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close this bookThe Courier N 145 - May - June 1994- Dossier : European Union: the Way forward - Country Report: Ethiopia (EC Courier, 1994, 104 p.)
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View the documentEuropean Union: the way forward
View the documentEurope makes its way: from Rome to Maastricht
View the documentEconomic and Monetary Union - Major features of the Maastricht Treaty
View the documentThe European Monetary Institute - The tasks ahead
View the documentThe Courier surveys the scene with the help of Egon Klepsch, President of the European Parliament
View the documentThe challenge for 1996 - A people's Europe
View the documentTowards enlargement of the European Union
View the documentPHARE-TACIS: EU cooperation with its Eastern neighbours
View the documentWhat future for the CFSP?
View the documentThe European Union's development cooperation policy
View the documentThe challenges and ways forward into the 21st century
View the documentThe GATT exception for cultural products and the European creative imagination
View the documentImages of Europe

Europe makes its way: from Rome to Maastricht

1957 to 1992

«I had never thought that there really was a Europe. As far es I was concerned, it was just a geographical expression. We only think of the permanent fixtures in our lives by chance. We only notice them when they change suddenly.'

Paul Valery (Reflections on the World Today)

In the words of Milan Kundera, the Czech writer who has been living in France since 1975, Europe is territory, power and spirit, 'culture promoted to the ranks of a supreme value'.

In the words of Paul Verlaine, Europe has come to 40 years of 'peace without victory' after a thousand years of bloodshed. And it has given proof of the originality of its method of constructing institutional and political life.

From 1000 years of bloodshed to 40 years of peace without victory

First, two remarks. Constructing the identity of Europe is a complex undertaking because uniformity and divergence exist side by side at one and the same time. And how far is it possible to make a deliberate and rapid job of constructing something which should be the result of an historical process?

Europe - some historical references

The Franks, precursors of the Middle Ages in the West, conquered Gaul in about 500 A.D. Charlemagne was crowned Emperor in Rome in 800 A.D. Between 800 and 1050, Europe was consolidated into two major blocs, the New Empire in the West and the Byzantine Empire in the East. National languages began to emerge in the 11 th century and the first universities were founded in Paris and Bologna.

In 1215, Magna Carta became England's charter and the most important forerunner of the parliamentary system in Europe.

In 1453, the Ottoman

Turks took Constantinople and toppled the Byzantine Empire.

From 1500 to 1789, the Renaissance and Humanism triggered a process of secularisation.

In the 19th century, Europe felt the effects of the French Revolution, independent States emerged and the industrial revolution began in England.

From 1900 to 1945, Europe's 19th century system of hegemony collapsed.

There had in fact been no Europe since 843 and the dissolution of the 50-year old Empire of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious.

With the ECSC, Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman went for practical achievements rather than large-scale Utopian projects, proposing the foundations of an economic union and the first lowering of customs barriers.

The Six decided to extend European integration to the whole economy at the Messina Conference in 1955 and the treaties setting up the common market and Euratom were signed in 1957.

In 1972, Community membership went up to nine with the accession of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark.

In 1979, the European Monetary System saw the light of day, the European Currency Unit (ECU) became the unit of account and the European Parliament held its first direct elections by universal suffrage.

In 1981, Greece came into the Community. In 1986, Spain and Portugal joined too, bringing the number of Member States up to 12, and the Single Act came into effect.

In 1988, Jacques Delors said it was time the Twelve thought about moving to European government so the Community could have a fast, efficient decision-making process. In 1990, the idea that European integration was a foregone conclusion began to lose ground, but, on 7 February 1992, the Treaty on European Union was signed in Maestricht nonetheless.

What are the lessons of all this? The construction of Europe has never seemed irreversible and there is still no agreement as to the ultimate goal, somewhere between a nation-State - outmoded because the content of its sovereignty is dwindling - and the empires which have virtually collapsed.

