The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 46           December 29, 2003  
European Union in crisis,
fails to adopt constitution
(front page)
A European Union summit aimed at negotiating a constitution collapsed in acrimonious division December 13.

Instead of a united Europe built around “25 current and future members of the European Union,” as most reports in the media refer to the EU, the summit highlighted deep divisions between competing states allied with the Franco-German bloc, on the one hand, or with its main competitor across the Atlantic—Washington, on the other.

German chancellor Gerhard Schröder labeled the meeting “largely a failure,” adding, “We don’t have a consensus on a constitution here because one or another country put the European ideal behind national interest.”

Berlin and Paris, however, the strongest imperialist powers in the European Union, have been the most aggressive in openly defending the interests of their respective ruling classes. Both insisted on setting rules in the 1996 Stability and Growth Pact requiring each member state to maintain budget deficits below 3 percent of gross domestic product, which is particularly onerous for weaker economies. They have both violated this rule over the last three years as well as insisting on policies that would ensure their continued dominance in the EU.

The Brussels summit broke down after no agreement could be reached on altering a formula for voting representation.

The governments of Spain and Poland led the opposition to a French-German proposal that would alter a voting formula that gives countries with smaller populations almost the same voting weight as those with substantially larger populations. Paris and Berlin have proposed that the current system be replaced by one based on a simple majority of 13 members, the catch being that the majority must also equal at least 60 percent of the EU’s population. Madrid and Warsaw countered that the plan would give larger countries like Germany, with a population as large as Spain and Poland combined, even greater voting weight.

“We’re talking about compromise or domination,” said Polish foreign minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz. Poland’s prime minister, Leszek Miller, said that his government was standing up for all smaller nations in opposing the French-German move to diminish their voting weight. Poland is scheduled to officially enter the EU on May 1 along with nine other countries that would receive similarly weighted voting power under the current formula. Many of the new member states are from the former East European bloc.

Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen described the result as “a sad day for Europe.”

French president Jacques Chirac threatened that if no agreement could be reached Paris might push forward on areas of common agreement with a smaller “pioneer group.”

“It would be a motor that would set an example. It will allow Europe to go faster, better,” Chirac asserted.

According to the Washington Post, diplomats attending the meeting said that several of the founding members of the EU—France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands—might soon issue a statement in support of Chirac’s course.

Earlier this year tensions erupted when Paris and Berlin announced that they would again violate EU monetary policy by projecting budget deficits that exceed limits governing the euro. In November EU finance ministers rejected a European Commission demand that the two powers be sanctioned for violating the Stability Pact. Intended as a currency to counter the dollar, the euro is only used by 12 of the EU’s current 15 members. In addition, an open-borders agreement that allows free travel within the EU is still not honored by all of its members.

Disagreements over the ongoing U.S.-led occupation of Iraq also steamed behind the scenes of the meeting. They were fueled by Washington’s decision to bar governments that were not part of its “coalition of the willing” in the war against Iraq from bidding for contracts to rebuild that country. (See front page article.)

Backing Washington’s decision, British prime minister Anthony Blair said it was “for the Americans to decide how to spend their money.”

Christopher Patten, the EU’s external relations commissioner, called the White House decision “maladroit.” The European Commission is investigating whether Washington’s action violates world trade rules, and its president, Romano Prodi, said, “It does not help the relationship, most of all on the eve of a meeting that was meant to take a decision on Iraq’s debt, as many of these countries excluded are large creditors.”

At a time of sharpening diplomatic language earlier this year between Washington on the one hand, and Paris and Berlin on the other, over U.S. preparations for a military assault on Iraq, the latter countries pressed for a European military alliance separate from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is dominated by Washington. For the first time Paris and Berlin were able to get agreement for such a force at the summit, but on a sharply reduced scale from the original proposal.

Instead of having its own headquarters in Brussels, apart from NATO’s, the plan adopted includes a “planning staff” of up to 100 military and civilian officials with teams of liaison officers stationed at each other’s headquarters.  
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