of office. In ordinary parlance, and to avoid misunderstandings, Del Ama explains that “the Minister of Foreign Affairs will be responsible for discussions with [U.S. Secretary of State Colin] Powell. The one who makes agreements with Bush will be the President of the European Council” [or “European President”].”
This final proposal was not well received by the small countries [of the EU], according to Del Alma, “because the current system of rotating the Presidency every six months offers them participation in power sharing.” To resolve that, “the presidents of the councils of ministers would be revolving, and all the countries would get their chance.”
The text of the Constitution “is going to be approved, more or less as it is in the [current] plan. It is possible that they could change the percentage needed to reach a qualified majority – that in place of 60%, they could make it 65%, if Spain or Poland insist on their aspirations, although they should leave it as it is,” Del Ama says.
“The constitution is a good move,” he adds, “because, with its approval, Europe would acquire a juridical personality that it has not had until now.” Moreover, it would be the first step toward unifying all the treaties and simplifying all the proceedings of the Community.
Defining the Economic Model
Another challenge facing the EU is to define an economic model and to coordinate its economy accordingly. Despite the fact that the superiority of the market system has been demonstrated, Del Alma notes that “the free market does not resolve the problems of those who contribute nothing,” such as unskilled workers and the handicapped. Therefore, it is necessary to “create a model of a welfare state that is controlled and competitive, but which can be paid for without mortgaging future generations.”
The enlargement of the European Union to 25 countries, to take effect on May 1, 2004 – and the possible [further] enlargement to 27 members in 2009 – “is going to permit the creation of a large market in which the utilization of certain technologies will be profitable” in order to reduce the negative effects of the enlargement. Nevertheless, it is not going to be easy to relieve the economic cost of the entry of new states, as happened during the unification of Germany in 1989.
Nor will it be easy to unify how different European citizens think. Del Ama defines the new and future European identity as: “Our unity is a union.” It involves a concept of “union” that is different from that of the United States or the former Soviet Union. The U.S., for example, put all its emphasis on a common plan, even though it meant that citizens had to renounce, in part, their origins and historical roots, Del Ama says. Russia tried to ‘Russify’ the Soviet Union, erasing the differentiating characteristics of the distinctive countries that formed it. As for Europeans, “given that in the EU we are all different, we have to find union in diversity – because our wealth is in our historical heritage,” says Del Ama.
Another challenge involves adopting a second common language. It is impossible for all the languages of the Union to survive as official languages “because in the future parliament, there would have to be more translators than members of parliament,” notes Del Ama. His proposal is to let each parliamentarian express himself in his own language but “have only three official languages: English, German, and the language of the state in which each common agency or organism is set up.”
The Iraq war has made it obvious that the United States is the leading military power in the world, especially compared to Europe. “While the United States can fight and carry on three simultaneous wars on three continents, Europe cannot even control its own frontiers in the Yugoslav conflicts,” Del Ama says.
The moment has arrived for Europe to acquire an independent defense, he adds. “When China peacefully unified its provinces through internal agreement, it had to construct the Great Wall because it was not invulnerable to external dangers,” notes Del Ama. “For quite some time, the wall for Europe has been the United States, but when it comes to security matters, you cannot depend on others forever.”
The plan for a new Constitution proposes the creation of a new European Defense Agency and a European Army that would make possible the unification of armies in member countries and the development of coordinated and coherent planning for the joint use of military resources.
He notes that this independence would be relative, given that the creation of a European army would have to be done within NATO. However, “It is fundamental that, through NATO, we continue being allies of the United States because we are both part of the West and we form a cultural community that is very dependent in terms of security. Above all, from now on, given the problems that stem from terrorism, defense is going to be less about defense (in the traditional military sense of the world) and more about security (in the sense of urban survival).”
When it comes to foreign policy, the challenge is that “Europe [should] speak with a single voice” and that “the UN embarrassment is not repeated,” says Del Ama, referring to France’s and Germany’s decision to distance themselves [from other Europeans] during the war in Iraq. A ‘single voice’ could happen if Europe could count on a European Minister of Foreign Affairs and a Council president with a permanent character and rely on a European diplomatic corps. At that point, “the national representatives in international organizations would be replaced by a unified representation of all the nations of Europe.”
Moreover, Europe must propose and offer its community model to the rest of the world because, although it cannot “continue expanding [in terms of member countries] indefinitely,” neither can Europe “put aside those countries that want to join the new international structure of the union.” In order to achieve that goal, Del Ama has proposed the long-term creation of a “fractal” structure through the institutionalization of permanent alliances with other regions of the world. This “would bring about the creation of an eventual World Confederation of Regional Unions.”
Del Ama suggests two options to accomplish this. The first is to set up an Atlantic Confederation of Regional Federations formed by Canada, the United States, the Andean Union, MERCOSUR, the European Union, and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). This confederation would reproduce the institutions of the European Union at a higher level. The second option would involve forming a Confederation of the Black Sea, which could resolve the integration of Russia andTurkeyinto the European Union – without having them join the EU directly and individually.
In short, “it is not a question of re-making the UN,” states Del Ama, but of creating a world confederation of communicating communities, with the ultimate goal of creating an area of liberty, justice, security and peace for the entire world. It would be, he adds, “[philosopher Immanuel] Kant’s dream of perpetual peace.”