The Community is a legal construction, which means that the process is long and sometimes slow. Over-ambitious advances often lead to deadlock, particularly with European society in the throes of change for so many years.

Europeans - an information society or a time for fresh enthusiasm?

In the Middle Ages, societies emerged from an agrarian revolution, with production linked to the earth and a synthetic but authoritarian view of the world. With the industrial revolution, power came to be tied to the possession of capital, backed up by a dichotomous view of the world in which rationality dominated.

An information society means controlling flows rather than capital and so the burning economic questions are education and training. In a post-national era, however, mass distribution of non Western culture goes hand in hand with a metamorphosis in scientific rationality. Truth has a new status, with an open theory of knowledge which accepts that different cultures can do things in different ways, though without leading to relativism. Are we moving into an era of reawakened enthusiasm?

According to the Commission's Forward Studies Unit, the trends and tendencies in European society are as follows. The under 40s see things more in terms of alliance and coexistence than revolution and opposition. They want more responsibility and independence and they have difficulty identifying with the new operators on the social scene and deciding where they stand vis-is the institutions.

Passing fads seem to be taking the place of commitment. Self-fulfilment comes before duty and obligation. As every kind of service becomes a market commodity, values (including moral values) come to be assessed primarily in terms of money.

Most observers sum up the situation as one of integrated economies, a leveling of standards of living and ways of life and a sharing of common values. But they also see a structural and cyclical crisis, societies destabilised by unemployment, resurgent nationalism and apparently powerless European political leaders.

Jacques Delors' adviser Raymond Rifflet says that the whole of European history from the 18th century onwards is the result of tension between economic logic and political logic.

Politics should keep pace with economic construction

The ambiguity inherent in the fact that economic growth seems to be vital to the process of European integration has of course been a feature of the construction of Europe from the word go.

According to Dominique Walton (La Derni Utopie, Flammarion, Paris, 1993), the creators of Europe made the mistake of believing that a political Europe would emerge from the common market, because the basic difference between economics and politics is that economics is based on categories of interest and politics is based on categories of values.

Jacques Delors (writing in Esprit, Editions du Seuil, Paris, November 1991) said that the original starting point of the construction of Europe was political, from which point of view the Community adventure was a success - although he admitted that, in late 1984, it was political considerations that forced him to adopt a purely economic strategy, which certainly strengthened what was seen to be the technocratic nature of the European integration exercise.

Can the principle of the technical fait accompli go on being imposed on politics?

The originality of the method

In the words of Frans Rachline, the economist, the originality of the political entity taking shape before our eyes has to do with its method. Instead of conquest, mergers and enforced allegiances, we have recognition, dialogue, a sharing of ideas, intertwining and a gradual mixing.

Jacques Delors (Le Nouveau concert Europ, Odile Jacob, Paris, 1992) described the Community's method as a gradual forging of links of positive interdependence between our countries, which therefore does not rule out differences and disputes. But what is so valuable is that, in the final analysis, the will to find positive compromises is there.

In his memoirs, Edgard Pisani, another great figure in the process of European integration in his own country and in the Community, said that the point of constant multilateral negotiation was as much to achieve a consensus as to get a particular point of view across. There was more to it than pulling off coups and gaining immediate victories and the important thing was building together with a constant eye to balance. Lastly, he said that compromises were always possible when interests were at stake, but it was often difficult to see how to reconcile opposing visions of the world.

This is particularly important because, notwithstanding a widespread but superficial view of things, breakdowns of understanding in Europe have as much to do with cultural differences as with a determination to defend short-term interests.

Unending mental bric-rac

The British economist John Maynard Keynes was sure that the power of vested interests was 'greatly exaggerated' in comparison with the gradual spreading of ideas.

A lot has been said about Europe's identity, its special peculiarities and its cultural differences.

