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Europe’s Next Steps

Terrorism in London and the French and Dutch rejections of the European Union’s Constitutional Treaty have brought Euro-pessimism back into fashion. The failure of the June EU summit and the bitter clashes between Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac have even inspired some to proclaim the beginning of the end for Europe.

They are wrong. Europe is neither dead nor dying. But recent events do spell the end of one version of European integration – the vision of an “ever closer union” producing a federal country that would become a new superpower.

That vision, however, was not in the cards even before the recent setbacks. Once the original six core countries began to expand to include northern, southern, and, most recently, eastern European countries, the old federal vision was doomed. The constitution was designed to make a Europe of 25 members more efficient, not produce a strong federal state.

Chirac’s rhetoric often includes references to a “multi-polar world” in which the United States is no longer the only superpower. A recent Pew poll found that many Europeans have lost their attraction to the US and would like Europe to play a larger role in world politics. But even if America has lost some of its attractive “soft power,” Europe’s post-industrial publics are not willing to pay the price – a doubling or tripling of defense spending as a share of GDP – to invest in the military power that would be required to balance its hard power.