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Fading vision of ever closer federal future


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Fading vision of ever closer federal future

June 18, 2005

By Anthony Browne, Europe Correspondent

The Times


IT WAS a struggle between Britain and France that determined the future of Europe for generations to come.

The Battle of Waterloo, fought 190 years ago today in the countryside outside Brussels, finally put paid to Napoleon’s dreams of uniting Europe in France’s image. In this week’s battle the only casualties might have been political reputations, but the consequences might prove no less significant. When Jacques Chirac, the French President, gave in to British demands to put the European constitution in the deep freeze, it marked the first time that the EU had agreed to backtrack on its 50-year quest for ever closer union.

The EU superstate died today, on the very same day as the 190th anniversary of another glorious victory: the Battle of Waterloo.

It is the first time that the founding principle of the EU was not just challenged, but defeated. It was the high-water mark of European integration.

In every previous summit, leaders had either agreed to push onwards towards the Franco-German dream of a federal Europe, or simply not agreed at all. At this summit, EU leaders shelved Europe’s first constitution, and both the British and French prime ministers called for a debate on the future of Europe.

That was the only thing they agreed on. Jean-Claude Juncker, the current EU President, and Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, insisted that the constitution was put on ice only while they considered other ways of putting Europe back on its postwar course. But most analysts see it as an historic turning point for a Union that has been growing steadily wider as more countries joined it and deeper as it gained more powers.

In half a century, it has evolved from the European Coal and Steel Community and Common Market to a “social Europe” and “political Europe”. It has been transformed from a body with limited control over two industries to a continent-wide Union with all the trappings of a state. It now has partial jurisdiction over the lives of one twelfth of humanity. It has a parliament, a president, a currency, a supreme court, a flag, an anthem, and supremacy over national laws.

But the “European project” was built higher and higher on shallower and shallower public support. As its initial success in ending the prospect of further wars in Europe faded into history, it aroused rising resentment as it controlled ever more aspects of the lives of people whose first loyalties remained to their nation states.

The juggernaut previously bulldozed its way through public reservations. But it has now finally crashed to a halt after the French and the Dutch electorates shouted “enough”.

The old ideology, propelled by France’s fear of Germany and Germany’s fear of itself, has been overwhelmingly successful at curing the continent’s ills. But it has failed to create the responsive, accountable, flexible governance needed for the modern globalised world.

This week’s summit was the moment when Europe’s leaders finally accepted that a new world needs new ideas.

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Well, yay to that!

(sorry if that isn't as in depth political analysis as you might like, but i think it's quite enough to say bye-bye European superstate!)

(I'm not being xenopohobic, racist , jingoistic or whatever here, I'm just saying that I'm not a fan of vast bureauracies, i think we should all take pride in our individuality rather than being lumped together in one great homogenous standard euro-state.)

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