What kind of Europe?

Although elections for the European Parliament are just nine days away, Greece has yet to initiate a debate on the big issues facing the EU. A discussion of these is urgently needed as the integration process appears to have become bogged down by national priorities. Moreover, efforts at greater political and security independence from America have been stymied because of opposition from the US (and its footholds in the bloc) as well as European hesitation. Americans have never been that enamored of European unification, seeing it as a potential threat to their hegemonic status. In fact, a Union reduced to intergovernmental cooperation or even to single market status would be more to their liking. Britain shares the American views, hence its lingering ambivalence. France and Germany don’t – yet they remain split on other issues. Paris has traditionally backed the nation-state system and remains cautious about the vision of a federal Europe. At the same time, France has spearheaded the campaign for greater political and security independence. The Germans, for their part, seem to favor the federal model but are still under the influence of the previous generation of political leaders who wanted a strong economic role for their country while accepting US hegemony in the political and defense areas. No doubt the EU’s political leverage does not match its size. Notwithstanding Europe’s bitter past, its accumulated historical experience is a solid foundation for a sluggish yet steady integration process. Despite their disagreements, member states have molded a common identity and a common perspective that ensures stability in troubled waters. Increasing integration can only be achieved on the basis of consensus. That means slow steps and painstaking contacts. But it could also open the door to a multispeed Europe.