Break to Avoid a Breakup

The Franco-German axis is proving a nightmare for European unity. Within a single month, Gerhard Schroeder's Germany and Jacques Chirac's France first destroyed the EU's Stability Pact and endangered European monetary union by demanding--and receiving--special status for French and German fiscal deficits. Now the axis has crushed hopes of passing a new European constitution in Brussels by demanding the so-called "double majority" rule, which would seriously weaken medium-size and smaller countries' voting power by comparison to what was agreed three years ago in Nice.

European integration can't afford further defeats. Trust has been decimated. Anger overflows. Small and medium-sized EU countries feel tricked. Will these countries continue to sacrifice for the common European good when, time after time, the big countries tell them to go to the back of the bus and be grateful for the ride? It's time for a pause in European integration efforts if only to avoid a complete, irreparable rupture of relations between nations that are supposed to be uniting.

The Germans, in particular, need a time out to reflect upon the wisdom of their recent bullyboy tactics. Gerhard Schroeder is providing disastrous leadership for Germany. The country's "new nationalism" will end in tears for both Germany and Europe. Have today's Germans really forgotten that Europeanism is not the best alternative for Germany--it is the only alternative?

Yet, after last week's Brussels summit ended in failure, the Germans and their French allies are talking up a "two-speed" Europe, with the so-called "pioneer group" of Germany, France, Italy, and the Benelux countries--Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg--going faster and pursuing deeper integration projects than the others.