Introduction – the origins and the Fischer speech
Europe of the people – respond to fears and needs - and deliver
Economic and Monetary Union
Security and Defence
Closer co-operation – Avant-garde – Federalism
"The European Union at a crossroads". Well, I suppose this is a timely title for a speech, as we are currently witnessing a debate on the “finalités” – on the purpose - of European integration. As you know, the discussion was launched a month ago by the speech that the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer gave at Humboldt University in Berlin. Although I find the debate intellectually stimulating, I am wondering whether the question “federation – yes or no” has to be answered already in the year 2000. Have we reached that crossroads already?
The state of Europe today is by no means comparable to the one fifty years ago, when after the Second World War the founding fathers of Europe had to make the following choice: perpetuate on the European continent a system of balance of powers within an atmosphere of hostility and mutual suspicion; or create something completely new, an unprecedented system of co-operation and integration embedded into an atmosphere of hope and forgiveness, of mutual trust and democratic principles. This was the one and only crossroads of Europe in the course of the last century, and fifty years of peace have proved that the direction chosen at the time has been the right one ever since.
Sweden, a great European nation, has joined the European endeavour forty years after Luxembourg but for not quite the same reasons. Sweden has been spared during two world wars – just as Luxembourg has not been. Luxembourgers see the European Union as a peace project more than anything else. This is the original "état d’esprit" – the original state of mind - which I am missing today when we discuss voting procedures in the Council, decide on the number of internet connections for schools and argue about the length of shoestrings.
I consider it naive to believe that those vicious demons, having brought terror and pain over Europe’s peoples twice in this century, would have been banned from our continent forever. They are still there – waiting to be woken up by those who are ready to invoke them. Atrocities committed in Bosnia and Kosovo should remind us of the looming danger.
That is why there is no room for complacency and no reason to rest on our laurels – the European project has to be continued. We have not yet reached the end of the road which Schuman and Monnet have mapped out half a century ago!
But let me come back to the speech that Mr. Fischer gave a few weeks ago. It is a good thing that 50 years after the Schuman plan, somebody centred the focus again on the essentials. The speech had a tremendous impact although the ideas expressed are definitely not new. The merit of the speech is to advocate the continuation of European Unification at a time when there are doubts about the feasibility of the project. And there was relief to hear the story told by a voice from Berlin: I prefer a German Foreign Minister talk about a European Federation rather than about the contrary.
However, while sharing the long-term vision which Joschka Fischer developed, I cannot find in there operational elements and ideas directly relevant for the very next months that lie ahead of us. In a sense the timing of Mr. Fischer’s speech was not very helpful. The speech came too early as well as too late. Too early, because Governments have to concentrate right now on the current Intergovernmental Conference to be concluded in Nice and this IGC now appears to be a modest and narrow exercise in comparison to the big scheme sketched out by Mr. Fischer; too late, because the debate spurred by the German Foreign Minister cannot be integrated any more into the work of the French Presidency.
I will again refer to this speech at the end of my intervention when discussing one of my favourite subjects, that is closer co-operation or flexibility. Right now, let me focus on the short term and discuss the questions where the Union has to make less revolutionary but no less decisive choices for its future: these are enlargement, the Europe of the citizens, the completion of Economic and Monetary Union, security and defence and last but not least the agenda points of the Intergovernmental Conference.
Now I know that over here in Sweden I do not have to make a plea in favour of enlargement, because you all are convinced “enlargers” of the Union. The geo-strategic importance of extending the zone of peace and stability we know today in the western and northern part of Europe to Central and Eastern Europe is obvious to you. Enlargement is not only a historic chance, it is also a political and historic necessity and it goes for reconciliation of European history with European geography.
You know, when I am speaking to Central and Eastern Europeans, I get somewhat ashamed because I realise one fact: that they have always known where they are belonging to – and that is to free and democratic Europe; it was us who had forgotten about them. We discovered only during the revolutionary period of 1989-91 that we had convinced Europeans living at the other side of the dismantled Iron Curtain.
When looking back at the last ten years, I can only laugh when recalling the statement that the end of history had arrived in 1989. In reality European history has accelerated and the EU is struggling to keep pace with change.
The key question is: how can the EU integrate so many countries that all bring into the family their culture, their history, their traditions, their language, their hopes and their fears? Managing diversity is indeed our greatest challenge.
