The slow process of EU unification

European leaders appear to be realizing – albeit after some delay – that their policy of shallow enlargement threatens to transform the union into a flaccid and cumbersome entity as progress toward «deepening» the union has virtually come to a halt. And the anticipated EU accession of Bulgaria and Romania in January will only aggravate this problem. But European leaders agreed – and rightly so – that aborting the prescheduled course would damage the Union’s political credibility. Many commentators attribute the current crisis to the failure to ratify the European Constitution. In fact, however, what the majority of French and Dutch voters rejected last year was an ideologically one-sided compromise of 25 European governments. And the overwhelming majority of those who voted against the European Constitution were actually in favor of unification. Their stance was, rather, a gesture for domestic consumption as well as a rejection of the overwhelmingly liberal outlook and shallow enlargement outlined in the proposed treaty. The European Constitution itself is basically dead but there is no need for it to drag unification to the grave with it. The Union has no choice but to lay out the problems it has avoided facing until now and find viable solutions for them. It is time to clarify the limits of future enlargement, in terms of depth as well as size. The EU desperately needs a unifying political vision to exploit the fact that the bloc has already created the basis for a common identity, the sense of a shared outlook. Its framework comprises certain fundamental values, such as democracy, the welfare state, the protection of the environment and a culture of seeking to bridge differences within the Union, wherever these may arise. It is precisely this precious «acquis communautaire» which, despite occasional slip-ups, lends stability to Europe’s unifying initiative. And it is precisely this sense of the common denominator and stability which makes it possible for a pro-European to choose to reject the European Constitution.