Europe 1992: From the Crossroads toward Unity

By Laurent, Pierre-Henri | National Forum, Spring 1992 | Go to article overview

Europe 1992: From the Crossroads toward Unity

Laurent, Pierre-Henri, National Forum

By the end of 1992, the twelve nations of the European Community (EC) will complete the formation of one internal and general market of almost 350 million people. Western Europe will become a giant, single, economic unit, an economic superstate and, with more than 15 percent of the world's exports compared with 12 percent and 9 percent for the United States and Japan, the world's biggest trader. Furthermore, the EC will have closer links with the rest of the continent, especially Eastern Europe and probably the former Soviet Union. And finally, beyond the economic sphere, the Community will have tighter and more binding political and defense institutions.

The historical evolution of Europe from autonomous, often warring nations that brought about two self-destructive global contests to a contemporary collaborative and convergent amalgamation of prosperous and democratic states has been amazingly swift since 1945. The commitments of the original six rounding states (France, the Federal Republic, Italy, the Benelux three of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) contained in the Treaty of Rome in 1957 centered on the creation of one massive economy of scale. By 1969, the six had realized a customs union but not a barrier-free Europe. The economic malaise and stagflation of the 1970s combined with the difficulties of enlargement (to include the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Ireland in 1973 and Greece in 1979) to block substantial progress in forming a true economic union. As the 1980s dawned, however, the reigniting of the now ten-member-state venture to integrate the national economies into one was initiated with the establishment of the European Monetary System (EMS) and the direct popular election of Europarliamentarians. The critical issues of regulating the national monetary and financial systems with some transnational mechanisms and the need to enhance the democratic input into the EC decision-making process were addressed in 1979 in what would become known by the mid-1980s as the second relance, or relaunching, of the European integration movement.

The major centerpieces of that historic new attempt to make a borderless Europe were the White Paper and the Single European Act (SEA) in 1985-86. These EC agreements of the now twelve states (with the entry of Spain and Portugal) were based on decisions to face directly and solve completely several outstanding "family disputes" that had stalled further Community advancement. The cardinal point of conflict concerned British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's desire to end budget inequities and particularly to adjust the U.K. financial contribution. The EC was driven to compromise on this issue in order to gain unanimity in addressing the now central issue of contemporary global economies--competitiveness. Pure competitive survival was at stake for Europe, given the Third Industrial Revolution, and the answer had to be building a single consuming and producing entity that could then successfully compete with the two technological, industrial, and commercial superpowers.

There emerged in the early 1980s a broad-based alliance in Europe, forged between the public and private elites that included the major industrial and financial leadership plus the EC Commission and European Parliament (EP). They were joined by the twelve national governments, led by German chancellor Helmut Kohl and French president Francois Mitterrand, in their drive to liberalize, deregulate, and integrate the twelve markets further into one common market. In sum, in the SEA, the EC expressed the notion that the single market was to be the cornerstone of Europe's integration process and therefore its competitive strength in world markets into the new century.

The essence of the original internal-market program that became Europe 1992 was a process that would change the face of Europe not only by way of economic revival and transformation, but also through significant political components.

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Europe 1992: From the Crossroads toward Unity


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