It's hard to keep doing something when you continually have to deny you're doing it. For years, Britain's ruling Labour Party under Prime Minister Tony Blair has been refuting accusations that the emerging European Union would require Britons to cede large chunks of national sovereignty - including control over their currency and economy - to the socialist bureaucrats in Brussels.
But after the elections last month, when Mr. Blair's Labour Party was retained in office, it became blatantly obvious that the future EU will involve the loss of much sovereignty for member nations and the accompanying transfer of power to the politicians and bureaucrats in socialist Brussels. Mr. Blair had hoped to avoid the federalization issue during the elections, but was upcut by French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who went public with his vision of a federalized Europe just a week before the British went to the polls.
The Nice Referendum
Last winter, EU members met in Nice to discuss how best to divide responsibilities between the federal and nation-state levels of government. While no agreement was forthcoming at this meeting, representatives voted to finalize the framework by the end of 2004. The two sides in this debate are: those who favor so-called "intergovernmentalism" or nation-state supremacy; and the federalists, who want Europe to operate as a super nation with a parliament, courts, taxation system, professional bureaucrats and, possibly, a president.1 In essence the Europeans are facing the same task the framers of the U.S. Constitution did when they decided "to form a more perfect union": how much power will be given to member states and how much will reside in the federal government?
So far, German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder has proposed a new plan for radical changes in the European Union, which include formation of a European supergovernment. His proposal calls for the non-elected, bureaucratic European Commission in Brussels to form a new government, possessing wide-ranging powers. Schrder suggested that the European Parliament would consist of two houses, with the existing legislature becoming the lower house and the council of ministers, an already-existing forum for national governments, being the upper house. The reorganized European Parliament would gain supervision of the European budget, including massive agricultural spending. Schrder also envisions a president, who would be chosen by one or both of the chambers of Parliament.
Rejecting Schrder's blueprint, Lionel Jospin's vision of a unified Europe calls for a federation of nation-states, falling short of establishing a strong federal government. Jospin's proposal did call for sweeping socialistic reforms, including the harmonization of common law and criminal law, and the establishment of an EU police force.
In addition, Jospin complained that the low rate of taxation in the "Anglo-Saxon" countries was unfair and needed to be "harmonized." This is "socialist-speak" for the fact that the continent's tax rates are soaring and its economy is moribund while lower tax rates, especially in Ireland, are embarrassing the other EU countries. Ireland's booming economy is the result of slashing its taxes. Jospin also believes it will be necessary to establish a collective budget, which translates to the creation of a central EU treasury.2
European Commission President Romano Prodi also produced a plan for Europe's future, largely geared toward increasing the non-elected Commission's powers. Prodi proposed a direct EU-wide tax and that the economic government be delegated to the Commission, along with the European Central Bank. His main concern is that with the expansion of the EU beyond the current 15 member states, the current process of decision making - which requires unanimous consent of all members - would become virtually unworkable in the future.3
The European Army
Further complicating matters is a proposed European Rapid Reaction Force (RRF), slated to go into operation in 2003. The Maastricht Treaty requires development of a common foreign and security policy. The Amsterdam Treaty (1999) created an embryonic EU foreign and defense ministry under the direction of the high representative for foreign and security policy. The gentleman currently responsible for this position is Javier Solana, former Secretary General for NATO. The intent behind the RRF is to pool defense budgets and resources so that the force can respond to regional missions, such as Bosnia, on short notice without duplicating efforts.
There is still debate among EU members as to whether or not the RRF will become a European army. British Tory (conservative) leader William Hague said, "If it looks like an elephant and sounds like an elephant, it is an elephant. And this sounds and looks like a European army however much [the government] tries to deny it."4
NATO allies, like the United States and Turkey, have questioned whether or not the RRF will cause the NATO alliance to become obsolete. German and British governments have maintained that U.S. presence in Europe is a stabilizing factor, while the French leadership has painted the U.S. as an adversary. According to an article in the International Herald Tribune , "Of all the constants of Jospin's vision of the European identity of the future, the strongest appeared to be his conviction that Europe must define itself in opposition to America."5 If these trends continue, the European Union will evolve into a "United States of Europe" and become a rival superpower in its own right.
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