European Integration: Hopeful Signs?

The recent signing of a historical military agreement between the United Kingdom and France and in particular the inclusion of  “limited” nuclear pooling clauses, constitutes a major political development, the importance of which may have been largely underestimated. Even if one can attribute the conclusion of the agreement in part to the financial pressures exerted by budgetary deficits, which are themselves aggravated by the crisis, one should avoid any temptation of minimising one’s satisfaction.

These two great nations have demonstrated an unusual capacity to give a new impulse to European integration in the military field which has long remained the neglected “orphan” of Community cooperation. From the inception of the ECSC and Rome Treaties, the Union devoted its priorities to managing economic challenges and secondarily to social ones, to the detriment of defence imperatives that it was only too happy to leave in the hands of the United States. In so doing, it seriously limited its capacity to claim a status as a “political power” within the concert of nations, in such matters as the Iraq war, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the environment and climate change negotiations.

The road is, quite obviously, still a long one, but the fact that the United Kingdom is ready to support this initiative brings hope to those who wish to see the Union deploy, without complex, all the strengths at its disposal.

Thus, with the implicit acceptance of a somewhat reduced power on the world scene, one can perhaps dream that the visceral opposition of U.K. to participating in the Economic and Monetary Union is, maybe, not insurmountable over the medium term. As often witnessed in the past, it is often the party who proved to be historically the strongest opponent of a measure with a high emotional and dogmatic content that has the best chance to make a change in direction acceptable to its sceptic public opinion. The pragmatism with which the British people are – apparently – prepared to accept the significant sacrifices, demanded by the restoration of their public finances, is symptomatic of an uncanny capacity to act with considerable realism when its vital interests are at stake.

For France, this agreement constitutes also a significant upheaval which should, over time, allow questioning the deformed image that the country has contrived of itself. The upcoming French presidencies of the G8 and G20 should allow a constructive approach to such an evolution, that the President described forcefully during his annual speech to French Ambassadors at the Elysée palace.

It foreshadows the possibility of further progress in sensitive matters such as the Security Council reform, where an increased role of the Union would considerably enhance the credibility of the European Diplomatic Service that is being established with such difficulty.

A parallel development would be welcome with regard to the representation of the Euro within the international financial and monetary institutions. The extension of EMU, embedded in the Treaty as well as the entry of the U.K. mentioned here above, would allow more harmonious integration and regulation of European financial markets. Their efficiency would be enhanced and the unavoidable contradictions deriving from a largely national regulatory framework and a pooled monetary sovereignty at EMU level would be overcome with greater ease.

The voice of the Union would be considerably enhanced within the G20 and IMF (as is the case at the WTO where the Union speaks with one voice), as well as in bilateral negotiations with the main actors within the globalised world. This would open significant opportunities in the defence of the vital interests of European citizens in the context of globalisation.

Rather than calling for the creation of a new artificial international “monetary instrument” in the name of “multilateralism” and a badly applied principle of “justice”, the Union should promote the Euro as a credible alternative to the US dollar. Thus, not only the United States, but also any country who wished to have its currency used as an internationally accepted means of payment, would have to be subject to an appropriate discipline with regard to budgetary matters and levels of indebtedness. As a result, the advantages derived from such a privileged status would be conditioned by the respect of obligations, dictated in part by accepted negotiated rules and in part by market pressure.

In conclusion, if the economic and financial crisis creates – by necessity or conviction but preferably by both – an opportunity to impulse an acceleration of European integration, then the unavoidable sacrifices that still lie ahead will appear more acceptable. It behoves the political class to convince all European citizens that it is possible to come out victorious from the crisis put that such an outcome is totally incompatible with an inward outlook or protectionist and nationalistic instincts that pepper the speeches of those who promote egoism, discrimination, injustice and hatred.


11:30 Écrit par Paul N. Goldschmidt 13 Ave. Victoria 1000 Bruxelles | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) |  Facebook |

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