Thursday, June 02, 2005

Quo vadis, Europa?

The German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder today has asked the remaining nations of the European Union (EU) that have not yet voted on the EU constitution to continue with their planned vote despite the rejection of the French and the Dutch, as the rules stipulate that the constitution must be put forward to all member states (there are currently 25 nations that make up the European Union). Thus far, 10 nations have ratified the treaty, which leaves to 13 the remaining nations that have yet to have their say on this document. "Every form of over-reaction at this stage is wrong," says Schroeder. That's all very well and good, but the twin rejection of the constitution by two of its founding members has put into question the manner in which the bureaucrats in Brussels will proceed (well, I should say Eurocrats).

So what will happen next? Is the cause of greater European integration now in effect gone?

I think not. I have been watching and observing throughout the years the "maturation" of the European Union. I cannot remember a time when the European Union wasn't there in its various stages. It's the only Europe I've known. I remember when we used to call it the European Common Market. Then it changed to the European Economic Community (EEC), and then it became the European Community (EC), and now we simply call it the European Union. I personally remember a time when I called it the "Common Market." My parents threw a dinner party at our home when I was about 7, and it was for me a treat that I got to sit at the table with the guests, who were all dressed up. The conversation and the chatter I remember were way over my 7-year old head and I was trying to think of something "important" and "mature" to say. So I simply blurted out what I heard in the TV news earlier: "Dad, does the European Common Market mean that all the people in Europe will have one big market economy?" My Dad stared at me blankly. I had totally forgotten this story until my Dad reminded me of it when I was in college after I told him I was writing a research paper on the EC.

So where to now, Europe? To figure this out, it might be good for the Eurocrats to realize what the French and the Dutch were saying. There are sundry reasons why they voted the way they did. The BBC in Amsterdam reports: "One person talks about the euro, the next about domination by bigger EU states. Another will talk about Brussels bureaucracy, or the threat to Dutch liberal values, or loss of sovereignty and national identity, or the motor of European integration speeding out of control."

One person in Amsterdam yesterday said: "I am very pleased at this result and not because I am against a united Europe…It's because of the whole way things were managed, manipulated, not just by our government, but by the authorities in Brussels. The arrogance! Being so sure of themselves without speaking to the people of Europe, deciding for themselves!"

And another commented: "The message from France and the Netherlands is that they are unhappy with the way Europe is being built…People are unhappy with the fact that Europe is a project of the elite, not the ordinary people."

Some were concerned about the stagnant European economy, some with the influx of immigration from Arab and African countries, some with the fact that only last year 10 new nations were added to the Union (hence the feeling that the expansion and greater integration is going too fast), some with the inclusion of Turkey. And some are unsure how to proceed in a world that is becoming more and more globalized, the topic of an ongoing series in this humble blog.

So, it isn't just the document itself that the French and the Dutch were unhappy with. Although, after reading George Will's column yesterday, I think perhaps everyone ought to be unhappy with the document by itself, with all of its annexations and additions that smacks of incoherent and inordinate micro-managing and micro-regulating.

However deep down, I should think that many, if not all Europeans, are convinced with the goodness and the worth of pulling together the resources and the efforts of the peoples that make up Europe. This is because the European Union (and its earlier forms and names) was born out of the belief that nations that are closely united will never have cause to wage war against one another.

As the EU itself has stated officially: "For centuries, Europe was the scene of frequent and bloody wars. In the period 1870 to 1945, France and Germany fought each other three times, with terrible loss of life. A number of European leaders became convinced that the only way to secure a lasting peace between their countries was to unite them economically and politically."

This is the genesis of the efforts to integrate Europe: it is to foster--first and foremost--lasting peace. And for this reason, the cause and the spark of European integration will never be extinguished. It might benefit the Eurocrats and Europoliticans to be reminded of this overarching goal and hope (and to carry this message anew to the people of Europe), as the will for lasting unity, peace, and prosperity will always burn in the hearts of every human being.

The European Union has an official anthem. It's Beethoven's stirring and majestic Ninth Symphony, "Ode To Joy." This musical masterpiece features the powerful words by the German poet Friedrich Schiller, pointing to that noble and human desire for greater unity and peace:

Hail thee, Joy, from heaven descending,
Daughter of Elysium,
Ecstasy, our hearts inflaming,
To thy sacred shrine we come.

Thine enchantments bind together
Those whom custom's law divides:
All are brothers, all united,
Where thy gentle wing abides!

Powered by Blogger