Edgar Morin (Penser l'Europe, Gallimard, Paris, 1981 ) was the first to state an essential truth, namely that it is difficult to perceive Europe from Europe. This may explain why, although constant calls are being made on Europe from the outside, we Europeans ourselves often waver between complacency and masochism.

Morin says that, traditionally, Europe is a product of Judeo-Christianity, an heir of Greek thought and a producer of modern science and reasoning. More originally and relevantly, he points out that, although the universal is a powerful part of all thinking, no school of thought has ever made it the driving force of its particular culture.

Writers have been so against the idea of there being anything specifically European that it would be tempting - before actually checking - to agree with the poet Renhar that our heritage was not bequeathed to us.

For example, Alain Touraine, the French sociologist, goes against the well known thesis of Max Weber in claiming that the success of countries such as the Netherlands, Britain and the United States, as compared to the Catholic countries, had far more to do with the opening of political systems and elimination of absolute monarchy than with the Protestant ethic - although this, again, may be the sign of the inevitable North-South divide.

Europeans from North and South

The Commission's Forward Studies Unit has an historical, psycho-sociological and socio-religious analysis to put forward here.

Historically speaking, the North South divide reflects the distinction between the Catholic and the reformed churches and, most important, the boundaries of the Roman Empire. Victor Scardigli (Europeans du Nord, Europs du Sud, Futuribles, Paris, March 1992 - p. 3540) suggests that the Reformation occurred in provinces where Roman influence was weak or transitory and that, as a reaction against the centralising effect of a religion which enforced a foreign language (Latin) and an aristocratic culture with pretensions to be universal, it established itself by turning to the ordinary people and using the vernacular, at least in the early days. But the North-South divide cannot be reduced to a difference of religion without knowing whether the religions shaped the culture or vice versa.

The industrial revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries brought in a new dimension, between the industrial Europe of the city-states (Venice, Antwerp, Genoa and Amsterdam) where attitudes have evolved towards individualism and materialism, and a poor, rural periphery where outlook has changed little. The distinction has been disappearing gradually since 1980.

The psycho-sociological approach confirms that, typically, Latin cultures go for centralisation and vertical forms of organisation and Anglo-Saxons and especially Scandinavians for horizontal organisation and decentralisation. The Germanic peoples, somewhere in-between, place greater emphasis on legal systems and official regulations, while the Anglo Saxons are happy with implicit rules, such as those governing the world market. Many never-ending Community discuses signs have more to do with this than with the defence of short-term national interests.

The religious divide is apparent in various areas. In social policy, for example, contractual negotiations between employers and employees satisfy the Protestants, but the absence of legal constraints bothers the Catholics.

The Catholics, who are used to formal legal frameworks, are disappointed that there is no European constitution, but Anglo-Saxon flexibility prevails nonetheless.

Freedom and autonomy of the market look to the Catholics like over permissiveness with no social corrective. But Protestants fear Roman-type centralisation, as well as the abstractness of the concepts left by Europe's founding fathers and the levelling down to the standards of the 'backward countries in the South.'

But the fact that the fears on one side can be seen as matching those on the other may well be a sign that the business of building Europe is being carried out in a properly balanced way.

All these different approaches are probably the reason why each country reacted in its own particular way to the Treaty on European Union, whose underlying logic is basically the internal market and economic and later political integration.

Table 1: The institution of the Union - responsibility shared

European Union - how and what?

In 1988, it was decided that the internal frontiers would start coming down in 1993 as part of the move towards the internal market, with recommendations for tighter integration in economic and monetary policy to go with it.

Suppressing frontiers also means devising a common policy for the Community's external borders, covering such things as immigration, the right of asylum, policies on visas, the police, justice, consumer protection and so on. This, and a central bank and a single currency, by the turn of the century, are all part of the internal market - as, of course, is the principle of subsidiarily, whereby the Community only takes up matters which cannot be handled at a lower (national or local) level.

The idea is that this economic integration should lead to political integration. Some people believe in it, but others only bring it into the limelight so they can counter it better - which is nothing new in the history of European integration!

