Which Europe do you want? A map of visions

Paul Hilder
19 March 2003

Which Europe Do You Want?

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Superpower Europe

This is the idea of Europe becoming a new superpower in the world, or a counterweight to the US. It involves the EU taking on new responsibilities for foreign and defence policies.

Michel Barnier, European Commissioner: “Europe is a point of balance… between different regions of the world. We cannot leave all these big countries and continents such as Russia, China, India and Africa in a bilateral tête-à-tête with the US – we need a pluralist, multipolar dialogue… I do not reproach the US for their power or their force: I do reproach the Europeans for their weakness.

“I am not a partisan of the idea that Europe has to choose its policy and destiny in relation to the US. It must do it according to its own identity, its own interests and its place on the geographical map… Because of our history and our geography, it seems to me we can facilitate the chances of peace and stability in the world. But to do that, we have to have a willingness to play this role and be organised for it…

“If the US sometimes see themselves as the only superpower, it is for the EU to demonstrate that it is not exactly like that, and that there is another power in the world – an economic, commercial, monetary, political power – that expects to play its part… We cannot become a political power without a real common defence and without a coherent external policy.” Read more>

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Network Europe

Network Europe is partly a description of how Europe works at the moment and partly a vision of how it should develop. It is a complex, multifaceted idea of a unique political construction, difficult for some to engage with.

Manuel Castells, theorist: “The European Union is essentially organized as a network that involves the pooling and sharing of sovereignty, rather than the transfer of sovereignty to a higher level. Together, its institutions epitomize the network state…

“The EU does not supplant the existing nation-states. On the contrary, it is a fundamental instrument for their survival… a complex and changing geometry of European institutions that combines the control of decision-making by national governments (the European Council, its rotating presidency, and regular meetings of the Council of Ministers); the management of common European business by a euro-technocracy, directed by the politically appointed European Commission; and the symbolic expressions of legitimacy in the European Parliament, the Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors.

“The relentless negotiations within this set of institutions, and between the national actors pursuing their strategies, may look cumbersome and inefficient. Yet it is precisely this indeterminacy and this complexity that make it possible to accommodate in the EU various interests and changing policies…” Read more>

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The Real EU

This is an idea of pragmatic and incremental development, which takes pieces from many other visions (federalism, Network Europe, Law’s Europe) and stitches them together into a structure which might have practical benefit but be acceptable to the many different member states and political positions. It has many incarnations. “The real EU” is typically the second-favourite guiding ideal of European players. (Most prefer one of the others.)

Ricardo Perissich, Telecom Italia: “To build the Real Europe, we still need a clearer definition of the borderlines between what is European and what is national, for their leaner and more effective management. European legislation, for example, is well renowned for being both barely comprehensible and excessively bound up in red tape…

“The solution is very simple: replace the directives with directly applicable regulations. Of course, this requires acceptance by national parliaments of a strong measure of centralisation. It therefore presupposes a clearer definition of roles. Approached in these terms, ‘European Economic Government’ is no more than the organisation into a coherent programme of the many and varied tools which the Union already has at its disposal… Europe will probably have to resign itself to long-term cohabitation with an institutional system based on the co-existence of strong supra-national vs. inter-governmental elements.” Read more>

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Managing Globalisation

According to this vision, the European Union needs to be, not an uncritical advocate of uncontrolled globalisation, but a democratic manager of supranational forces for the good of all.

Erkki Tuomioja, Finnish foreign minister: “We live in a world where global market forces (even more threatening because of their anonymity) undermine or dilute the instruments we have historically employed to steer our economies and redistribute wealth. Globalisation thus poses a demand to develop strong new democratic policies and institutions for international and global governance.

“It would be nice to be able to say that we have already established the institutions for this. Unfortunately, many people see organisations such as the European Union and the World Trade Organisation as being the problem, rather than the solution…

“Voters… are surely right to insist, quietly but in huge numbers, that the EU must address the evident powers and importance of global change, from international corporations to the regulation of trade, finance and communications. This, after all, is in large part what it is about. By all means let us have a discussion on the nature of the European constitution… But it will be a hollow debate unless it tells us how this constitution will help Europeans confront globalisation and make corporations, NGOs, and other international bodies more accountable.” Read more>

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Sustainable Europe

This vision proposes that sustainability and the “green agenda”, both at home and in the world, should be the new mission, replacing the vision of a continent at peace that inspired Europe after the Second World War.

