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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Who has the best blueprint for Europe?
What is the European Union for and how should it be organised? The French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, has reopened that debate.
He has rejected German plans, recently put forward by chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, which see Europe's future as a federation of states, much like today's Germany or the USA.
Mr Jospin has ideas of his own: His vision is of strong nation states participating in a much more integrated Europe, with its own border police, judicial system and a common foreign and defence policy.
In Britain, meanwhile, Europe remains high on the electoral agenda. Tony Blair's vision, outlined last year in a speech in Poland, stresses the need to make Europe's democratic institutions more accountable to the people.
Who do you think has the best blueprint for Europe? What do you think Europe will look like in a decade? What should it look like?
This talking point has now closed. Read your comments below.
What we want is a commonwealth, not a super state. Every nation should retain its laws and autonomy.
You are about to make decisions that will willy-nilly affect the future generations. I cannot see a German or a Frenchman or an Englishman will ever give up his identity. Keep the Federation loose but retain people's option free.
Now the US is getting worried about a power to rival itself. They'd hate to see their favourite airstrip (formerly know as Britain) become a true part of something
I am English, just like a Scot would be Scottish and a Welsh man Welsh. I respect different cultures and enjoy their diversity. The same applies to mainland Europe. The last thing I want is to be homogenised into a social and financial blob that dictates what can and cannot be considered acceptable. Why should cultural diversity prevent fraternity as a previous writer said. Were the nations of Europe not united against a great evil in the last war? Were they not fighting for their individuality? Can we not rejoice in our differences and feel fraternity even towards our former foes? Perhaps we should learn from our past and not consign it to the tip.
To all the Europeans writing to this site let me tell you that there is nothing Europe can tell the UK about free trade. Indeed the pathological aversion to free trade was highlighted when certain French europhiles indicated that if Britain did not join the euro, its trading with the euro area would suffer. Britain really needs to examine what it will get from Europe other than a sore head.
The corridors of power within the EU are filled with retired (or failed) politicians. As long as the administration of the EU remains a very well paid sinecure, used for rewarding the party faithful of the countries of Europe, then it will remain a "popular" concept. One wonders how popular a united Europe would become if a law was passed preventing any professional politician from ever being employed by the EU?
Edward Christie, Austria (UK citizen)
Europe should be a commonwealth not a superstate. Brussels should have no power over any nation. Nations should be able to join other free trade areas too. Most of the people in Europe want co-operation not assimilation.
I look forward to the day we have a United States of Europe. The argument about a "super-state" doesn't make sense. The United States is never described as a "super-state", a super power maybe, but never a super state. Fraser, from Essex, argues that it will all end in tears because it will be too cumbersome or unworkable. A federal United States, federal Australia, federal Germany, federal Belgium have all worked well and will continue to work well, as will the European Union and a United States of Europe. The sooner it comes about, the better.
What is wrong with promoting these values? And don't you agree that the EU will be much more effective at selling these ideas in the world? We need more Europe, though we have to make it more democratic than it is right now. It is a process that can't be finished just yet.
As for the Americans, I would hope that they aren't afraid of a new global player, and can actually accept a second moral voice next to its own. We will always be partners, but our priorities will differ.
Since the US is the model we're supposedly emulating, perhaps we should pay more attention to it. It is a nation with a common heritage and background, whose system STILL broke down and went to war with itself over a power struggle. If Europe federalises, eventually tensions will arise and disagreements will be reached, and then parties will fall back on old, supposedly "destroyed' notions of nationalism, and Europe will be in strife again. And isn't that what the EU is supposed to prevent?
The current Government claims to be making a good job of running the economy. Certainly, Britain seems to be in better shape than much of Europe. So if they're doing such a good job, why are they so enthused by the idea of handing over control to another country (or countries) with no particular interest in Britain? I'm confused.
We are all familiar with the old joke: in heaven the police would be British, the cars would be German, the lovers would be Italian and the chefs would be French.
Well I'm afraid it isn't a joke: The money will be Italian, the police probably German, the foreign policy French and
the corruption Zimbabwean!
Europe has no future, nor does it deserve one. Hopefully its constituent nations will see this before it's too late.
