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