A Vote for Europe!

Article published on Sept. 13, 2004
community published
Article published on Sept. 13, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Would a joint seat on the Security Council force the EU to develop effective consensus-building mechanisms in the field of foreign policy to avoid future impotence over issues such as Iraq?

Whether you consider Europe’s division over the war in Iraq to be a disaster for European foreign policy or not, one thing is clear: when important national interests of individual Member States are at stake, the countries of the EU do not speak in unison. National egos have the upper hand. Unanimous voting, which, according to the new constitutional treaty, is how all foreign policy issues are to be decided, has become a pointless exercise. It suddenly seems as if the flame of the state system of 19th -century Europe has been rekindled: foreign policy is seen as being the sole preserve of the sovereign nation state. The common interest in the peaceful resolution of conflict disappears under the unyielding boot of national sovereignty.

The Lessons of History

Through collective action, the six founding states of what was then the European Community hoped to consign this short-sighted attitude –the very same that made Europe engage in two devastating world wars during the course of the 20th century- to the past once and for all. The enlightened fathers of European unification planned to make war in Europe impossible through the joint control of the raw materials of war such as coal and steel. The goal of economic prosperity through the creation of a common market would come later. In this respect, the concept underlying European integration is very much that of a peace project, and, as everybody knows, the preservation of peace is inextricably linked with the external relations of nation states. However, it took the EU until the end of the Cold War to draw up a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). This policy relies on cooperation between the governments of Europe. Supranational bodies such as the European Commission and the European Parliament, which represent a genuinely European interest, are as good as excluded from the CFSP decision-making process. Even the Union’s Minister of Foreign Affairs provided for in the new Constitution will not be able to alter the intergovernmental bias of the CFSP, although former US Secretary of State Kissinger’s famous wish for a hotline to the European Union will be fulfilled at last. Nevertheless, the fundamental problem remains: in the absence of an appropriate legal framework, the nation state still gets its way in the end.

Europe must develop a common Foreign Policy

The only way of dealing with the heterogeneousness of national foreign policies is by ‘Europeanising’ foreign policy. National egos must at last be silenced, and priority given to the imperative of world peace. The ‘Monnet Method’, named after one of the founding fathers of the European Community, and according to which the European bodies should share power, must also determine the EU’s foreign policy. A similar conviction must have inspired the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt when, in 1991, he first came up with the idea of turning the British and French seats on the United Nations Security Council into a single European seat. The basic idea is the same: the time has come to usher in a new era of European foreign policy and simultaneously take leave of national foreign policies. The endless spats among Europeans, such as the recent falling out between Germany and Italy over the acquisition of a permanent seat on the Security Council, must be put behind us for once and for all. The nation states of Europe no longer have the right to prevent the formulation of common positions in the field of foreign policy; in other words, they must not prevent Europe from finding a voice of its own. Given the catastrophic route taken by national foreign policy in the 20th century, would it not have been logical, in the wake of European unification, to repair the damage by developing a common foreign policy, instead of concentrating solely on trade and the internal market. And would it not have been sensible to make it part of the very organization that came into being as a peace project in the aftermath of the Second World War, i.e. the European Community?

Europe can be proud of what it has achieved so far. It has shown the whole world that the peaceful and long-term resolution of conflict is possible through political unification. This has conferred upon it not only credibility but also the duty to commit itself to the development of a multilataeral framework for the regulation of international relations. That is another reason that Europe could use to justify a joint seat on the Security Council, namely that as a successful forerunner and advocate of a new world order, it would be able to act as an advertisement for the future of regional integration.