And we will not have enlargement for free – it will have a cost – to the extent that peace can be expressed in terms of cost. It was not our merit that the old world order came to an end. The current candidate countries, after having suffered under the weight of history for decades, set themselves free. So, who would we be to tell them now, that we are not willing to make some sacrifice in order to enable them to join our peaceful and wealthy family? Solidarity is one of the fundamentals the European Union has been built on all over the years. And we should step away from paternalistic attitudes - enlargement is a give-and-take exercise.
So we have to get the method of enlargement right. I am personally very uneasy about the renewed debate on fixing timetables for accession. This is in my view a very unreasonable – if not irresponsible - attitude. In fact, among the candidate countries nobody except the largest candidate is advocating a date for accession. All the others are satisfied with fixing for themselves an internal target date, just as the EU has given itself a target date for wrapping up the Intergovernmental Conference. Suppose that we fix an official accession target date for each country that will not be matched; this would be highly counterproductive and generate not only frustration but also a sense of humiliation within the political class and the public opinion of that particular country.
I am also very much insisting on the principle of own merits and on an individualised accession process. Yes, inclusive and individual. This is not because the method was invented under the Luxembourg Chairmanship of the EU in December 1997, but because it is the only genuinely fair system as it rewards the efforts of each single country. The corollary is that no candidate country is allowed to block the accession of another candidate - and member states should refrain from clientelism.
So, my motto is “No dates and no groups”. We should aspire to a sustainable enlargement and that is not necessarily the quickest enlargement possible.
Yes, we should not gallop through enlargement. We have to address the problems which arise with enlargement, look for solutions together with our friends from Central and Eastern Europe and carry out enlargement when the EU is able to admit them and the candidates are prepared to assume their responsibilities. Enlargement in a rush will end up in a crash. So let us do it smoothly and we will witness a soft landing.
Although most of our citizens understand that enlargement is nothing else than peace policy, it is not exactly a popular project and I am convinced that the exercise will become even more unpopular in the years to come. We politicians have to take this phenomenon very seriously. Even though people’s fears are often unjustified – I take for example free movement of persons – we have to deal with these fears before others do: fear must not drive politics and populist parties must not receive the opportunity to make politics with people’s anxieties.
Our citizens have to be convinced that negotiations are conducted seriously. And we have to pass the message through that people of Central and Eastern Europe are interested in more than just wealth – they are keen to join a community of values, a system of law, a political venture and a sphere of stability and security. So far, we have not been very efficient at getting these messages through.
Apart from enlargement we all notice a general unease and scepticism when people speak about Europe and its future. Our citizens are more critical about European integration than they have ever been in the past. Why this moaning and groaning? Why has "Brussels" almost become a swearword?
It is weird that the farther away you go from the geographical Europe the more attractive it seems to become. But our primary concern has to be to live up to the hopes and expectations of the inhabitants of the Union. How can we achieve this? How can we broaden acceptance? Well, by better explaining what we are doing and by delivering.
The EU has already delivered peace inside the Union – but that is not unleashing passions any more - peace is taken for granted. However people want peace outside the EU too, in the Balkans in the first instance, and they want the EU to contribute towards preventing the outbreak of new crisis. This is what we are trying to achieve by developing a common foreign, security and defence policy.
The EU has unfortunately been bad at delivering in certain areas, which are of utmost concern to our citizens: we have yet to find an appropriate and credible answer to the plague of unemployment and social exclusion – a terrible waste of human talent and energy. It is no wonder that those people who live in social misery have become disillusioned by traditional politics and are tempted to vote for parties at the extreme-right or extreme-left of the political scene. With the process launched during the Luxembourg Employment Summit in November 1997 and the successful recent Lisbon Summit, things are moving into the right direction. However, as the implementation of measures agreed is carried out at the level of the member states with mainly national means, "Brussels" is often unrightfully blamed.
We not only need a prosperous and social Europe, a Europe that stands as an answer to globalisation, but we also need a secure Europe. In this context, the Tampere European Council of October 1999 has been a landmark. Again, means and competence rest mainly in the hands of national governments.
Finally, Europe is a matter of the heart and we have to ask ourselves how we can foster a sort of "Europeaness" in our era when citizens are afraid that globalisation and an enlarged European family will make them loose their identity. Here, confusing debates about federalism are not very helpful. In addition we have a technical Intergovernmental Conference which is neither mobilising nor inspiring. We are working on a Charter of fundamental rights but we are agreeing neither on the content nor on the status. On top of that, a common currency has been created, but people cannot yet feel that money in their hands and it is said to be a weak currency… All this does not seem to be very credible. No wonder people get confused and consider it safer to stick to their familiar local, regional and national patterns.
