April 23, 2003

FTC FILES

European economic giant remains a political pygmy (CATHERINE FIELD, 23.04.2003, NZ Herald)
The best chance of fixing these problems came last year with the launch of a conference to overhaul Europe's institutions in the runup to the "Big Bang", when EU membership expands from 15 to 25 countries in May 2004.

The convention, chaired by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, is due to submit its recommendations by the end of June. Some of its thinking has been ambitiously integrationist. Some delegates have suggested changing the name of the EU to the United States of Europe, appointing a permanent EU president, rather than rotating the presidency every six months, and having an EU foreign minister.

But the outcome of the Iraqi war has clearly tipped in favour of Britain and other "Euro-realists", who want an EU where member states co-operate if they can, but keep significant competencies, such as foreign policy and defence, for themselves. The pragmatists are now in the ascendancy, and are determined to water down the convention's ambitious reforms, or reject them outright if need be.

If so, the Europe of the future will speak with several voices rather than a single voice, and there will be vocal demands for intimate ties with Washington and Nato, opposing the radicals who want to weaken the transatlantic connection and set up the EU as a potential challenger to the US. The pro-US strand will be reinforced next year by the induction of Eastern countries such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Even the economic ties that exist now are unfortunate, but if we've managed to slow or stop further political integration, and thereby saved Britain, this war will have been well worthwhile regardless of what happens to Iraq. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 23, 2003 6:32 PM
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