Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Future of the European Union and the EU Constitution

One year ago, Nicholas Christian at the Scotsman wrote about the CIA giving a "grim warning on European prospects". Anyone who reads that article today and watches the daily news of economic and demographic calamities or religion-induced crime and riots in the streets of Europe will see that things have deteriorated much worse in Europe in the intervening year than even the CIA had predicted.


David Rennie at The Telegraph in "EU constitution is dead, says Dutch minister" and an EU Observer article by Mark Beunderman titled "The Hague says [the EU] constitution is 'dead'", write that there is no hope that the present European Constitution will be ratified - as required - by all Member States. This reflects the fact that voters in France and the Netherlands, both of whose export-dependent economies profit greatly from EU membership, failed to ratify the European Union Constitution in 2005 and gave the EU a setback from which it may never recover, or from which the EU will recover only if ratifying countries take a very hard line. They are currently trying the path of appeasement, which never works.

Here is what we read about what France and the Netherlands gain from the European Union:

"The Dutch economy, strongly geared to exports, has benefited hugely from EU membership. Dutch agricultural and manufacturing goods now reach their European customers much more easily. Three-quarters of Dutch exports go to other EU member states. The Netherlands is the EU's second biggest agricultural exporter after France."

And yet these countries reject the EU Constitution? If France and the Netherlands were not in the EU, to whom would they sell their agricultural products? Not belonging to the EU would be an economic disaster for both nations.

How bad is the ratification situation really? Let us take a look at the EU's own ratification map showing the current state of ratification:

European Union Ratification Map January 2006

The countries shaded green have already ratified the EU Constitution and already represent a good share of the core of Europe. There is basically only one major problem visible, shown in red on the EU map, and this is France.

Chirac is quoted by the IHT as saying: "Europe is a bit like a car with a broken part". He meant that statement to apply to German-French relations, but it applies equally to French-EU relations. Does the EU need France? a country which may have a Muslim majority in this century if current demographic developments continue? Look at the problems they are bringing to the European Union.


It was not very far back historically - in 1871 - that the German princely states were first united under the Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who was similar to current EU nay-sayers in originally opposing a German unification because he thought it would reduce the power of Prussia. Later, he realized that German unification was essential to oppose other rising powers, a situation which is comparable to the position of the EU in the world today.

Prior to that, in 1849, the weak king Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia, had issued a proclamation that he would not accept the crown from the German National Assembly meeting in Frankfurt, because, as he stated, "the Assembly has not the right, without the consent of the German governments, to bestow the crown which they tendered me, and moreover because they offered the crown upon condition that I would accept a constitution which could not be reconciled with the rights of the German states." [emphasis added]

We now have the same constitutional problem on a larger scale in the EU that Germany had in 1849. Nothing has changed in the provinciality of some of the States (here they are the Member States of the EU) and the reasons given for opposition to unification and to a Constitution.

There is a mistaken idea that the European Union should be made up of all European countries - at all costs. We do not share this view. Obviously, one should try to create a large and cohesive EU, but if some countries prefer the old national model, let them go their way, but do not reward them with the benefits the Union provides, if they oppose that Union. Switzerland, e.g., can afford to be far from the madding crowd. Most of the other countries of Europe, however, can not afford this luxury. If the French want to go their own way, let them.


In a similar vein, there is no longer any reason for major EU institutions to be located in Strasbourg, Luxembourg or Brussels, where French influence in these institutions is far out of proportion to the importance of France to the EU, and many of the tasks conducted by institutions currently in these cities could easily be moved to other equally or even more populous or politically important locations in other countries of the EU Member States.

It might, indeed, be best to adopt the US solution and to create a piece of independent apolitical physical territory somewhere in the geographic middle of Europe to be used for the actual political and institutional center of the Union, a piece of property granted to or purchased by and OWNED by the EU.

Currently, the EU does not own but leases (!) private properties in Brussels, which has led recently to the entire EU translation directorate general being thrown out from their building due to above-market rents demanded by the landlord AXA Belgium, a private bank & insurance company. The EU Commission is not willing to pay these exorbitant rents. This is a hilarity. The EU is being "evicted" from the premises like a common tenant.

Imagine in the United States that President Bush would have to leave the White House or Congress vacate the Capitol Building because some private banking and insurance company owned the property and had decided to "evict" the occupant for not putting up enough cash. This kind of incredible thing is only possible in a European Union which is thought by the EU nay-sayers to have great powers, whereas in fact its powers are few and its position still quite precariously weak, as most sovereign powers are retained by the individual Member States.

We should note in this connection, that the geographic center of the EU is now in Germany at ca. the village of Kleinmaischeid - just NE of Koblenz (Coblenz). That geographic center, previously in Belgium, has moved to Germany due to the Eastern expansion of the EU in 2004 to 25 Member States. Given the fact that the EU leases facilities in Brussels and has no "permanent" standing there in the way that Washington D.C. has in the USA, there is nothing in particular keeping the European Commission in Belgium, and we suggest that the European Commission be moved to a more central European location.

