Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Those Who Want a New Treaty, Step Forward!

Adelina Marini, August 28, 2012

First (from the beginning of the eurozone crisis) was the Euro Plus Pact, the purpose of which was to enhance coordination of economic policies of the EU member states. Then was the Fiscal Compact which is a much more legally binding document the purpose of which is to ensure strict coordination of eurozone members' fiscal policies. Now the German chancellor, who initiated the former two pacts, proposes something even more serious - a new EU treaty. Moreover, urgently - yet on the Christmas EU summit the first session of the convent to take place, in which take part representatives of national governments and parliaments, of the European Parliament and the European Commission. About this intention of Berlin reported the influential German weekly Der Spiegel on August 27th, quoting Ms Merkel's EU affairs adviser Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut. Still there are no details but it is supposed that the new treaty will actually be an extended version of the Fiscal Compact to include many of the proposals Germany wanted last year but met significant resistance.

It seems that the even more intricate situation in the euro area has erased the horrible memory from the creation of the now valid Lisbon Treaty of the EU, the drafting of which (initially with the ambition to turn into a constitution for the Union) took almost 10 years but in totally different global political and economic environment. Precisely because of the stalemate which the Union has found itself in, before discussing any new treaties, a fundamental question must be answered - how many member states would agree to go forward with the European integration, which means not only sharing the benefits but the responsibilities and the hardships as well? For Germany this is of utmost importance against the backdrop of the possibility the series with the troubled eurozone members to continue some more seasons with the same scenario - Germans, give more money or otherwise we risk a break-up of the eurozone but we do not promise that we will do whatever you like.

This series fits very well in the description of Timothy Garton Ash in an article for the latest issue of The Foreign Affairs: "Structurally, Europe now finds itself caught in a dysfunctional triangle, between national politics, European policies, and global markets". An exit must be found from this triangle. An exit that even the famous pro-European Ash does not offer. Instead, he shows a possible direction but before that he analyses the roots of the current crisis in detail. And as paradoxically it might be, the success and the failure of the European integration has one and the same root - post-military fears. The expert points out that the memories from World War II and the Cold War forced three generations of Europeans to strive for peaceful unification which has no precedent in the European history and has no equivalent on any other continent. "Yet that project began to go wrong soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as western European leaders hastily set course for a structurally flawed monetary union", Timothy Garton Ash writes.

And the reason for this is one, he continues: "While many governments, companies, and households piled up unsustainable levels of debt, young Europeans from Portugal to Estonia and from Finland to Greece came to take peace, freedom, prosperity, and social security for granted". And what bigger proof of Mr Ash's thesis than the massive protests that overwhelmed Spain, Portugal, the literally battle scenes from Greece, the wave of populist and nationalistic movements in Northern Europe, etc? The media throughout the continent, but especially in the eurozone, build up the pressure by creating stereotypes about the lazy south and the working north which is doomed to pour money into the endless pitch of the south. A problem, which is now clearly being formulated as such at the highest political level - for the first time with a huge focus in the talks between the new Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, often caricatured in Greek media as a Nazi.

"Historians have identified many factors that contributed to the process of European integration, including the vital economic interests of European nations. Yet the single most important driving force across the continent was the memory of war", writes Ash and adds that Europe has to again return to that memory and that memory to be returned to the place it belongs, which is to be a basis for the national and common European goal - peace and prosperity on the continent. And not simply the memory about the bloody and devastating beginning of the 20th century but the fear of the future must be leading as well, especially between the two elements of the Franco-German motor because, as Timothy Garton Ash writes, in fact the biggest flaw is precisely in the relations between these two countries. He recalls an interesting story from the creation of the eurozone.

"Following the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, Mitterrand, alarmed by the prospect of German reunification, pushed hard to pin Kohl down to a timetable for what was then called economic and monetary union. That proposal had already been elaborated to help the European Economic Community complete its single market and address the difficulty of managing exchange rates within it. Mitterrand's general purpose was to bind a united Germany, if united those two Germanies really must be, into a more united Europe; his specific purpose was to enable France to regain more control over its own currency, and even win some leverage over Germany's.

In a remarkable conversation with Genscher, the West German foreign minister, on November 30, 1989, Mitterrand went so far as to say that if Germany did not commit itself to the European monetary union, 'We will return to the world of 1913'. Meanwhile, Mitterrand was stirring up British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to sound the alarm as if it were 1938. According to a British record of their private meeting at the crucial Strasbourg summit of European leaders in December 1989, Mitterrand said that 'he was fearful that he and the Prime Minister would find themselves in the situation of their predecessors in the 1930s who had failed to react in the face of constant pressing forward by the Germans'", writes Timothy Garton Ash and quotes the father of the German unification, Chancellor Helmut Kohl: "Political union is the essential counterpart to economic and monetary union. Recent history, not only in Germany, teaches us that it is absurd to expect in the long run that you can maintain economic and monetary union without political union".

Helmut Kohl said this in the Bundestag in 1991. Angela Merkel keeps on repeating it. But France, Timothy Garton Ash claims, has no such intentions. Its goal is to control the German currency and not Germany to have control over France's budget. Now, when France and Germany share a single currency, the differences still persist in terms of control of budgetary policies. And with the first socialist president after Mitterrand - Francois Hollande - this dilemma still is valid. While Germany wants precisely that - control over budgets.

And if now, in the second decade of the 21st century, the fears of a strong Germany, as they were in the beginning of the 20th century, seem to you a little bit exaggerated, especially after the indeed remarkable relationship, more popular with the nickname Merkozy, then the tough economic perspectives, as well as the lack of a satisfactory alternative should awaken the fears again. So far, there is no unanimity what would cause more losses - the break-up of the eurozone or another season of the "Bailout" series. In any case, however, the more and more impoverished Europeans, as in the giving so in the taking countries, are getting aggressive and what is worse - they do not remember the horrors of World War II, while their memories from the Cold War vary significantly. In the past three years, expectations were constantly created about crucial changes, many taboos have fallen, but the results proved to be too far from the expectations and too disappointing.

The Europeans are tired from the crisis and from the uniformity of the news but, nonetheless, they seem to be inclined to support the creation of a new treaty. We made an experiment on euinside's Facebook page, asking our readers whether they think the EU needed a new treaty. We offered two options for answer but left the door open for adding more options: "Yes, because the EU practically blocks itself" and "No, because this would force the break-up of the EU". The greatest number of answers received our first proposal. The second received no answers at all but instead we received new proposals, among which second best came "Yes, but only if the new treaty would limit the powers of the EU bureaucracy", and the third best is "Who in fact needs the EU?". To our question in English there were opinions that a new EU treaty is necessary but not realistic at this point in time.

Although these data are not representative for the EU, this issue caused strong activity among our readers. This means that the citizens will have expectations, huge expectations. And if this time they are not met, the risks for the peaceful future of the continent will grow in numbers. And given the faded memories from the 20th century, we will emerge unprepared for this.