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IEP Lunch Debate with Axel SCHÄFER: “From Rome to Berlin: 50 Years of the Treaties of Rome. Quo vadis Europa?”

left to right: Dr. Barbara Lippert (IEP), Dr. Mathias Jopp (IEP), Axel Schäfer, MdB

The look back at 50 years of successful European integration must be used as an occasion to examine four central areas of European integration. Schäfer thus identified the trajectory, the structure, enlargement and the further politi­ci­sation of the European Union. The Union first requires a new justi­fi­cation. This necessity, already formu­lated by Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Stein­meier, consists of trans­lating the respon­si­bility of policy and the collected experi­ences of the last century into a new project capable of meeting the challenges of the future. The European Union must then find its way back into the “hearts” of the young gener­ation as an active partic­ipant in global­i­sation. The Union must represent a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. The requirement of a “new justi­fi­cation” additionally includes the “self-assurance among European thinkers” that the Monnet method — the gradual deepening of European integration with fixing any sort of finality — still functions. The uniqueness of the European Union furthermore makes the body an exemplary role model for many other multi­na­tional associ­a­tions. Therefore, Schäfer empha­sised, European decision-makers should more consciously, but also more self-criti­cally, engage themselves for the Union. For Germany the Leitbild of European integration up to today has been “to serve the cause of world peace as an equal member in a united Europe” (preamble of the German Basic Law).

The European Consti­tution also remains on the European political agenda, as does the question of the future enlargement and neigh­borhood policy of the European Union. Schäfer called for sticking to the Consti­tu­tional Treaty, and all those states that have already ratified the text must still consider themselves bound to that decision. The German EU Council Presi­dency will for this reason open a discussion process with all EU partners individ­ually starting in April 2007, which should result in a solution to the consti­tu­tional crisis. The reser­va­tions of those that have not yet ratified the treaty must be addressed with sensi­bility and respect. Still, these states would have the oblig­ation to actively bring themselves into the consti­tu­tional process. Schäfer said he would agree to the passage of the Consti­tu­tional Treaty with the two-thirds majority likely to be reached in January 2007, but reality also dictates further consid­er­ation for the failed referenda in France and the Nether­lands. In close coordi­nation with the govern­ments of both of these countries, up for new elections in November 2006 and June 2007 respec­tively, the goal of a Consti­tution for the European Union must be vigor­ously pursued.

Schäfer spoke against the frequently voiced demand for an “enlargement stop” folllowing the accession of Romania and Bulgaria. Any further perspec­tives of EU membership must however continue to promote the expansion of solidarity and stability in the Western Balkan states. Moreover, no political functionary would want to seriously block the path into the Union for countries like Switzerland and Norway. Whether the full membership of Turkey will be achieved is unclear. In principle, the enlargement policy of the European Union should not be subor­di­nated to dogmatics and firm timetables. It is much more dependent on the reform processes of (potential) accession candi­dates. This also holds for states like Ukraine, where the European Neigh­borhood Policy must remain open in the setting of its goals.

In his conclusion, Schäfer supported a stronger politi­ci­sation of the European Union with the aim of overcoming the EU fatigue of the citizens. The voters should therefore receive the possi­bility of electing the leaders of the European party families, thus formu­lating their preference for a candidate for the office of Commission president. The member states should additionally show the courage to recon­stitute the college and the number of commis­sioners, vice-commis­sioners and state secre­taries according to the number of member states. Portfolios, however, should be limited to a sensible number. Doing this will better ensure the capacity to act of this important European institution.

By: Gesa-Stefanie Brincker