OPINION

Rescuing the EU project

After the debacle over the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands, European integration appears to have hit the skids. The massive rejections of the proposed treaty have dealt a severe blow to plans for an ever closer union and brought smiles to those who want to see the project slip backward into a purely free market zone. In fact, it makes one wonder whether the French and the Dutch voters, and the critics of the constitutional treaty in general, fully grasped the consequences of their decision. The real dilemma was: «Do you want a single, independent and strong Europe, or would you rather yield to the whims of the superpower?» Few Europeans would be likely to go for the second option. After all, the vision of a united Europe was born of the need for economic and, later, political independence for a continent that had been devastated by two world wars, by a continent that was split between two rival superpowers. This juncture bred a sense of European patriotism that helped soothe deep-rooted national antagonisms and paved the road to unification. For that reason many saw the French «no» vote as a bolt from the historical blue. In fact, the referendum tilted the enterprise into a forgotten minefield. And the euro-skeptics have now returned as euro-saboteurs. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has captured center stage with an ambition to dictate the future course of the union. The eastern newcomers, still suffering from the syndrome of Soviet «protection,» have also fallen behind Britain, which has won them Washington’s favor even if that is offered in the least attractive form – the malevolent hegemony of the Bush administration. European politicians must tackle the crisis and prevent the European train from derailing.