Have politicians not learned from the mistakes of the past. They only have to look at the USSR or Yugoslavia to see that enforced unification will break down and re-kindle nationalist feelings leading to serious conflict.
I am proud to be an English person and consider myself British, not European.
I thought the Common Market was designed to be a group of trading nations rather than a unified political superstate which will have to be ruled by a dictatorship to survive.
The Eurosceptic case would be much stronger
if our unemployment rate was as low as in
the Netherlands, our healthcare system
as good as Sweden's, our pensions as high as
Denmark's and our education system as good as
any other EU country's. Ireland, which 10 years ago was
one of the poorest countries in the EU, now has a per capita
GDP the same as the U.K.
Philip Rankin, France
I am proud of being English. Yes, English. We need more debate before we go in deeper but let the people decide. This is our country, our heritage, our language. We should be allowed to decide for ourselves what's best for us.
Europe will join together in whatever way it can, people will then learn the folly of being part of such a large organisation and then break up again (like the USSR). People ultimately want independence to live their own lives. Europe cannot provide this, thus in 100 years or so it will fail. Let us see what happens next, if they can sort out the (European) NHS and make us live a little longer.
Geoffrey Sturdy, UK,
tells us to look at
Airbus and Ariane.
Well, exactly, because
neither one of them
was an EU initiative.
Both Airbus and Ariane
are private deals
In fact Airbus and
Ariane are prime
examples of why we
don't need an expensive
and corrupt bureaucracy
to duplicate work
that private companies
can perfectly well
do among themselves.
Pierre Alexandre, France
Where is the debate on the EU taking place? Nobody seems to be reporting and commenting on what is happening, day to day, in the EU institutions. In the UK we have a history of political debate and many people know what is happening in Parliament and in the regions. As far as I can see we have a sparse understanding of what is actually happening in the EU. How can we comment effectively with such little information?
Germany offers the best blueprint of future Europe. Federal Europe with federalism aimed at a better common economy and single strong voice on international arena. National identity of individual states and ethnic groups will not be compromised. Nobody is going to issue Dutch passports in Italian or force Greeks to speak Portuguese. Go, Europe!
The geographical reality of the World permits of an intermediate stage of two states before World Government can occur. The Americans are well advanced in uniting their hemisphere while here on the World Island we have hardly scratched the surface. I really think it's time someone started enumerating the pros and cons in a straightforward and reliable way so we can all immediately see just where we are and where we need to be.
This 'One World Order' gives me the creeps. Did anyone read the Left Behind book series? Only question I have is who will we elect to be the Anti-Christ of our United Nations? My advice to the Brits is to vote Conservative. Hang on to your country, your identity, and your pound sterling.
Mike Y., USA
It depends on what Europe wants to be. Do the people have an overwhelming desire to sacrifice what remains of their cultural identity and national self-determination or to become a parody of the US? The cultural identity that made up the individual states within the US has long since faded into a kind of mini-mall pseudo culture driven solely by economics. I like the US, but also treasure the uniqueness that is Italy. This cannot help but be shattered as its culture, foods, practices, and yes even language are eventually absorbed for some over-riding good, as good is defined by the politicians. Do we really exist: born, live and die for the almighty Euro? What does the creating of this amalgam really buy us?
The US federal system is not a good blueprint for the future of Europe at all. That system came about when colonies with similar histories, cultures and - ultimately - a common enemy, Britain, united to gain their independence. This is not the case for Europe. Surely, the Canadian confederation is a far better template for Europe whereby each province (the perfect example being Québec) has considerably more autonomy than any US state. This is a far better option in view of our differences and, indeed, our similarities within Europe.
Iain Wood, England.... and proud of it!!
It seems to me that the major current players in European Union are Germany and France, who have done much for the continent's integration. Whether the British are part of it or not (and/or like it or not) a United States of Europe is inevitable. Britain's isolationist and wait-and-see game will not help. So, sooner or later Britain will need either to embrace full-heartedly a European Federation or be left out of the giant empire that is going to dominate the world economy.
Look at what works (Airbus, Ariane) and look at the failures (CAP, the regional aid fund)- the EU is less than the sum of its parts. The Treaty of Rome was drafted in the 1950's and shares the outdated vision of the need to coagulate into power blocs - more inter-nation co-operation and less attempts to emulate the USA.
