Europe’s ‘variable geometry’

The political paradox of European unification is that while the majority of citizens support it, they are not emotional about it, and thus the percentage of their participation in the European elections is always disappointing. Perhaps this is because the endeavor is very much a matter for the elite. To a certain extent, this is unavoidable. Apart from that, political parties are remiss in bringing EU issues to the forefront of public discussion in every member state. Only when the EU takes significant steps in the direction of its own political emancipation will public opinion be significantly aroused. The history of the EU is one of antitheses and syntheses, of crises and overcoming them. But the Europe of 25 will face additional problems, as it will take time for the new member states to adjust and for their national egos to function creatively in the EU context. That was apparent from the blatant fashion in which the Eastern European states lined up behind the US on the issue of Iraq. In reality, the latest enlargement was decided on the basis of adopting the rationale of «variable geometry,» or multiple speeds. It is not by chance that the accession negotiations of the 10 new members were completed in record time, given that the accession negotiations of Spain or Portugal, which were far more mature states by comparison, lasted a decade. It is time, however, to clarify the depths of the unification process and the limits to future enlargement. On the former issue, steps will follow the lowest common denominator. They will be limited and often unstable. As for the second, however, the answer will come in December, when the European Council decides on whether accession negotiations with Turkey are to begin.