– Something shattered in Europe on Friday night.
Voor de liefhebbers hierbij een blik uit Amerika op de EU.
(Bij uitzondering niet vertaald! Tijd!)
The leaders of the 25 European Union nations went home after a failed two-day summit meeting in anger and in shame, as domestic politics and national interests defeated lofty notions of sacrifice and solidarity for the benefit of all.
The battle over money and the shelving of the bloc’s historic constitution, after the crushing no votes in France and the Netherlands, stripped away all pretense of an organization with a common vision and reflected the fears of many leaders in the face of rising popular opposition to the project called Europe.
Their attacks on one another after they failed to agree on a future budget – for 2007 through 2013 – seemed destructive and unnecessary, and it is not at all clear that they will be able to repair their relationships. Even if they do, the damage to the organization is done.
Most embarrassing for the European Union was a last-minute attempt by its 10 newest members to salvage the budget agreement late on Friday night. They offered to give up some of their own aid from the union so that the older and richer members could keep theirs.
For the new members, that offer was an opportunity to prove their worth. Criticizing the “egoism” of countries driven by national interests, Prime Minister Marek Belka of Poland said, “Nobody will be able to say that for Poland, the European Union is just a pile of money.”
But for the older members, it was a humiliation. “When I heard one after the other, all the new member states – each poorer than the other – say that in the interest of an agreement they would be ready to renounce part of the money they are due, I was ashamed,” Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister and the departing European Union president, told journalists after talks collapsed.
Even as a number of leaders stated that the European Union was in one of the worst crises of more than half a century of European integration, none of them predicted its end. Certainly, it will have to continue to negotiate over money, and it can survive without a constitution using existing treaties.
The process of European integration has faced crises in the past. In 1954, for example, the French National Assembly rejected an initiative to create a European defense community to forge closer military ties among the bloc’s six founding members. In 1965, de Gaulle refused to allow France to take its seat in the bloc’s governing body to protest a switch in voting procedures.
In 1992, Danish voters rejected a treaty creating the current European Union with a single European currency. In 1996, Britain announced that it would block European Union decision making after the bloc imposed a ban on British beef because of an outbreak of mad cow disease. The current crisis comes as the European Union has begun to play a much more important role in the world, most visibly in negotiations over one of the most serious global security issues: Iran’s nuclear program.
President Bush will welcome Mr. Juncker, José Manuel Barroso, the head of the bloc’s administrative arm, and Javier Solana, its foreign policy chief, to the White House on Monday, and he will underscore the need for a strong Europe.
Many other signs suggest that the Bush administration has sought to work more closely with the European Union. It has begun to work with France, Germany and Britain on the European Union-sponsored talks on Iran. The United States and the European Union also are jointly planning projects for Iraq’s reconstruction.
Whether the crisis will affect the bloc’s foreign policy in the long run remains unclear.
But the failure of the summit meeting laid bare the deep divide with the European Union between grand but competing visions of Europe.
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain leads the camp that wants a Europe with fewer trade and employment barriers and a more free-market orientation to better compete against rising giants like India and China. Yet he rejected all criticism of Britain for vetoing the final agreement on the budget, which would have required Britain to reduce the annual rebate, now $6 billion a year, that it gets back from its contribution to the European Union budget.
By contrast, Mr. Chirac and some of his allies are skeptical of what they call the “Anglo-Saxon model” and protective of the continental “social model” that offers citizens a protective economic security shield. He refused to compromise Friday night on Mr. Blair’s demand that France reduce the $13 billion in farm subsidies it receives every year from the European Union.
Meanwhile, Mr. Blair, who assumes the six-month rotating European Union presidency next month, says he will use the current crisis to push for what he contends are needed reforms.
“I’m not prepared to have someone tell me there is only one view of what Europe is and that’s the view expressed by certain people at certain points in time,” he told reporters on Friday, clearly alluding to Mr. Chirac. “Europe isn’t owned by any of them; Europe is owned by all of us.”
But the feelings against Britain among some other members are so raw that even Mr. Juncker, who is passionate about collegiality, said that he would “not be listening” when Mr. Blair outlines his priorities to the European Parliament next week. He said he would hand over the presidency “without comment and without advice, because clearly my advice is not appreciated.”
Lost in the turmoil over the budget debacle on Friday night was a joint communiqué issued by the leaders that their constitution could one day be carried out. It did not explain how, given the French and Dutch rejections and the requirement that all 25 countries ratify it. Before the referendums in both countries, there was widespread speculation that there could be a “Plan B,” either to revise the current text or salvage the parts that are not objectionable to voters.
In announcing that the constitution would be put on hold so that it could be better understood, Mr. Juncker insisted that there would be no “Plan B.” Instead, he told reporters on Thursday night, “there is a Plan D – for dialogue and debate.”