Exaggerating for Effect?


“A few days before 25 European Presidents and Prime Ministers met in Brussels to try to ratify a constitution, former French President Val?ry Giscard d’Estaing had dire words of warning. Failure to approve the 265-page text, of which he had been the principal author, would be a disaster for the cause of a united Europe: ‘We would see the gradual falling apart of the European Union.'”

But there’s something to it as well:

“The collapse of the convention was in fact bracketed by two other major political events — events that show how much Europe stands to lose if it cannot strengthen its position in the geopolitical arena. Both events involve what the French call ‘the hyperpower,’ the U.S. Both deliver the same message: that the world isn’t waiting for Europe to buff up its internal political agenda. Giscard may be proved right after all.”

And some interesting notions:

“A Beijing-Washington axis, ‘if it can hold, will be the most hopeful chance for state peace this century,’ says Julian Lindley-French, a strategic affairs specialist at the Geneva Center for Security Policy. ‘And Europeans? They make noises about their new role in the world, but basically it’s clear they want to stay on their eternal merry-go-round.'”

I don’t accept the whole argument, but it’s worth thinking about why the argument doesn’t hold water.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Europe and the world and tagged , , by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

9 thoughts on “Exaggerating for Effect?

  1. Giscard d’Estaing probably is exaggerating, but there is some core of truth to the argument, and the constitution is important.

    If Europe can’t get its act together, and find a way for 25 members to work together properly – including agreeing to disagree without acrimony where necessary – then there is a possibility it may become irrelevant in the wider world. There are also opportunities, however: as I’ve argued recently, the euro might be replacing the dollar as the main world currency.

    So the question is: where do we go from here? How do we get a constitution that will allow the EU to work effectively, that will be accepted by the governments of the member states, and will also be accepted by the European people?

  2. “There are also opportunities, however: as I’ve argued recently, the euro might be replacing the dollar as the main world currency.”

    Is that a cause for celebration or concern?

    “European Central Bank policymakers are becoming increasingly uneasy about the euro’s rise, fearing it could move substantially higher and undermine the fragile eurozone recovery, reports the Financial Times. The newspaper quotes a senior ECB official as saying: ‘We have warned for some time about the risks for growth posed by economic imbalances in other regions. Those risks are now materialising’.” – from: http://www.euobserver.com/index.phtml?aid=13971

  3. “Thus Europe is still without a constitution, a document its framers intended to strengthen the continent’s clout in global affairs”.
    This never ceases to amaze me. Like Sydneyu Smiths commentary on the Great Reform Bill everyone has a different conception of what the Constitution is for.
    We are told by the Convention that is designed to bring Europe closer to the people. Tony Blair believes it is a tidying up exercise, so what is it for. I take it that it is for what the strongest on the day can make of it.

  4. Bob asks: Is that a cause for celebration or concern?

    Celebration, I think. Being the world’s currency would help the Eurozone and EU in three ways: it would effectively be getting a free loan from the rest of the world, it’d be insulated against currency movements affecting the price of raw materials, and it’d have psychological/prestige value.

  5. Phil – What matters, as always, is whether the benefits outweigh the costs. The Eurozone economy is hardly performing well, arguably because the Euro was introduced prematurely before the economies of the monetary union had converged sufficiently to constitute an optimal currency area.

  6. Certain U.S. hardliners — like the ones who just issued a white paper declaring that Europe must choose sides between France and the U.S. — would like nothing more than to see the EU collapse. It cannot be entirely coincidental that the two most vociferous opponents of the revised representation rules (Spain and Poland) are also two of the most enthusiastic participants in Bush’s occupation of Iraq.

  7. vaara,
    not to forget that both are dependent on EU aid for their hopes of development, and direct competitors in the reception of this aid. So it is against reason to act in an utterly undiplomatical way toward those who have to fund them. For all the claims of Aznar and Miller about free-market and assumption of responsibility by people, they display an shameless sense of entitlement on the riches of others.


  8. Vaara – Coincidences happen. The explanation for the Poland-Spain position in the row over the EU’s draft Constitution is quite straight forward. The governments believed with reason a deal on voting weights had been done at the Nice IGC Summit in December 2000 when France held the rotating EU Presidency and Chirac was in the chair. At the recent Constitution summit, Chirac, with Schroeder on behalf of Germany, wanted to undo the deal and that when France and Germany have each breached the Eurozone’s Stability and Growth Pact without facing any sanctions for the breaches.

    Some in Europe are beginning to say enough is enough. When governments sign up to deals they should respect that and not renege a few years on when it suits their purpose but damages the interests of other EU member states. Some EU government had to make a stand at some time. However, even if the recent Constitution summit under the Italian Presidency had not collapsed over voting rights, it seems likely the summit would have fallen apart over other issues instead. Britain was digging in over retaining national autonomy over foreign policy, defence, taxation and social security. The present draft Constitution involves a substantial transfer of functions from national governments to the EU and the Commission.

    It happens news surfaced in the summer of more sleaze and corruption in the EU Commission. The recent refusal of the European Court of Auditors to endorse EU accounts for the ninth year in succession doesn’t really inspire much confidence in the administrative competence of the Commission on the part of EU citizens. Small wonder then that scepticism about the EU is increasing, according to the polls.

  9. Bob, I see you affect aversion to corruption, which would be nice, so what is your take on the laxity of fiscal policies that the UK allows in the Channel Islands and Gibraltar (not that I think that it is only there there are such laxity) ?


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