December 2001

Three observations are prompted by the developments that have followed in the wake of the events of September 11th in the United States. The first concerns the growing fragility of America's hegemony and the increasingly clear fact that it is impossible for the United States to create and consolidate a new world order by adopting a unilateral approach. The world is too vast to be governed by a single country and the idea of the pax americana is a purely utopian one. The second regards the emerging prominence in the new world situation of countries like China and Russia, which have given the United States crucial assistance in this period, and are being rewarded with a considerable increase in their influence on the international equilibrium. The third concerns the lack of any autonomous and coherent policy on the part of the European Union.

Europe's incapacity to act and lack of vision seem all the more scandalous materialising, as they are, in a period of acute crisis and serious danger for Europeans, that is to say in a climate that should induce the governments of the Union to reflect deeply on their role in the world and on their responsibilities towards their own citizens. But there has been no such reflection. It is true that the behaviour of Great Britain has differed from that of its European partners. But the British involvement in recent events has certainly not been an endeavour to push the Union to play a role in limiting the consequences of the crisis and in hastening as far as possible its end. Instead, it has been characterised only by the rapidity with which the British government placed itself at the service of the American government. And while the British government aligned itself totally with the American position, the other European governments, formal declarations of solidarity apart, did so only in a hesitant, reticent and contradictory fashion.

This sorry lack of ideas and initiative is due to the absence of the political instruments needed to develop a real capacity to act. And yet the European Union could play a crucial role in the present international equilibrium. It has close commercial ties with many Arab countries and with Israel. Given its wealth, it could launch a major development programme in favour of the Arab world, and in more general terms, the Islamic world, making the same conditional on the progressive democratisation of their regimes and on the taking of real steps towards forms of regional unity and towards a just solution to the Palestinian problem. Its image, unlike that of the United States, which has been compromised by the decades of support given to the most reactionary governments of the Islamic area and by its exercising of a divide and rule policy, would allow it to create more effective diplomatic channels and to play a decisive role in efforts to achieve mediation and integration, at the same time increasing the power of intervention of the United Nations.

And yet Europe appears willing to sit on the sidelines and watch the international situation degenerate, taking dark and sinister turns, without seeking to exercise the slightest influence. We can quite legitimately ask why this is the case when other states that are wrestling with serious difficulties, like China and, above all, Russia, have taken on very significant roles as the crisis has unfolded. The answer to this question is that China and Russia are large continental states, whereas the European Union is a weak confederation in which the primary concern of the governments of the member states is not to promote European interests in the world, but rather to make sure that their own petty national interests prevail over those of their own partners, thereby jeopardising the very existence of the Union.

Once again, therefore, we are faced with the need to underline that Europe's problem is not one of developing slogans or devising institutional solutions that give the impression that the process of unification is continuing to advance while, at the same time, keeping the sovereignty of the states intact. The citizens of Europe are entitled not to have to endure yet more attempts to take them in with ambiguous and contradictory formulae, like that of the "federation of nation-states" or the radically false idea that Europe is about to equip itself with its own defence. The truth is that the problem whose overcoming could bring a solution to all these problems is that of the founding of a European federal state.

The word state, when used in reference to Europe, is still taboo, even though there are now some, in journalistic and cultural circles, who are beginning, timidly, to use it in political discourse. It is time to get rid of this taboo. After all, Europe's citizens are perfectly able to distinguish between what is and what is not a state. They know that only a state can guarantee security, intervene rapidly in moments of crisis, create the conditions needed for stable economic growth, conduct a foreign policy worthy of the name, and ensure the democratic participation of the citizens in the management of power. They know that today's European nation-states are impotent and historically superseded, and they also know that there is no European state.

Certainly, there are some European politicians who appreciate that the events of New York and Washington have turned the question of speeding up the process of European unification into an urgent problem. But the final objective of this process continues to be uncertain and the need to reach it is thus reduced to nothing more than a general awareness of the need to do something now. Unless the crucial problem of European sovereignty, that is to say the common European good, is tackled without delay, then this something will remain undefined and unable to prompt any decision that is more than just another delusion. If, once again, it is not tackled, then as soon as the current crisis has died down a little, Europe's governing class will quickly go back to the routine of national politics and Europe will continue its slide into political, economic, cultural and moral decay.

The founding of a European federal state is thus a problem that must be tackled now. It is unreasonable to expect the initiative to be taken by the United Kingdom or by the countries of Scandinavia, all of which want less Europe, not more, or by the countries of central and eastern Europe that are candidates for membership of the Union, countries that are interested in reaping the benefits that membership of the great European market will bring without renouncing their recently won sovereignty. Instead, the initiative must come from the governments of the two countries that have always been both the initiators of and the driving force behind the process: France and Germany. It is they that must promote the formation, with themselves at the heart, of a small core of states (Europe's six founder nations) and, in collaboration with these countries, develop a non-negotiable design for a federal union that would be established within the EU and open to all the other current and prospective members.

It would not be an easy solution. Indeed the prospect of it alone generates tension and resistance. But there is no other solution that will allow Europe to avoid its otherwise inevitable decline. It is important to remember that no great historical transformation has ever come about through a smooth and linear process. Europe is crying out for politicians who realise this and who are ready to take on the attendant responsibilities.

Publius

are ready to take on the attendant responsibilities.

Publius