Clearly, the events in Eastern Europe make a political Union essential. We need a common foreign policy and, ultimately, we need a common defence system, a breakthough for a Europe with a Treaty which is only a political and institutional framework.

Table 2: Who's ready for Maastrcht?

So the rationale of the market, the institutional balance of subsidiarily and the political need for Europe to exist as such clashed and/or joined forces in Maastricht.

The European Union came into being on 1 November 1994, and stands on three pillars (this is based on the complete and very clear lay-out of the special issue of 7 Jours, Europe, the weekly bulletin of the European Commission's representative office in France, (March 1994):

- the traditional powers of the European Community, Economic and Monetary Union, the Social Protocol (signed by 11 of the Member States);

- foreign policy and common security; - internal affairs and justice.

More power goes to two of the institutions - the Council (the summit of the 12 Heads of State and Government and the President of the Commission) and the European Parliament.

The main changes cater for the need for greater democratisation and the principle of subsidiarily.

Unfortunately, this makes for complex procedures, which have had to change in areas where the Community has new/greater powers and where new legal procedures allow for co-decision by the European Parliament. Economic and Monetary Union has its own procedures too, while common security and foreign policy, and internal and legal affairs, are handled in a more intergovernmental way. Last but not least, the European Union has new rights to the citizens of all the Member States and new social policy ambitions to the citizens of 11 of them.

The logic of the market

The Treaty of Maastricht provides for the three-stage creation of Economic and Monetary Union. On the economic side, typically, policies are to be tightly coordinated and, on the monetary side, there is to be a single curreny, a Central European Bank and a single monetary and exchange-rate policy.

The completion of the first phase of EMU, comprising total liberalisation of capital movements and completion of the single market with a view to leveling the Member States' performances, was set for the end of 1993.

Phase two - a drive for greater convergence of economic and monetary policies, the creation of a European Monetary Institute (EMI) to boost cooperation between national central banks and the coordination of monetary policies - should have started on 1 January 1994.

Phase three, due to start on 1 January 1997 or 1999, should bring:

- a single currency, the ECU, managed by the European Central Bank; the only one authorised to issue banknotes in the Member States;

- coordination of economic policies;

- a single monetary policy, formulated and run by the Central European Bank, which is to replace the European Monetary Institute;

- an external ECU exchange policy, run by the Council of the European Union.

The European System of Central Banks, whose primary purpose is to ensure price stability, comprises the European Central Bank and the national central banks.

When it comes to internal and legal affairs, the abolition of checks at the internal frontiers between the Member States, as laid down by the Single European Act and confirmed by the Treaty of Maastricht, means that controls on the Union's external borders must be tightened and cooperation between the Member States' police forces stepped up to guarantee the safety of the European people, the right of refuge and the defence of human rights.

One thing which this new area of internal and legal affairs, with its own special procedure, enables the Twelve to develop is a policy of asylum and, of course, there are to be other policies too, as follows:

- regulation of and checks on the right to cross the Member States' external borders;
- an immigration policy covering nationals of third countries;
- a campaign against drug addiction and international fraud;
- legal cooperation on civil and criminal matters;
- customs cooperation;
- police cooperation to prevent and combat terrorism, drug trafficking and other serious forms of international crime (with the creation of a European police office, EUROPOL).

Institutional balance

The Treaty on European Union sets out to make the institutions more democratic, gives the Community new and stronger powers and broadens the rights of the citizen.

- Enhanced institutional democratisation

The European Parliament has new powers which entitle it to co-decide on European legislation with the Council of Ministers in some cases. It can also give its opinion on the appointment of members of the European Commission by the Member States' Governments.

The co-decision procedure with the Council applies in various areas - freedom of movement for workers, the internal market, research, the environment, consumption, trans-European networks, education, public health and culture.

