The Euro locomotive on its way to catching Europe: There is still disagreement about the goal, and many roads have not yet been traveled
It is the privilege of politicians to spread optimism even and especially when circumstances offer little or no reason to do so. Thus the representatives of the EU summit in Thessaloniki radiated the best hope that the draft treaty presented by Giscard d’Estaing could shape the European Union into a politically stronger Europe.
In the official conclusion, that is: "The European Council has decided that the text of the draft treaty on interception is a good starting point for the beginning of the Intergovernmental Conference."
Whether the pan-European "Groundwork" for the planned conference of heads of government and ministers is sufficient to deliver the final catch for a European interception by March of next year remains to be seen. If the member states then sign the treaty in Rome in May of next year? In any case, Joschka Fischer, the candidate for the new post of European Minister of Foreign Affairs, recognizes a "new dimension of European politics". But even the unity shown by most of the representatives is by far not enough to dispel the doubts that the European locomotive could still have the roughest part of the journey ahead of it (European sense of balance).
Many decisions not yet made
However, the official locomotive drivers themselves are not yet clear about the destination of the journey, because some sections of the route have not even been laid yet. For behind the harmonious music of the summit, the dissonant tones of the protest groups are not the only ones to be heard. Europe’s leaders also continue to vacillate between federalist and intergovernmental concepts that largely preserve the sovereignty of member states. And finally, it is also about the concrete influence on this still difficult to define power structure Europe.
osterreich and Luxemburg are unhappy with the establishment of a permanent Council president for two and a half years, although this would be a gain administratively, especially in view of the enlargement of the Community. Spain and Poland are particularly unhappy with the new distribution of voting rights, which will weaken their influence. And in Great Britain, of course, the eternal discussion is being conducted with ever-increasing verve as to whether "Great Britain" loses its identity when too much Europe is allowed on the island.
British minister Jack Straw reares his compatriots that they will not be bound by European majorities on defense and taxation. While British conservatives see the planned regulations as an invasion of Great Britain’s sovereignty, Straw claims that in many respects even the role of nation states has been strengthened. The minister of the euphoria is on the offensive against the Eurosceptics, talking diplomatically of "positive patriotism", probably not too far from Habermas’ pale Euro-catching patriotism (Europe: (ver)fangslos? as well as Vision reloaded: The late enlightened Europe of the philosophers).
But even Straw has not yet found the magic formula to reare the opponents of the euro at home, when he speaks of Great Britain’s international role in military affairs on the one hand, and on the other, with an almost plaintive undertone in his voice, about "a medium-sized country on the edge of continental Europe" reflects.
The crux of auben and tax policy
And even Schroder and Fischer, the advocates of the European majority principle and propagandists of a "avant-garde" locomotive of core Europe, had not arrived without reservations about the new leviathan of European power and glory. Because when it comes to immigration and asylum policy, they certainly don’t want to subject national guidelines to the majority of the Council of Ministers. After all, according to Giscard d’Estaing, the principle of qualified voting has been extended from 37 political fields of action to 80 now. The voting system in the Council of Ministers, the EU’s political powerhouse, stipulates that in future a majority of the member states, which together account for three-fifths of the EU’s population, will be required to pass a resolution. Thus the disproportionate regulations of the Nice Treaty are to be replaced from 1.The EU Commission has decided to change the qualified majority voting system of the EU Council of Ministers in November 2009, which until now has given Spain and Poland an impressive 27 votes compared with 29 votes each for Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy.
The veto principle will be retained in the area of foreign and tax policy, leading EU Commission President Romano Prodi to fear that this could be a built-in barrier to a strong European Union, when 25 member states could find ample opportunity to disagree next year. Don Rumsfeld’s tale of old and new Europeans could then set the suffering motif of hard to break power alliances and permanent disputes within the EU. Giscard d’Estaing, on the other hand, considers decisions on foreign policy with a qualified majority to be of little practical relevance.
But this is still the real point of departure for a politically constituted Europe, if it wants to successfully stand up to American internationalism. Thus, the disaster of a disagreement on essential questions of the EU’s global engagement, which will hardly be independent of America’s dashing guidelines, may be repeated in the future as well. The power option to play a coarser and even independent role on the globe in the future (Fortress EU also wants to become a militarily global actor), to represent Europe’s interests, could thus remain wishful thinking. Javier Solana’s proposal of a global security strategy, which could collide with both the UN and Washington’s ever-present mission to save civilization, is not conceivable at all without streamlining decision-making structures – as little as this answers the question of whether the hysteria of the witch-hunters of terrorism could not then interfere to an even greater extent than before with Europe’s really important tasks, especially in the areas of the economy and the labor market.
At least one positive sign is the anchoring of a plebiscitary moment in the draft constitution, although this is still in need of considerable development. If at least one million EU citizens from different states submit a petition, the EU Commission can be asked to take legislative action. But if the European Union is indeed to be brought to the burgers "near" to the citizens – as the final declaration promises – the question of how a future European Parliament worthy of the name could look cannot be permanently dispelled.
In the harmonizing final declaration, reference is now made to the necessity of "purely technical work" which the Intergovernmental Conference is still to direct. But the question remains more than exciting, whether these works could not be de facto and de iure the actual decisions about the operating system of the Euro locomotive, which could still make so many intermediate stops, if it should not even run out of coal on the way.