Ian Christie & Rebecca Willis, analysts: “The Union needs a vision that is about ends and not only means – an idea of the European good life and the kind of world in which European well-being and that of others can be sustained. It should start with the one policy area that really does command consensus and inspire European citizens – the environment.

“A politics of quality of life has the potential to re-connect the policy-making elite to Europe’s citizens, by moving away from the technocratic ethos which gave us the disenchantment surrounding the Maastricht treaty. Crucially, sustainable development also provides a cause and programme for Europe on the world stage, providing a constructive counterpoint to the unbalanced ‘free trade’ orthodoxy of the USA and promoting multi-lateral cooperation (as with the Kyoto accords on climate change).” Read more>

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Competitive Europe

This is a vision of an economically competitive Europe, with open markets leading to widespread prosperity – but it is usually advocated only as part of a European framework of social market regulation.

Peter Sutherland, ex-Commissioner & chairman of BP: “In Europe we have a much greater belief in a social system. In general we have higher taxation as a percentage of GDP – it is a different model to that of the United States. And we have regulatory mechanisms that avoid the abuse of dominant positions, such as our Competition Directorate, currently run by the very active and efficient Mario Monti.

“All of this fits in with the model I would espouse. It has elements of the liberal economic agenda, more competition and the opening up of economies to create efficiency and innovation, and yet it adds political mechanisms which ensure that the system is not abused, and that its product is distributed effectively and efficiently… I personally would like a direct community tax system in the EU to support the institutions and those who are deprived.” Read more>

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Social Europe

There are many different versions of this vision of social Europe based on solidarity. They range from Peter Sutherland’s idea of tamed competitiveness (above) to Pierre Bourdieu’s radicalism.

Pierre Bourdieu, sociologist: “Some of the instruments for the politics which is needed are to be found at the European level (at least to the extent that European institutions and businesses can have a causal effect on the dominant forces of the world stage). It follows that the construction of a unified Social Europe, capable of bringing together the different forces in all their divisions, as much in the national arenas as in the international, is the priority of all those who wish to resist effectively the dominant forces of our time…

“Solidarity is the tacit moving force behind the greater part of their activities... In addition to the development and coordination of new social movements and the willingness to work at a European level, it is also important to renew the more traditional area of trade unions.” Read more>

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Café Europe

Timberlake Wertenbaker, playwright: “Cafés mark European differences: a French café is different from a Bulgarian one – for me it’s the inimitable smell of a café crême in one and the darkness of the chocolate cakes in the other – but the similarities are stronger: people are sitting around talking, watching, or just reading a paper; it’s part of city life, the give and take of a world at ease with itself, and which wants to communicate with itself…

“Of course cafés can be irritating: you get jostled, bumped, so many different conversations and languages can give you a headache, your bag might get stolen, and sometimes you can’t find a table because there are too many people. But isn’t that better than looking down from the battlements in fear and solitude? I don’t want to be imprisoned in the silence of Fortress Europe. Let me walk out into the pavements and sit somewhere, maybe to talk about history, maybe just to watch a city teeming with stories, interest, languages and cultures. Let’s not build high, expensive and hostile towers, let’s put up instead with the noise, the life, the annoyance, the openness and the music of our Café Europe.” Read more>

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Safe Fortress Europe

“Fortress Europe” is used often in the negative. But for many Europeans a safe haven against the chaotic world, keeping out migrants, terrorists, cheap imports or insecurities, is greatly to be desired. French farmer-activist José Bové advocates “food security”, one version of this vision of a protected Europe.

