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Saturday, 9 March, 2002, 10:20 GMT
Is the future federal?
With its 105 members from 28 different countries, the European convention on the future of Europe has been getting down to business.
Arguably though, it won't be able to tackle any detailed EU issues until one central question is answered - how much power should individual states retain and how much should be handed over to a central federal EU authority?
It has become obvious to Europe's politicians that they have to change the way they do business.
What started as a union of just six countries in the late 1950s could be expanded to include 25 in just two years time.
Without basic reforms the whole decision-making process within the EU could grind to a halt.
What do you think should be the next stage in the development of the European Union?
For this Europewide Debate, Europe Today's Katya Adler brought together Jacques Myard, a French MP for the Gaullist RPR Party in Paris and Jo Leinen, the President of the Union of European Federalists from Berlin, and asked them what they thought.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Maybe a decentralised confederation like Canada's would be a good idea for a unified Europe. As it stands today, British Columbia and Quebec are more independent and as culturally different than Germany and Austria, and we have managed to build a workable arrangement.
Frank Bourbonnais, USA
I do think it is important to have a powerful central government in the EU. Equally, individual member state powers should not be compromised excessively. We need to find a balance - that is the EU's greatest challenge.
The more united we are, the stronger we are. Common defence is the next logical step.
Eric Morris, USA
At the moment, the EU is poorly governed and barely accountable. Until the structure of the organisation is sorted out and the member governments stop seeing it as a way of disposing of old broken down politicians (just look at Valery Giscard d'Estaing, Neil Kinnock - anybody remember him?) or the EU Commission itself, with a reasonable amount of power but no electoral mandate.
If we can sort out a proper democratically accountable system at EU level, then I would be more than happy with the Westminster government giving away certain powers (finance, foreign policy etc) to Brussels. Just not at the moment.
I strongly believe that in the end the EU should have a strong federal government. The core problem for this aim is the history of Europe. European countries have so many cultures, languages and diverse groups of ethnicity and religions. For example will EU accept Turkey as member with its religious and cultural differences?
Jochen, Europe (England, Germany)
History has shown that large, unwieldy states, i.e. the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, are doomed to dissolution. Furthermore, history is replete with examples of this phenomenon. The wreckage of the above-mentioned three ex-states is strewn across the late twentieth century, in Europe. The phenomenon of the ex-state seems peculiar to Europe; therefore I find it absolutely preposterous that we're considering making the same "mistake" again!
A federation is indeed the only chance to secure peace in Europe and prosperity for ALL member states and to solve the many problems that will inevitably arise in Europe and the rest of the world. At the same time a federation is the ideal way to preserve the peculiarities of any member state especially of the smaller ones.
The fundament for all this must be a constitution, a parliament with real political clout and a government elected directly by that paliament.
I for myself have great trust in the peoples of Europe and their will to overcome the nationalistic and chauvinistic ideologies of their grandfathers. In the end the different languages, religions and cultures will prove their greatest advantage.
The EU has to decide what it wants. A weak union will not work, just as the articles of the confederacy (the USA's first attempt at unification) did not work. You would need a stronger federal power than you have, a constitution, and a mindset that you are all Europeans first, not whatever ethnicity/nationality you belong to, now. But do you want to give up so much of your own sovereignty as countries? Can you make this Union work? Or, are you better off individually? The world is watching. Just please, don't start another world war if unification does not work...
In my opinion the EU
is trying to create a United States of Europe - but how can we merge into one European nation when every member country has conflicting interests?
Our European neighbours are not good friends, which they'd like other countries to believe.
This is just an excuse to compete with America.
I'm sure in the long term the EU will get a "united nations of Europe" because in many current political discussions it is already pointed out that a solution at a European level has to be found. This will play a more and more important role in the future, particularly if economic and social structures grow together in Europe.
The EU has pros and cons. However, I feel that the cons far outweigh the pros. I believe that more power should be resubmitted to the national governments. This isn't to say that I am anti-EU, I am just pro-national. I don't think that the EU as a federal government can work and that within a short period of time it would fall apart. It's hard to keep individual nations together when many of those nations have problems holding themselves together. Until issues such as Corsica, ETA, IRA and other groups are taken care of the EU has NO chance of success as a government.
The EU, by not expanding rapidly, is creating a better future for all its participants. All too often, changes are rushed. The EU is taking no steps without assurance that they are correct. Eventually, there will be a strong federal EU government. But why rush this process when there is still no agreement even on a constitution? Ultimately, this slow process will be of benefit to all participants.
I apologize to Prof. Frieden if I misquoted him in any way or if he didn't intend his statements to be published on the internet. These were spontaneous remarks. However, I think these are great news. I believe more Europeans than it seems welcome this development. The advantages are self-evident - internationally and domestically. Morally, economically, and culturally we can only gain from a stronger European Union and everybody should know this. The opponents are only to be found among the many narrow-minded, nationalistic and intolerant people who are today on the decline. For the principle advantages of a stronger European Union - of a federal government - take a look at the Federalist Papers written more than two hundred years ago. It is still a taboo - especially for politicians - to talk about a Federal Republic of Europe. But that's exactly where we are going.
Let's embrace this development with optimism and awareness to make the best out of it. I am for a Federal Republic of Europe or however you might call it. Let's dare to say this and start a discussion.
I believe that in the long run, the E.U. will prove ungovernable. It is a union of nations of vastly different cultures, languages, economies, histories, religions, political systems and stages of national development that in the long run have interests that collide instead of compliment their fellow nations. Leadership by committee will prove flaccid, indecisive, and result in watered down social, religious, defence, and economic policies that will lead to mediocrity at best with complete ineptness, the most likely outcome. Humans, as all organisms, are competitive by nature, individually and collectively. Competition drives us individually and nationally to greatness. Take away our individuality as a person and as a nation and we become listless, directionless, and impotent. The European Union is a recipe for emasculating the human genius that characterizes each of individual nations of Europe and the British Isles.
I'm a citizen of the USA but lived half my life in Belarus and was born there. That is why the EU issue is important to me. I think that the only way EU will be strong is with a central federal government. If you study the history of US and specifically the arguments behind its unification into a federal state, you will see that if the US gave more power to states then it would have been a week state. This is what the EU must realize. If this constitutional convention for the EU does not create a federal government which controls the military, the economy, and is directly elected then there the EU will not last for long because eventually countries (or future states) will eventually claim that they have the right to pull out of the EU.
I personally believe the European Union could deal with strategic issues better than any member nation state in promoting the common cultural, social and economic achievements of European citizenship.
I agree there are issues in which the Union has performed poorly, such as the common agricultural policy.
However, I am an optimist, and hope the convention will be governed more by principles and higher goals than conflicting interests.
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