Do divisions over Iraq and enlargement spell the end to significant new EU integration measures? What next for Europe?by Charles Grant / November 20, 2003 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2003 issue of Prospect Magazine
Charles Grant (chair) The debate over the constitution is a good moment to take stock of the wider trends and arguments about where the EU is going. There is the question of common foreign and defence policies and transatlantic relations; there is the euro and the slow growth problem; there is the problem of how to make an enlarged, 25-state EU effective without making it even less legitimate in the eyes of European voters. There is also a new “à la carte” reading of events, with a particular resonance in Britain, that runs as follows: the combination of the geopolitical divisions in the EU exposed by Iraq, the decisive Swedish “no” vote to the euro and the undermining of the stability and growth pact, all mean that a new stage in the development of the EU is beginning. Or, rather, these developments represent the culmination of the drift since Maastricht away from a federalist approach to integration. One could almost say that with the important exception of justice and home affairs, the acquis communautaire – the body of EU law that applies to all members – is now more or less closed. The EU 25 – perhaps 28 or 29 in ten years – will no longer integrate as a whole. Instead there will only be à la carte or differential integration, with different groups of states doing things that they want to. Is this true?
Roger Liddle I would like to take issue with that thesis. It is based on a false proposition – beloved by British eurosceptics and given new life by the Swedish referendum – that there will be a “two-tier” Europe, a permanent “out” group of Britain, Denmark, Sweden and some of the new members, and an “in” group dominated by the French and Germans. Why is this wrong? First, there has always been differential integration: both the Schengen passport-free zone and the euro were set up on that basis. Second, as I visit the new member states – which the prime minister is very keen that I do because we see a lot of common interests in views about the EU, national sovereignty and so on – I discover that one thing they are keen on is joining the euro. Third, on defence Britain and the new members would not want to join an inner core that was going to be set up as an alternative to Nato. But I don’t believe that at the end of the day this is what the French and Germans will want; I think that they want something that we probably can join. This is all being negotiated now, but I am confident that we can get something that is not antagonistic to the US but that produces a better balance in the transatlantic relationship and enables Europe to act more effectively in military matters by pooling resources. But this should not be an exclusive grouping; it should be open to everyone who can satisfy certain criteria, like Emu.