Timberlake Wertenbaker, playwright: “When I hear the expression Fortress Europe, I shiver. We build fortresses against enemy invaders, fortresses are besieged and people die of starvation and disease, fortresses are stormed, people put to the sword, the women raped. All the gruesome illustrations of my childhood history books come hurtling back in my imagination. Why are we suggesting we build such a place, this Fortress Europe? What hordes of barbarians are galloping towards us? …

“Fortress Europe means of course, fortress western Europe. Many of the asylum seekers are Europeans themselves, but not part of the EU. Fortress Europe, a besieged castle of pure western Europeans protected by Brussels. Obviously this is a definition of Europe that appeals to some.” Read more>

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Europe of Nation-States

Many critics of the process of “ever-closer Union” rally around the idea of the nation-state as the only guarantee of democratic governance, and propose that powers should be repatriated to member states’ governments or parliaments.

Jens-Peter Bonde, MEP: “Where you can govern efficiently from the national parliament, why then leave the decision to a higher level? You can coordinate and cooperate and do a lot of other good things together internationally. But as much legislation as possible should rest with the democracies, with the voters…

“We say, the catalogue of laws has to be decided by the national parliaments. The national parliaments decide where they can’t legislate efficiently on their own; where we need proper legislation for cross-border areas. And they should invite the commission to propose that legislation.” Read more>

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European Democracy

Visions of European Democracy involve a radical democratisation of European governance, opening up Brussels decision-making to democratic participation, deliberation, election or referendum, and connecting it better either directly to the people or indirectly via representatives.

Kirsty Hughes, ex-senior Commission official: “In Brussels, the patronising view is often heard that if only the public understood the EU better, they would support the EU and its institutions much more. The opposite may well be true; if the public had a better view of its inter- and intra-institutional wrangles and machinations, they might well be seriously appalled.

“The hope for a bolder stance on democratic change lies with the Convention members – not with its chairman, nor with the member states. They are in a position to propose substantive democratisation of the Commission, full opening of the Council in legislative mode, greater involvement of national parliaments and more participative democracy.

“But even if the Convention does move in this direction, there remains a risk that it will focus on a small range of institutional reforms and not on genuine participation… The institutions need to recognise that strategies to promote communication and debate are a central part of their role. And this means two-way debate, which will include criticism and disagreement, not simply one-way public relations strategy and political spin… Combined with a genuinely clear, sharp new EU constitution, this could represent a huge leap forward in building a real European political and public space.”Read more>

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Constitution Europe

In 2003, the Convention on the Future of Europe in Brussels will submit a draft European Constitution providing the institutional foundation of the future Europe. Here is an excerpt from this ambitious vision, which includes parts of many of the visions mapped here, but also has much in common with the pragmatic, incremental “Real Europe” trajectory.

Will Europe acquire powers to enforce these grand objectives? Will this Constitution be adopted by member states and approved by their people at referenda? Are there alternatives? The debate continues.

European Constitution draft: “Reflecting the will of the peoples and the States of Europe to build a common future, this Constitution establishes a Union [entitled …], within which the policies of the Member States shall be coordinated, and which shall administer certain common competences on a federal basis.

“The Union shall respect the national identities of its Member States. The Union shall be open to all European States whose peoples share the same values, respect them and are committed to promoting them together.

“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, values which are common to the Member States. Its aim is a society at peace, through the practice of tolerance, justice and solidarity.

“The Union's aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples. The Union shall work for a Europe of sustainable development based on balanced economic growth and social justice, with a free single market, and economic and monetary union, aiming at full employment and generating high levels of competitiveness and living standards. It shall promote economic and social cohesion, equality between women and men, and environmental and social protection, and shall develop scientific and technological advance including the discovery of space. It shall encourage solidarity between generations and between States, and equal opportunities for all.

“The Union shall constitute an area of freedom, security and justice, in which its shared values are developed and the richness of its cultural diversity is respected.

“In defending Europe's independence and interests, the Union shall seek to advance its values in the wider world. It shall contribute to the sustainable development of the earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, eradication of poverty and protection of children's rights, strict observance of internationally accepted legal commitments, and peace between States.

“The Charter of Fundamental Rights shall be an integral part of the Constitution… The Constitution, and law adopted by the Union Institutions in exercising competences conferred on it by the Constitution, shall have primacy over the law of the Member States…

“The Union shall have competence to coordinate the economic policies of the Member States. The Union shall have competence to define and implement a common foreign and security policy, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy.” Read more>

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Simple Europe

Simple Europe is a vision of Europe doing less better – in this case, focusing on setting simple, generally applicable rules which everyone can agree on, but which provide scope for experimentation and diversity.

