Monday, June 06, 2005

Choices facing the EU

William Rees Mogg writing in The Times of London has an excellent opinion piece today that puts forward some possible future directions for the European Union.

There are three destinations that Europe can choose. The first is simply a return to the normal sovereignty of the nation states. That is the default setting for Europe, as one can see from the condition of the single currency. If the euro fails, most of the eurozone nations will withdraw; they will return to their original independence and their original currencies, though failure will have damaged those currencies. They will not be back at square one, but at square minus one. In each field of European authority, the most likely trigger for the default mechanism is an overambitious objective, which is either rejected or perceived to be a failure.

The second possible destination is the United States of Europe. This has been the real objective of the European project from the beginning, admitted by some leading figures, concealed by others. Many of the participants have been ambivalent, swinging between the single state and the multiple state solutions.

The problems of the United States of Europe solution include the differences of national cultures and loyalties, and the obstacle of democratic consent. Most supporters of the European project have hoped to lure the people to accept the United States of Europe by gradual stages. This involves methods of deceit: frankness, even on the scale of the constitutional treaty, gets a negative answer.

The third possible destination is a common market. That goes somewhat farther than a pure free trade area, but is confined to the creation of a single, free trade market. It leaves everything else to the democratic choices of the independent European nations. Naturally, a common market creates certain sympathies and loyalties that make co-operation on other international subjects easier. So long as this remains independent co-operation, it can work to everyone’s benefit. The principle is not that of the universal veto, but that of the universal opt-out. If some nations, perhaps France and Germany, want a closer federal system, that is their affair. As well as a universal opt-out, there should be a universal opt-in to measures of integration, subject to democratic consent.

Full text @ Break out from Brussels