The Dutch consider our questioning things to be tiresome. Unlike us, they prefer to moan after things go wrong.
Stephan, A European living in Canada
The free movement of goods and labour in Europe is probably one of the main achievements, which I would not like to miss. If you want this, you also have to agree on a coordination of other fields in politics. Let's assume I'm a poor nation and member of the EU with a great scheme of making fast money: I invite people from even poorer nations outside the EU, provide them with my passport and thus the right to live anywhere in the EU, and, to make sure they won't stay, I teach them eg English, French, or German, all for a modest fee of let's say 10,000 euros.
I believe that the time has come, where we have to abandon the idea of the French revolution of the supremacy of the nation-state in favour of a multi-layer government - from the local councils to the European government - where all executive powers are democratically elected and controlled by a strong parliament.
The EU has not created interdependence between different European countries but is a reaction to it. Without shared decision-making, international companies will be able to evade any kind of control. People who say that the EU is not democratic enough are right. But that is a reason for reform, not a reason for leaving.
The German proposal represents exactly what Europe needs - more democracy to hold back the bureaucracy and a legally binding constitution to prevent the EU from expanding beyond matters of trade and foreign policy. Under such common policies, the nations of the EU would be able to thrive with increased independence.
A "blueprint" for a federalist Europe will never materialise as long as citizens of EU member nations consider their neighbours to be foreigners. There's very little room for nationalism in any federalist system.
Tony Blair did not want Jospin to make his comments until after the election. This is proof, if proof is needed, of his duplicitous, dishonest nature. Once he is re-elected he will propel Britain further into an EU superstate. Can the British people not see this? As Jospin said: "Europe is first and foremost a political undertaking. Europe is a political entity". Be scared.
Since I already live in a federation of nation states that benefit from pooling sovereignty I don't see the problem in being part of a much larger one where the same benefits apply but even more so. The United States' success has nothing to do with its Anglo-Saxon beginnings but everything to do with its common currency, fairly uniform tax code and a mobile workforce. For Europe to succeed as the US has we need to create those same conditions.
None of the parties are willing to "nail their colours to the mast" on Europe. I have yet to hear a single politician from any of the 3 main parties come out with a simple yes or no to the question "Are you in favour of European Union and the Euro?" I would love to hear that question put to each of the 3 main leaders with the option of either Yes or No as a reply.
Peter C. Kohler, USA
Why do we need all the political
rubbish? All that's required is a set
of standards for products and
services traded between member
states. We don't need a
Euro-government, a Euro-police,
a goose-stepping Euro-army or a
Euro-currency, whether called an
ECU a Euro-dollar or a Eurine or
whatever the latest name is.
A Frenchman trading with
Germans or Britons does not
demand being governed by
Germans or Britons or Belgians or...
The whole thing is a politician's
dream and an ordinary bloke's
I think as long a everyone understands that Europe is good for business I think common sense has to be applied and each country has its own objectives they want. That's never easy. The trouble is I don't think the politicians can be trusted to get so a dramatic change in cultural and economic change. As long as everyone is sensible Europe is a goldmine. Get it wrong and the mine will collapse. Only time will tell.
Johnathan M, English, Germany
I am a proud British citizen living in mainland Europe. For me I believe the German chancellor has come up with the best vision for the future of Europe. The French and British positions are much of the same. The Germans want to make a super state and that is what I want to be a part of.
Fraser, Essex, England
All the issues around the EU should be open to full and frank public debate without the bias that is currently shown. Then, after a suitable period of time, referendums should be held for each topic; Euro, closer union etc. During all this, the EU should keep their noses out. No EU money being used to bankroll a campaign or similar. It should be like a general election. Each side given a certain amount of air time and limited budgets. At the moment, the EU is trying to browbeat the people of Europe into a federation by massive spending on advertising. This is very wrong.
A "blueprint" for Europe? I disagree with the idea of a blueprint. Europe should be an organic organisation with a small amount of planning. As a geographic area, the boundaries of Europe will be more or less the same, however, leaders, fortunes and attitudes within different areas of Europe will change. Throughout history the boundaries of Europe have changed continually and will surely continue to do so. Europe should be something that is defined by the people for the people.
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