Frank Vibert, analyst: “Simplicity means that the EU and its structures would focus on the type of government activity where the EU can add value to people’s lives. This is generally in the rule-making or regulatory area. More specifically it arises in those cases where rules are needed which reach across the entire union, making it easier for people to do what they want to do in social and geographical settings which are distant and unfamiliar…

“The advantage of a European Union for communication is that it can facilitate extensive exchanges of views across the Union. In particular, it is entirely appropriate for the communication of rules with ‘reach’, that is rules with sufficient content to be useful everywhere: for example, in the identification of minimum standards.

“We should, however, think much more carefully than the current EU does about where exactly we need rules with ‘reach’ and accept that there are many areas of public policy where differences are instructive and desirable.” Read more>

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Europe of Regions

Many in Catalonia, Scotland, the Basque Country or Corsica dream of a Europe of Regions, where the nation-state in between regions and Europe starts to wither away. At present, political regionalism is near-invisible in Europe, represented in the Council of Regions talking-shop. The Europe of Regions can be seen most clearly in terms of money, in the European regional development programmes.

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Federal Europe

Federal Europe transposes the national vision of federalism, which has developed in countries like Germany, Switzerland and the USA, to the supranational level. Federalism is a word much battled-over in Europe. It means the distribution of power between a central authority and constituent units.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines federalism a little narrowly, as “that form of government in which two or more states constitute a political unity while remaining more or less independent with regard to their internal affairs”. For many critics, the idea of a federal Europe constitutes a European superstate; they see its democratic heritage as irrelevant. Other critics see federalism as an outmoded solution to a national, not supranational, set of problems. According to its advocates, the European Union already wields central authority without the democracy federalism could bring (see Executive Europe).

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Europe’s Law, Law’s Europe

European Community law in principle takes priority over national law, and the latter must be brought into accordance with the former. This vision of Europe sees European legislation and the European Courts of Justice and Human Rights as providing a supranational source of legal principles and judgments which can constrain and overturn national injustices. National legislators don’t always agree.

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Executive Europe

This vision of technocratic power wielded by the governments and the Commission is an extension of the present “real Europe” trajectory, without democratic additions.

Jens-Peter Bonde, MEP: “I think the compromise in the end will be that Justice & Home Affairs will be supranational, run from the Commission in Brussels by Jose Maria Aznar, who will be the European Prime Minister – he is very keen on the police. Foreign policy and defence will never be supranational, they will be directed by the three or four big states. Blair will be the first President, and Joschka Fischer will be the first Foreign Minister… As in France, you have a prime minister to run all the internal policies (who will be the President of the Commission), and then a Presidential function for international affairs, run by a directorate of the biggest states through the Council and its President.”

“This is not federalist, not democratic at all. This model puts the power in the hands of the executives: the governments of the member states and the European Commission… There are no voters in this system. It’s a corporate way of governing, strengthening the executive at the cost of the voters… It invites the big nations to push their interests through.” Read more>

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Multi-speed Europe

This vision is one of different groups moving at different speeds within Europe, and (given the co-existence of the EU, the Eurozone and the European Economic Area) is already partly coming true. The radical idea of a Franco-German federation has already been floated: this might take in other countries and form a federal core for Europe.

Mathias Koenig-Archibugi: “I come from a country, Italy, where citizens trust the European Commission more than their own national government, and they trust the European Parliament more than their own national parliament… Countries for which EU legitimacy is less of a problem should be able to increase their political integration within the EU framework, while more Euro-sceptic countries should be able to detach themselves from political union.” Read more>

Ian Christie & Rebecca Willis: “There is a growing realisation that what we need is not a rigid ‘Europe of rules’ approach to policy which stresses harmonisation and one-speed development… a huge amount of experimentation is needed right down to the lowest level, and a ‘Laboratory Europe’ or ‘multi-speed’ strategy could be the framework in which progress can be secured most effectively. This could point the way towards a more flexible model of integration that moves the EU away from the tired and unhelpful stand-off between traditional top-down integrationists and nationalist sceptics.” Read more>

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