By Robert Lane Greene *New York Times
July 18, 2003
A quick read of the European Union's draft Constitution provides plenty of evidence of the creation of a world power. The draft, which will be formally presented to European leaders Friday, calls for a bill of rights, a foreign minister and a single trade policy. It even proposes a motto, "United in Diversity." But those who hope for the emergence of a Superpower Europe that can rival the United States - and those who fear such an entity will be an anti-American menace - will have their expectations disappointed.
True, the EU will have 450 million citizens next year and an economy the size of America's, the consequence of expanding to 25 member states from 15. But the Constitution, which will be debated and then put in its final form by next summer, falls well short of creating a superpower-sized actor on the international stage.
The union will wield a great deal of influence through its status as a single trade bloc, but it has done so for decades - nothing new here. As for a single "foreign and security policy," the draft represents a failure for those - especially the French, but also notably the Belgians - who want to see a unified Europe strong enough to stand up to the United States on the world stage.
There may be a foreign minister, but foreign policy will remain subject to unanimity. This means that when members disagree, as they did over Iraq and will surely do over any controversial issue in the future, foreign policy will effectively remain with individual national governments.
National governments will also maintain control of the two biggest elements of state power: money and the military. The union has a large budget (nearly 100 billion euros, about $111 billion), which it spends on things like subsidies to poor areas, agriculture and foreign aid. But that is dwarfed by the size of the combined national budgets, and even under the new Constitution the union will gain no power to raise its own taxes.
And though the union plans a new rapid-reaction military force, which could see duty in places like Macedonia (where several members now have troops under an EU flag), the creation of a truly sizable "euro army" that could rival America's remains unthinkable, not least because it would require Europeans to spend money they do not have on upgrading military hardware.
There are areas where the constitution would significantly expand the union's powers, especially in the area of criminal law. This would be added to areas like trade, monetary policy and farming where the union already has a dominant role. And some worry that a provision requiring the European Union to promote economic "cohesion" among the member countries could be a Trojan horse for ever-increasing powers.
However, other provisions declare that powers not given to the union should remain with the member states. This could lead to wrangling between those members that want to do more at the union level and the skeptics - especially Britain and the Scandinavian countries - that want to keep powers closer to home.
All this is to say that the Constitution is not the radical leap forward to a United States of Europe. It is telling that this very name was considered and rejected. Most Europeans still feel their national identity more strongly than their European one. Cooperation at the union level makes sense on technical issues like agriculture, fisheries, the environment, trade and so forth. But until a truly European people is created, many of the union's citizens will rightly prefer that decisions closer to the heart and the wallet - whether to go to war, or to raise taxes - be made by the national governments they think they know well, not by the distant and bafflingly complex set of institutions of the European Union.
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