The creation of the Euro was a decisive step towards a more integrated Union and a landmark towards a political union. I have said a few years ago that the common European currency, the Euro, the example for deepening, is peace policy with different means. But the project of EMU is not yet finished up and I do not mean here the introduction of tangible coins and paper money.
No, first of all, the Eurozone has to grow. Greece will join next year and I hope that we will soon be able to welcome Sweden. I am aware that is going to be a decisive choice for your country.
Apart from enlarging the area, we have to improve the management of the common currency. Indeed, for the time being, the European Central Bank is the sole master on board. It absolutely needs a strong political counterpart. I know that the expression "economic government" is not to the taste of everybody but a common currency and a unique monetary policy have to be accompanied by a coherent economic policy of the Euro-countries. So, the EURO11 has to co-operate closely on wage and tax policies for example, and speak with just one voice to the outside. And do not forget that monetary policy cannot achieve what structural policy has neglected: governmental action is needed here.
What about the so-called weakness of the EURO? Well, it is true that the external value of the EURO is low. But this does not prevent the EURO from being an internally strong currency. Economic fundamentals are sound: growth, job creation, low inflation, low budget deficits and decreasing public debt. Without the EURO we would have had monetary disorder when the Kosovo war broke out and when oil prices rose. This is generally overlooked!
So we should take the outside value of the EURO seriously but not artificially dramatise the situation. The EURO is not at a crossroads. It is a young but trustworthy currency with a huge potential and a bright future. No change of direction is needed here.
I am somewhat cautious when taking the floor on defence issues, because demography and military might are not on my side. Furthermore, Sweden is a country with a long and outstanding military tradition, a feature which Luxembourg has never had.
Let me just say that what the EU is currently doing in the field of security and defence is long overdue. We should be quite ashamed that it took the dramatic events in Kosovo – after we already witnessed the same in Bosnia – to pull ourselves together and take decisive steps towards a common security and defence policy. Because it is a question of political will, more than anything else.
In the course of the last year the Union has made decisive progress in the way it formulates and implements its foreign policy. At the European Council of Cologne in June 1999, Heads of State and Government decided that the Union should play its due role in international relations and give itself the means and capacities necessary to assume these responsibilities. Apart from the speed of the work over the last twelve months, it is quite remarkable that decisions have been taken with the support of all fifteen member states, whether they are members of NATO and WEU or not.
In Helsinki in December last year, the Union decided to give itself all the structures needed to carry out the whole range of activities of conflict prevention and crisis management called the Petersberg tasks. These politico-military structures are operating since March of this year. In parallel, a process has been put into place to elaborate the “headline goal”, which consists in the setting up of a rapid military intervention force able to function autonomously or in co-operation with other countries. Procedures have been elaborated to enable the participation of third countries in operations of crisis management and the principles and modalities of the future relations between EU and NATO are being identified too.
In parallel, we are working on the non-military aspects of crisis management. The forthcoming European Council in Feira will set up a Committee for civil crisis-management, which will develop and manage the Union’s capacities in that field and co-ordinate with other relevant international organisations, such as the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe.
Another dimension of crisis management is conflict prevention. This aspect has so far been neglected. The international community seems to prefer waiting for conflicts to break out before intervening. The European Council in Nice in December this year will define the guidelines in this field and it will be up to the Swedish Presidency to do the follow-up. I know that you have made some significant contribution in that matter.
So progress since Cologne has really been considerable. Certainly, we still are far away from a common defence and a European army. But when the ongoing processes will have come to an end, the Union will have at its disposal the whole range of instruments necessary to carry out an active and credible foreign policy. It will only need the political courage to use the instruments – which is, I have to acknowledge, not the least important aspect of the matter.
Before discussing the different elements on the agenda of the IGC, let me emphasise the unique feature of the common European venture - that is the harmonious living together of small and large entities. This feature will become even more important after successive enlargements. With the institutional build-up as we know it today, we have brought the European continent to peace. My point is: let us be careful before reinventing the construction completely and dismantling the fundamentals.
I mention this because I often hear representatives of larger member states talk about a risk of domination of the small states. The IGC must not be used as a means to crush the smaller states. Democracy and demography are not the same. Democratic legitimacy is not the same as demographic legitimacy. The EU is not a mathematical construction. It is a Union of sovereign states before being a Union of peoples.
Let us apply common sense – although I am aware that this can be difficult as common sense is unevenly spread by nature. Large member states should also recall that a flea can drive a lion nuts, but that there has never ever been a lion able of harming a flea in the same way...
