The Price Of Euroarrogance

Melvyn Krauss, a longtime observer of European politics and author of How NATO Weakens the West has a great piece in The Wall Street Journal on how France and Germany have scuttled the hopes for a federal European Union.

The Franco-German axis has ruined the latest EU Constitutional proposals through a sense of sheer arrogance that ensured that smaller countries in the Union could simply not accept the proposal as it was given. The proposed EU Constitution would have allowed Paris and Berlin to dictate policy at the expense of the rights of Lisbon, Madrid, or Prague. Especially with the EU expanding into Eastern Europe, a system in which the votes of large states could erase the power of smaller states was simply unacceptable.

A similar constitutional crisis occurred in the formation of the United States, in which smaller and larger states had a major conflict over voting rights. In the case of the US, this battle led to the Great Compromise of 1787 in which the idea of a bicameral legislative system was developed, later to become the House of Representatives and the Senate.

In the case of the EU, no such compromise occurred, meaning that the EU will operate under the same complex system of weighted voting that has been used before. New moves on a Constitution are not expected until at least 2005 despite the EU’s expansion from 15 states to 25 and despite the frequent electorale stalemates that situation has produced. As Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK has said, "the time has passed" for the idea of a EU superstate.

There are some definite benefits to having a unified Europe, but not under such a system in which a few large actors have the right to dictate policy to others. As Krauss notes, the way in which the Franco-German axis blithely eviscerated the limits of the Maastricht Treaty when smaller states had instituted painful austerity measures shows the kind of blatant double standards that have been put into effect in the EU. Unless France and Germany can act as responsible members of a community of states rather than attempting to dictate policy and bend the rules to their benefit, the concept of a federal European Union will be a dream deferred.

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