The Decline and Fall of Political Europe

PARIS – A series of decisions taken over the last few years in Europe have alarmed me. The first imposed the rule of unanimity within the European Union for any decision regarding foreign policy or the use of armed force for other than humanitarian purposes. Because everyone must agree, nothing is agreed. As a result, Europe cannot develop a common foreign policy.

The second alarming decision limited the Union’s budget to a mere 1% of EU GDP, thus preventing any new common policy initiative for much of the past decade. The third decision concerns the British vetoes of the candidacies of Jean Luc Dehaene and Jean Claude Juncker for President of the European Commission. When this last British “no” came down, I sadly declared the death of the political Europe, a charge that brought me harsh criticism, even from friends.

These decisions have become more alarming over time as the need for “more Europe” has become progressively more obvious. Only a united and strong Europe can tackle the global fight against climate change, encourage the adoption of new financial rules in order to avoid the excesses that led to the crisis of 2008-2009, and handle a rising China that will soon account for 20% of world trade.

The great banking, financial, and economic crises, which every country in the world still confronts, has made things worse. Ireland, by far the biggest beneficiary of EU membership has demonstrated a powerful anti-European reflex, despite being hit early and hard by the crisis.