Anyway, there is no such thing as a ‘small nation’ - there are small countries, yes, but only big nations. So, no arbitrary polemics please, and no IGC as a playground for a boxing fight between big and small. If we focus on this artificial debate, we will not be able to address the true institutional challenges that enlargement will bring about.
But let me turn to the so-called three left-overs of Amsterdam. These are in fact no "left-overs" at all, but extremely delicate and complicated issues.
First of all, the size of the Commission. You know that the Commission is the most original institution of the European Union. It is the guardian of the treaties, the protector of the general interest and has in first pillar areas the sole right of initiative.
Many academic studies have come to the conclusion that in the interest of efficiency the college of commissioners should not exceed a certain number and that thus not every state should be allowed to nominate a commissioner.
Well, I am looking at the question of the number of commissioners from a political point of view. And I can tell you that every national sensibility has to be reflected in the college of Commissioners. I stress the word 'reflected' - I did not say 'represented'.
I have just said above that the Commission has the exclusive right of initiative. That is why it is very important that at least one member of the college knows how a particular draft directive will affect a certain country. Who else than the Swedish Commissioner would be able to foresee the impact of a community measure on Sweden?
With votes taken by simple majority and reinforced powers for the President of the Commission I do not see why a large college of commissioners will create problems of efficiency. And, is it not contradictory that on the one hand we are entrusting the Commission with more and more tasks, and that on the other hand it is being said that there is not enough work for 27 Commissioners?
Let us finally not forget that it is unimaginable that candidate countries would quietly acquiesce to not having a Commissioner in Brussels. After all, these governments will have to sell the accession treaty to their national parliaments and to their people who made painful sacrifices before being able to join the EU.
The issue of the re-weighting of votes in the Council, the second left-over of Amsterdam, is overstated too. It is absolutely clear that in compensation for the loss of the second Commissioner, large member states are entitled to an increase in their relative weight in the Council. This has already been decided in Amsterdam.
Since almost all the newcomers are small and medium-sized countries, it is perfectly understandable that big states want to see their weight somewhat increased.
But demography cannot be the exclusive criteria for voting. Do not forget the principle of equal dignity of states: the essence of any federally organised system is that smaller entities are over-represented.
By the way, I have been attending Council meetings since 1982, be it as Minister for Employment, Minister of Budget, Minister of Finance. Never ever has there been a voting configuration where the large member states were outvoted by the wild pack of dwarfs.
This is pure theory – this is fiction. It has never occurred that the large member states wanted to make Europe progress and were hindered by the reluctant smaller members. If only big countries had always been able to agree among themselves! Then Europe would have been farther and better-off for a long time.
Drawing conclusions from my experience of the Amsterdam Treaty negotiations, I am in favour of the introduction of dual simple majority, meaning the following: each member state has one vote and you need a majority of votes for a decision to be adopted. In addition, it would be checked whether this majority of states also represents a majority of the population.
Equality of states would thus be balanced by a demographic safety net. This system would also enable us to avoid another clash between Belgium and the Netherlands, address the concern of France with Germany and hopefully meet Spanish requests too.
So, again, let us not over-dramatise this weighting issue. You very well know that all animals are equal but that some are more equal than others. Large European states have always preserved their special influence, due to their size, their resources, their history, their experience. Nothing will change that and nobody is anyway trying to. We have equality in dignity, but not equality as such: the voice of the French President in the European Council counts more than my own. He knows it - I know it and accept it - and there is no need to formalise this in the treaty.
I think you know that very often when a large member state has a problem with a European directive to be adopted by qualified majority in the Council, the issue is not put to vote precisely because it is a large state’s problem. The same can’t be said if a small state is in the same situation. That is the reality of things.
The third left-over of Amsterdam concerns the passage from unanimity to qualified majority voting. European-minded as I am, I consider that qualified majority voting should be the rule and that only a small number of Treaty articles should be submitted to unanimity.
We should be ambitious here and brave, but not foolhardy or blinded by a quasi-religious ideology. We have to be aware what the introduction of qualified majority means in terms of national parliamentary sovereignty.
Unanimity guarantees that the point of view of each member state is heard. With qualified majority you can stop the debate once you have gathered a sufficient number of votes – I know what I am talking about because I have done this a great number of times when chairing the EU Council. I do not have to explain here in Sweden that democracy is about debating and then voting, and not about voting without any debate.
