United States of Europe? the EU Wants a Constitution
Byline: Helle Dale, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
BRUSSELS - With all the reports of anti-Americanism in Europe, it may surprise people here to be told that the United States of America is the envy of European politicians. Looked at from Washington, the European Union is not often considered a major factor in U.S.-European relations, and most Americans have a vague notion at best of what the EU actually is. Some European politicians even want a United States of Europe. Where these political ambitions will lead is still uncertain, although they are not in and of themselves likely to solve the economic problems besetting the European economies. On a global scale, they may lead to greater confrontation with the United States, depending on who calls the shots and sets the political agenda in Europe.
The European Union, which started out in the 1950s as a largely economic grouping of six continental European countries (the European Common Market), has today evolved into a semistate-like organization that is expanding to include 25 members, including countries in Eastern and Central Europe. The EU already has a GDP the size of that of the United States and a population that exceeds it.
The EU already has a set of treaties that cover everything from trade to social policy, and even supposedly common foreign and security policy. It has a common currency for 12 European countries (the euro), and the EU now wants a constitution of its own, just like the Americans, to give it a "legal personality" and the other aspects of statehood. In a little over a month, the European Constitutional Convention will present the results of its yearlong work to a conference of the governments of the EU. If adopted, it will be submitted for ratification in each country.
It is difficult, however, to see how this project can work. A single market is one thing. Giving up national political sovereignty is quite another. In almost every case, even in France, European politicians have been far ahead of their electorates.
European constitutional negotiations have sometimes been compared to Philadelphia 1787 in that compromises have to be reached to balance the interests of smaller and bigger states. That comparison is true, but only up to a point. The entrenched political and national cultures of the old nation states of Europe are much harder to weld into a whole than the 13 former British colonies of the New World. And the bigger countries, primarily Germany and France, are deeply reluctant to accept equal representation from smaller neighbors.
What is more, the survival of the U. …