In the weeks since France and the Netherlands rejected the European Union’s proposed Constitutional Treaty, the EU’s leaders have been busy pointing fingers at each other or blaming French and Dutch citizens for misunderstanding the question they were asked. But no pan-European statesman has emerged, and no major European institution has even had the courage to provide its own analysis of the current situation, much less propose a strategic scenario for the future.
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 European model – an “alter-Europeanism.”
The issue, therefore, is not what Tony Blair, in his inaugural speech to the European Parliament, called a crisis of leadership. No statesman has emerged because the crisis runs deeper.
The two world wars and the Cold War shaped European integration as a project of peace, a defense of the West’s fundamental values, and common economic prosperity. This phase culminated with the collapse of communism in 1989, but 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.