For the unconditional defenders of qualified majority in all fields, I have a question: are they willing to do away with the so-called Luxembourg compromise, this very ‘un-european thing’? You remember that the Luxembourg compromise dates back to 1965/66 when France boycotted the EU's institutions after a deadlock in negotiations on agriculture. The Luxembourg compromise was a way out of this deadlock and represents today in fact a right of veto for reasons of 'vital national interest' in areas where qualified majority applies.
To my mind it is more appropriate to keep a veto possibility inside the treaty – by sticking to unanimity - rather than have it outside and available for the big member states only. Because the smaller states are not supposed to make use of the Luxembourg compromise.
Apart from the left-overs of Amsterdam, there are some more important issues which the IGC should address:
As far as the European Parliament is concerned the IGC should deal with the question of the number of parliamentarians after successive enlargements. You know that in Amsterdam the upper limit was fixed to 700 MEPs and this ceiling should not be touched. In my view the reallocation of seats should be done by linear regression - with a lower limit of course.
I very often hear that in order to respond to the so-called democratic deficit the powers of the European Parliament should be further increased. I say 'so-called', because in my view there is no such democratic deficit.
The European Parliament is not the only legitimate representative of the people's of Europe. National parliaments and national governments have their place in the decision-making process, they have a decisive role to play. In order to broaden acceptance of Europe, I guess that we have to rethink in particular the role of national parliaments.
And I would like to insist on another aspect, the institutional equilibrium: the success of European integration is due to an institutional set-up which is “sui generis” and which guarantees a subtle equilibrium between institutions and first and foremost the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. In this institutional triangle, the Commission has always played a central role of impulse, proposal and monitoring. This equilibrium has been modified over the last years mainly to the expense of the Commission and to the benefit of the European Parliament.
Indeed, the “méthode communautaire” which foresees a key role for the Commission is not applied in the new areas of the Union such as Common Foreign and Security Policy or Justice and Home Affairs. Furthermore the constant rise of power of the European Parliament since its first direct election in 1979 is gradually reducing the leeway of the Commission in first pillar areas.
Parliament has become eager to use the vote of censure as a threat against the Commission. Designed originally as a form of impeachment to sanction bad management on the part of the Commission, the vote of censure has turned into a pressure instrument to make the Commission rally the positions of Parliament. So how can we restore checks and balances into the system and prevent the Commission from becoming a mere executive secretariat of the European Parliament?
Well, we could insert into the treaty a provision stipulating that when Parliament is taking a vote of censure against the Commission it is being dissolved automatically and new elections are being organised within a certain period of time. We would thus bring the European system closer to national constitutional realities.
What I am fervently against is individual responsibility of Commissioners before the Parliament. Suppose we would have introduced dissolution of Parliament after a vote of censure – then Parliament would resort to firing Commissioners one after the other without any risk of dissolution. Furthermore, individual responsibility is not protecting Commissioners against wrong allegations - just recall that the accusations against former Commissioner Marin proved to be wrong. So, I prefer to give the President of the Commission the power to fire a Commissioner. In addition, if Parliament is convinced that a Commissioner has been behaving illegally, it should receive the right to put the case before the European Court of Justice. An independent and objective investigation would be conducted and Parliament would have to prove its accusations.
Now do not get the impression that I am an opponent of the Parliament. On the contrary, I am very often in Brussels and Strasbourg to discuss with parliamentarians a variety of issues and most of them are doing an excellent job. But institutionally speaking, some things have simply to be readjusted.
Let me turn to one of my favourite subjects, which is closer co-operation, "coopération renforcée" in French. It is somewhat funny to observe that when the Benelux countries asked for the issue to be put on the agenda of the IGC in their joint memorandum of December 1999, there were not many supporters. And now, quite a few – including France and Germany - suddenly claim the paternity of the idea of reopening the Amsterdam provisions on closer co-operation.
In my view, closer co-operation is THE answer to the consequences of enlargement. I clearly see the risk of Europe being watered down by successive enlargements. But a looser Europe is not what we need. A free trade area is too simplistic a concept to apply to a complicated continent. And, do not expect that the story will be over with the current 13 candidates. What about Ukraine, Moldova and the Balkans – there can be no peace one day in this region of the world as long as they do not have got a perspective to join in one way or the other our community of stability and prosperity. Serbia too, belongs to the European family. What about the Caucasus? And I heard President Clinton advocate in Aachen last week that the EU should not close the door to the Russian Federation! One day the EU will seriously have to address the question of its geographic boundaries and of the eligibility of certain countries.