Similarly, with the extensions of the assent procedure, Parliament now has more power to approve or reject the Council's decisions. Its role as a representative of the people has also been enhanced, in particular via the appointment of an Ombudsman or mediator for the citizens of the Union.

The work of the Commission - which is already politically accountable, since it is appointed by 12 democratically invested Heads of State and Government - is monitored by the European Parliament, which can remove it with a motion of censure. Its democratic investiture will now be a twofold process, once through the Member States' Governments and once through the European Parliament, which is elected by direct universal suffrage. The Treaty provides that the 12 Governments will, first, announce their candidate for President of the Commission jointly and after consulting the European Parliament, and, second, in consultation with that person, their candidates for the Commission. The names are then submitted, en bloc, to the European Parliament and, if Parliament votes them through, these people are then appointed to the Commission by the Member States' Governments.

A new Committee of the Regions, comprising representatives of local and regional authorities in the Member States, has been set up and the Commission and the Council have to consult it on anything related to the policies on economic and social cohesion, trans-European networks, public health, education and culture. It can issue opinions on all other policies on its own initiative.

Greater involvement by the national parliaments is also planned. In particular, the Member States now have to put the Commission's proposals to their respective parliaments for information or discussion.

Lastly, the Treaty includes the principle of subsidiarily, whereby things should only be undertaken in common if they can be handled more efficiently this way and nothing is settled at Community level which can be decided or run more efficiently at national or regional level. It also makes clear that decisions have to be taken as close to the people as possible.

- New/stronger powers for the Community

The Community has new powers in matters of culture, industry, trans-European energy, transport and telecommunications networks, the development of the European dimension of education through encouragement for student teacher mobility, consumer protection, public health, development cooperation (see box) and the visa policy.

Its powers in the matter of, for example, economic and social cohesion, have been enhanced, with the idea of ironing out the differences in levels of development in the various regions and making up the delay in the most underprivileged regions, rural areas included. The same goes for research and the development of technology, the environment, social policy and vocational training.

- More rights for the citizen

The people will be more involved in the life of the Community, both because the European Parliament and the local authorities (via the Committee of the Regions) are now to do more and because they have new rights - the right to vote and stand for election (in local government and European polls) in other Member States, the right of petition, the right of appeal to a mediator and diplomatic and consular protection from other Member States.

Lastly, citizenship of the Union has been instituted, for the Maastricht Treaty states that anyone with the nationality of a Member State is a citizen of the Union. There is of course no question of doing away with the different nationalities here, for, as the Treaty makes clear, the Union has to respect the national identity of the Member States. What it amounts to is that Europeans are citizens of Europe as well as being citizens of their own countries.

Political necessity - common foreign and security policy

The common foreign and security policy (CFSP) is a more ambitious extension of the European cooperation policy which took shape informally, at intergovernmental level, in 1970 and was enshrined in the Single Act.

Table 3

It forms a single institutional framework for the Union's external relations and comprises the European Council, Parliament, the Council and the Commission.

The Treaty also provides, ultimately, for a defence policy, possibly leading to joint defence when the time is right. Decisions will still have to be unanimous, however, and the Western European Union will devise and implement both decisions and action.


At the top of the agenda come reconciling an enhanced Community process, management of what has already been achieved and implementation of the new provisions with the enlargement of the Community. But how far do we go? Some say that there is a risk of the Community turning into a free trade area. Without going that far, it is certainly clear that enlargement means overhauling the Community insitutions. The loannina compromise (see box) on voting rules in the future Europe of the Sixteen is one illustration of this.

Europe should also be giving thought to its own security and helping keep peace in the world, near and far.

Lastly, what socio-economic model does Europe need in a phase of internationalisation of activity and inadequate regulation worldwide?

There will be no Europessimism if we remember that 'United we stand, divided we fall.' And let us not forget what Marshall Lyautey said when his gardener told him that cedars of Lebanon took a hundred years to grow. 'Then go and plant it this afternoon!' D.D.