Europe's a long way from unity

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 October, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 October, 1993, 12:00am

IRONICALLY, now that the Maastricht Treaty has been ratified by all 12 member-states it has become obsolete and is unlikely to be implemented. The 30-year-old movement towards a federated Europe has come to a complete halt.

Western Europe lies in the middle of a deep recession. Public opinion and many political leaders tend to blame Brussels for their country's high rate of unemployment, and nationalism is proving difficult to bury.

With Germany trying hard to fight against inflation, France struggling against recession, and the European monetary system blown to pieces two months ago, it is hard to believe that the convergent economic policies which could lead to monetary union and a single currency can be carried out.

Meanwhile, Germany's constitutional court has stated that monetary union can only be built upon political union, and that this has not yet been achieved.

Germany, just like Denmark and Britain, will from now on enjoy an opt-out right.

Even without having provided itself with an opt-out clause, France is presently holding up its fellow EC-members with its threat to veto a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) agreement which it deems contrary to the interests of its farmers.

When German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Francois Mitterrand took the lead on Maastricht, the understanding was that political and monetary union would go hand in hand.

However, the Treaty paves the way for monetary union but does little to strengthen the role of the European Parliament or of the national parliaments for that matter.

The EC was badly split over the civil war in former Yugoslavia and it displayed its inability to cope with such a problem right outside its front door.

It is split over the prospect of Poland, Hungary and the Czech republic being admitted to the club.

Meanwhile the EC's large and small members are at each other's throats over how the EC should be streamlined.

France, Germany and Britain insist on strengthening the position of the big powers. The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark are against this. Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Austria, which are to join the EC soon, are bitterly opposed to institutional reforms that would make the smaller EC states second class members.

Under the weight of different historical and geographical constraints, Germany, Britain and France are likely to try to pull the EC into different directions.

The fact that tiny Greece is to preside over the EC from January to July worries most of the other EC members. The Greek Government is held in low esteem in Western Europe and is believed to be ready to put its close links with Serbia above its EC-loyalty.

France casts side-long glances at Africa, Germany at Eastern Europe and at Ukraine, Britain at the Commonwealth and at the US, Greece at Libya and at Serbia. Between France, Britain and Germany mistrust still runs very deep.

This is not a time-what with the recession-for drams and ambitious projects. Narrow-mindedness and short-sightedeness prevail in European capitals. In fact Maastricht was the last instrument of Europe's post world-war strategy aimed at containing the Soviet Empire and at integrating Germany in the Atlantic partnership.

The collapse of the Soviet empire has brutally deprived the European construction of its most fundamental meaning, of its need to stick together in the face of a major common threat.

As they prepare to stagger on their way to a summit meeting at the end of the month to celebrate the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, the EC leaders will in fact be complementing each other over a Pyrrhic victory.