We have given ourselves very precise criteria - the famous Copenhagen criteria - to check whether a country is ready for entry or not. I have argued earlier on that we have to find the courage to stick fast to these objective criteria. Being a politician, I know that things could work out differently. I still believe that what we have decided in Helsinki on enlargement was the only viable political alternative, especially after the Kosovo crisis. But sometimes I wonder whether we have not engaged into a ‘fuite en avant’. For how long will we politicians be able to resist to the clamour of candidates for a quicker entry? Will we not sooner or later consider that the corollaries of frustration and disillusion of candidates bear greater risk than allowing them in a little bit earlier and granting them long transition periods and some temporary exemptions? I must admit that I do not know how we could possibly explain this to our public opinion, but that is yet another issue.
We must not plant the seeds of future disruption and let the EU die from asphyxia. We will have to resort to closer co-operation. You should thus see the flexibility clause as a sort of safety net. It safeguards the EU from a situation where some European member states are unable to progress further up the road of integration, because others are unable or unwilling to follow. Closer co-operation is an instrument to manage diversity and to reconcile enlargement with deepening of the Union.
It is certainly not a diabolic device to keep some countries away from this “hard core” – an expression which I do not like anyway. It is not going to be a Europe à la carte either. There would be no opt-outs – only opt-ins. Economic and Monetary Union is a good example for openness: Greece is by now fulfilling the criteria for membership – it is willing and able to join the Eleven – and it will do so next year.
I agree that we have to be cautious not to kill the patient with the medicine. We must preserve our community and its values, among which first and foremost solidarity. The Amsterdam Treaty already clearly states the conditions for closer co-operation.
The Benelux countries suggest to 1. fix to eight the number of member states needed to enter into closer co-operation; 2. abolish the possibility for a member state to veto a closer co-operation and 3. introduce closer co-operation into the second pillar.
In the first pillar the use of closer co-operation must be strictly framed. There are certainly areas where the new member states will be unable to quickly catch up with the current acquis communautaire, and even less so with a more advanced acquis. On the other hand, we have in our countries pressure groups who want the EU to go ahead in the field of environment, food safety regulations and so on. Here there is scope for closer co-operation. Then there is huge potential in developing the economic dimension of EMU. And we could resort to closer co-operation in order to implement decisions of foreign policy, including defence aspects.
I do not want to see closer co-operations popping up all over the place. A split of the Union into a variety of closer co-operations will end up in a “non-Europe”. In my view a natural avant-garde will one day be born from the application of closer co-operation. It is neither helpful nor necessary to enter into the debate about whether the six founding members should constitute this avant-garde or the EURO11. We will notice that more or less always the same states participate in closer co-operation and we can then draw the logical conclusion and create - for a certain time - a union within the Union. This advanced Union will have its doors open at any time – it will not be a programme against certain countries but a programme for more Europe. And, very importantly, it would be a result and not an aim. An advanced Union would thus be a process and at the same time a tool for progress.
Will that be a federation – Fischer-style? Well, states and nations are no temporary phenomena of history. They have settled down on our continent for good. In the Europe of tomorrow, just as in the Europe of today, national and regional identities are going to be preserved. The abundance and variety of cultures, languages and traditions are universal assets and the source of new impulses and inspirations.
Even if they are to choose a European President one day, Swedes want to keep their King or their Queen and Luxembourgers want to keep their Grand-Duke. People hold on to their national flags and anthems and this is the way it should be. We must not take away symbols and points of identification from citizens.
For the time being, a treaty of the sort Mr. Fischer has suggested would get no consensus. I do not think anyway that we will come one day to the “United States of Europe”. I believe that we will have a federal structure where member states will preserve a wide range of powers. There will be no European super-state. “Brussels” would be responsible for monetary and economic policy, defence and foreign policy and internal security. Competence would be more clearly separated between the centre and the national states than it is now. The European House will be more transparent and easier to understand for citizens than today. But we do not have to take this decision right now. That crossroads has not yet been reached.
Just one word about the Charter of fundamental rights. I am not very happy with the orientation the work on the Charter is taking. We should limit our ambition to a political declaration in Nice. In the longer run, we can discuss the issue of whether or not it should be integrated into the treaty – maybe when Europe is ready to give itself a genuine Constitution. But this is not where we are right now.
The European project is still on the road that the founding fathers of Europe have designed – we have to stay on that road and refrain from deviating to the left or to the right. The train which left in 1951 with the European Community for Coal and Steel has grown longer – the number of carriages has increased. To avoid slowing-down of the train, a stronger engine and a locomotive of a new generation is needed. When we come to that, I will no longer be an active politician.