A great place for a new location of the European Commission would be at Fort Ehrenbreitstein (panorama photos here), the largest existing fort in Europe, located on a promontory which overlooks the point at which the Moselle River flows into the River Rhine. This is only about 20 kilometers from the point recently calculated by French geographers to now be the geographic center of Europe. Coincidentally, the nearby archaeological sites of Gönnersdorf and Andernach are among the oldest habitations of humans in Europe (from ca. 13,500 BC).

Fort Ehrenbreitstein (pronounced Aaron-bright-shtein) was destroyed by Napoleon in 1799 when the Rhineland was annexed to France, but was rebuilt in 1816-1826 by the Prussians (the 1911 Encyclopedia wrote: "At the second peace of Paris the French paid 15,000,000 francs to the Prussian government for its restoration").

Fort Ehrenbreitstein overlooking the city of Koblenz is thus a symbol of European unity at a historically embattled border between Germanic and Celtic peoples. Indeed, in our view, the Celtic / Germanic division is still the main problem in the EU. Ehrenbreitstein was first established as a castle for the Romans (castellum apud confluentes "castle of the confluence", a name which befits the EU). After World War I, the fortress Ehrenbreitstein was a headquarters of the Allied occupation forces.

Right across the Rhine River in Koblenz, the statue of William I at the confluence of the Moselle and the Rhine, commemorates the 1871 unification of Germany at a piece of real estate called Deutsches Eck (the German Corner). Again, we have here a figure of unification at this location.


We think that ratification of the EU Constitution should be made a condition of being a Member State of the EU - and for countries seeking EU admission, ratification of the EU Constitution should be made a condition to membership.

There is nothing in the EU Constitution to fear by honest citizens. Quite the contrary, that Constitution grants unprecedented civil rights to the common man of every EU country. Fears of the Constitution are held by those who are ignorant of its provisions, most of which simply centrally codify laws already in force.

Most of the opposition to the EU Constitution comes from those who oppose the European Union, and that is not a question of the EU Constitution, but rather of nay-sayer politics.

A stronger policy regarding the necessity of ratification would form a much stronger alliance among the countries who have ratified the EU Constitution or who wish to ratify it. A strong alliance of fewer, but committed, countries, is to be preferred to a weak and brittle alliance which includes countries whose populations are eurosceptics, countries increasingly populated by peoples of non-European origin who do not share European values.

Many citizens, not understanding what is at stake here for the future of Europe, prefer a "loose" economic union, which they have already enjoyed for years, not realizing that such a loose union can not possibly compete in the future at the global level. Such a loose Union would be steamrolled by America, by Russia, by China, and/or by the Muslims. Indeed, the USA is still "the indispensable player" while Europe is content to take a much lesser role, which can not be a good strategy for the future. Who will protect Europe when America no longer has the will to do so?

Let those countries unify that understand that an economic, political and militarily united European Union is necessary for long-term survival, and those Member States that do not, let them regain their independence and go out into the world alone and learn their lessons the hard way.

Why let the substantial progress in the growth of the EU and its institutions be halted by the laggards? Grow ... or die. This is a rule of the world.


The Twist: Are we serious about Ehrenbreitstein, or about throwing France, the Netherlands and maybe even the UK out of the EU? Maybe and maybe not. But these are issues which should be discussed.

But what were your reactions, dear reader, to these suggestions and to what degree were your reactions colored by the country of your own origin?

Would it not be better to make a neutral, objective assessment of what is good for the European Union? Leave your country out of your analysis and then ask, what would I decide for the EU if my country had nothing to do with the EU. What would be best for them? THAT is the right answer.

That in our view is the real issue and that is the major European problem.

Who in Europe thinks in terms of being "a European Union citizen" in the same way that an American thinks of being "an American citizen"? Except for the people who work for the EU in Brussels, perhaps nobody. Everyone thinks like a Frenchman, a Spaniard, a Belgian (depending on whether you are Flemish or a Walloon), a German, a Latvian, an Italian, a Greek, an Austrian, etc.

Similarly, the main reason that many people in Europe do not want Turkey to join the EU is because they rightly fear that people in Turkey think themselves Turks and Muslims first, and in case of EU membership, as European Union citizens second, which would be an intolerable situation. Not the Sharia, but the EU rule of law would have to be the law in Turkey if they were a member of the EU. How is that possibly to work in the long term?

But of course, small-town provinciality abounds everywhere, not just in Turkey. The vote in France against the EU Constitution did not happen because the voter said "I am a European, NO to this Constitution" but rather the voter stated "I am a Frenchman, NON". That is not a very good foundation for a united Europe, at least, not in France.

In Brussels, the EU in our opinion is being run the same way that Paris runs France, which is fine for France. There is a big central power and the rest of the polity is subservient to Paris. But Europe is NOT like France and can not be run this way. Rather, you have to run Europe the way that the USA is governed.

Of course, the federal government in the USA is strong, much stronger than the EU, but in America you make sure that State's rights are respected and you make sure that the populace KNOWS that their particular US State, or, by analogy, Member State, is not being autocratically governed by people in a distant Washington, D.C., or, comparably, in a distant Brussels (or a not so distant Ehrenbreitstein).

What is good for Europe on the whole is also going to be best in the long term for the individual nations and everyone's children's children. What appears selfishly good for an individual country TODAY may not be good for that country TOMORROW in a rapidly changing and more and more globalized world.

But how does one get this message across to the citizens? See here for some thoughts.

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