Europe's Moment of Decision

Daily News Egypt
6 Min Read

Is amnesia an integral part of politics? When it comes to the treaty to reform the Union’s institutions, which will be finalized in November, recent events suggest that amnesia does play a central role.

Let’s examine the “illness that leads certain EU leaders with questionable scruples to forget even the recent past. Busy with domestic political affairs, they do not hesitate to use Europe as a scapegoat to avoid breaking bad news to their fellow citizens. Some display separatist tendencies that worry, and frustrate, their electorates. No surprise, then, that many EU citizens refuse, or at least hesitate, to embrace the European cause.

This form of political racketeering may win elections, but it sabotages any opportunity to experience, or to perceive, politics as a process that can contribute to global development.

Consider Gordon Brown, Britain’s new prime minister, according to whom globalization strips the European project of any meaning, a form of political autism that in fact will prevent the EU from adapting to change and from being able to find solutions to globalization’s challenges.

Fortunately, openly anti-European political programs are not the norm, at least not yet. In fact, if, on the eve of the 2009 European Parliament elections, the new Reform Treaty enters into force, each member country will be forced to clarify and justify its position.

The Treaty will be essential not only to the proper functioning of Europe’s institutions, but also to their further “deepening – something that many call for without necessarily really wanting to achieve. Thanks to “reinforced cooperation, recalcitrant states will no longer hinder those seeking to make progress, and could even resort to an “opt-out process and “liberate themselves from the EU, perhaps by means of a referendum.

Then there are those who believe that EU enlargement has prevented greater “deepening, and who, with scant regard for the past or the future, argue that pursuing the latter requires abandoning the former. But who can reasonably claim to know what shape the EU will need to take to meet the challenges of the next 50 or 100 years?

Already, issues like climate change and energy supply demonstrate the futility of isolated national action and the critical importance of both deepening and enlarging the EU. Having suffered from disruptions in oil and gas supplies following disputes between Russia and Ukraine and then Belarus, the EU’s members have finally understood that their survival depends on their capacity to diversify their energy sources.

Further EU enlargement is undoubtedly in Turkey’s interest, and in Europe’s, too. In addition to the constructive role that Turkey could play, especially in the Middle East, its membership is vitally important in terms of energy. Moreover, admitting Turkey would demonstrate the EU’s political consistency, while representing a qualitative step forward in the European project.

For politicians like French President Nicolas Sarkozy, such considerations may be meaningless. But what if Turkey were to abandon its European ambitions and align itself strategically with Russia or even Iran? The consequences for European security would be severe.

Then there is Britain’s political leadership, for whom enlargement is a way to avoid deepening, and, indeed, to dissolve political Europe. While such ideas are not for everyone, certain Continental countries secretly prefer Britain’s disjointed scenarios, with some heads of governments even considering their countries’ commitments reversible.

What, for example, should we make of Poland’s governing Kaczynski brothers? The quick-tempered twins took issue with the reform treaty’s proposed voting system for the Council of Ministers, and then stole the limelight from papacy with their own homophobic declarations, proclamations that seem to exclude any possibility of integrating the EU’s Charter of Rights into Poland’s domestic law. Russian President Vladimir Putin may be the only one who welcomes this desertion from Europe’s community of values.

In this climate, Dutch Prime Minister Peter Balkenende, still bogged down in his country’s “no vote on the EU’s draft constitutional treaty in 2005, has been seeking to win British, Czech, and Polish support for measures to make it possible to diminish the EU’s areas of responsibility. Indeed, he may not even object to ruining the EU’s entire legislative engine by granting national parliaments a veto.

What we Europeans now need most of all is to embark on precisely the opposite course. Only by enlarging the scope of EU decision-making, backed by the commitment of equally responsible partners, can Europe meet the shared challenges of a common future.

Daniel Cohn-Benditis co-president of the Greens/Free European Alliance Group in the European Parliament. This article is published by Daily News Egypt in collaboration with Project Syndicate/Europe’s World, and

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