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2004 or the birth of Euroland

by Franck Biancheri

2004 will be the year of enlargement (certainly), the constitution (perhaps) and Euroland (undoubtedly)! The Stability Pact, which had never had the slightest chance of working to manage Euroland, has now lapsed. The EU-25 will be paralysed from May 2004 and will therefore become unable to play an active role in monetary and/or economic matters. Euroland will therefore finally have to assume its destiny as a new Community integrator and create its economic government.

The speeches of one or the other on the refusal of pioneering groups to accept European integration is an unbelievable hypocrisy. As if Italy, Spain, Ireland,…. were not already in a ship that is moving at a much higher speed than the others? “Let’s all stay together! “, shouted the first-class travellers to those of the second class.

Let us be clear-headed. The too rapid enlargement (the one that is taking place today, and which with 2020, since 1999, we have been calling for to postpone to 2006/2007) has a price. This prize is the fact that, if the new Member States join the EU faster than the degree of preparation of the EU and the candidates actually allows, they actually join a weakened EU, which will no longer be the place where the new stages of Community integration develop.

Neither in terms of justice, the free movement of people, currency, defence, external relations, space conquest, etc., does the Europe of 25 exist. Everything happens between groups of volunteer countries. That is a fact. Nothing dramatic about that. This has always been the case. Periods of intense integrationist activities around nuclei of driving states, generally including the Franco-German couple and the Benelux, with which the other states choose to associate or not, are followed by periods of “consolidation” where the laggards and reluctant from the first hour join the leading group.

Of course, this phenomenon was less visible when the EU was composed of a small number of states. Now with 25 members, the two-step process becomes obvious as the second group grows in number. Also, please, let us stop taking European citizens for idiots. By advocating a Europe with a single speed that never existed. European citizens are well aware that Europe is made up of countries with great diversity in terms of economic development, political and social traditions, relations with the rest of the world, and that this same diversity, which is the richness of Europe, and to which we all attach importance, imposes different rhythms.

What citizens want is for the debate to be constant among all; for everyone’s initiatives to be compatible and convergent; for the conditions of access to the various pioneering projects to be explicit and objective; for each people and each State to know that when they feel ready, intellectually, economically or politically, they will be welcome in each of the initiatives. But at the same time, they are waiting for another rule to emerge: you don’t join a pioneering project to slow it down or try to change its purpose from the inside. This period is now over. Neither the Iron Curtain nor uncertainties about the historical importance of the European project can no longer legitimize the delays; and therefore the desire to change the rules of the game that we join… if we do not join it from the beginning.

The federalist dream, born of an ideal rewriting of American history (forgetting the Civil War, for example), of a Europe conceived as a single bloc is no longer relevant; the sovereignist fantasy, of European nation-states facing the 21st century alone, has dissipated in the light of the Iraqi crisis. Here comes the time of Europe as a network, capable of moving forward together, in the same direction, but with variable speeds. It will be the European model of this century.

The convergence of the various “pioneering Europe” will take place after 2010, if a viable alternative to Turkey’s entry is found. Otherwise, the EU-28 will converge on the Council of Europe; while Euroland will become the new foundation for European integration.

To this end, after May 2004, it will be time for the countries of the Eurozone to take their destiny into their own hands and create an economic government of Euroland: a Minister of Finance of Euroland, leading a Council of Finance Ministers of Euroland; a secretariat of this Council based in Paris, to balance the European Central Bank located in Frankfurt. And Brussels (EU Commission and Council) will be the space for mediation/partnership between Euroland and the EU.

It is urgent to continue to build the pillars of the united Europe of tomorrow, of which the ECB was the first.

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