Europe’s Next Move

Ever since France and the Netherlands rejected the European Union’s proposed Constitutional Treaty, EU leaders have been busy pointing fingers at each other, or blaming French and Dutch citizens for misunderstanding the question they had been asked. But no amount of finger pointing can obscure the fact that, 50 years after the European Community’s creation, Europe badly needs a new political framework, if not a new project, to shore up its unity.

To be sure, French and Dutch citizens did not respond to the question that they were supposed to answer. Their vote was a protest against globalization, a rejection of the contemporary world, with its distant and incomprehensible governing mechanisms. Like the anti-globalization movement, the new anti-Europeanism can be regarded as a demand for a “different world” – in this case, an “alter-Europeanism.”

The two world wars and the Cold War shaped European integration as a project of peace, defense of the West’s fundamental values, and common economic prosperity. But the collapse of communism in 1989, and the chance to overcome the Continent’s historical divisions, now required a redefinition of the European project. The Treaties of Maastricht (1992) and Amsterdam (1997) created a new organizational structure for the EU and laid the foundations for political institutions equal to Europe’s economic power. The Treaty of Nice (2000) was result of a rather poor compromise.

Declarations by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country assumed the European Union’s rotating six-month presidency at the beginning of the year 2007, are unambiguous: the period of reflection, approved by the European Commission in 2005, has ended. The German presidency will seek to implement the Constitutional Treaty resolutions, and the Berlin Declaration of March 25, 2007 – timed to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome – will offer a vision of the EU’s future. The aim is to leave to Germany’s successors in the EU presidency – Slovenia, Portugal, and France – a roadmap for future reform.