Living With a New Europe

Living With a New Europe

Mini Teaser: The challenge posed to the United States by the European Union is seriously exaggerated--and this is particularly true of the proposal for an all-European defense force. Daniel Vermet, Christoph Bertram and Timothy Garton Ash respond.

by Author(s): Zbigniew BrzezinskiDaniel VernetChristoph BertramTimothy Garton Ash

Indeed, it is no aspersion on anyone or any state to suggest that on
the global scene the emerging Europe is likely to be more similar to
a Switzerland writ large than to the United States. The Swiss
constitution--which ended inter-communal strife--stresses that the
ethnically differentiated Swiss Cantons resolved "to renew [their]
alliance", that they were "determined to live [their] diversity in
unity respecting one another", and went on to identify the practical
purposes of the Confederation. Abroad, the main emphasis of
Switzerland's international engagement has been in the important
areas of international finance and trade, while avoiding engagement
in this century's global political-philosophical conflicts.

Integration, Not Unification

In any case, it seems reasonable to conclude that "Europe", in the
foreseeable future, will not be--indeed, cannot be--"America." Once
the implications of that reality are digested on both sides of the
Atlantic, the U.S.-European dialogue should become more relaxed, even
as the Europeans address the dilemmas connected with their
simultaneous quest for integration, expansion and some
militarization; and even as the Americans adjust to the inevitable
emergence of a novel European polity.

Unification of several peoples normally occurs as a result of
external necessity, shared ideological commitment, domination by the
most powerful, or some combination thereof. In the initial phase of
the European quest for unity all three factors were at play, though
in varying degrees: the Soviet Union was a real threat; European
idealism was nurtured by the still fresh memories of World War II;
and France, exploiting West Germany's sense of moral vulnerability,
was able to harness Germany's rising economic potential in support of
its own political ambitions. By the end of the century, these
impulses have perceptibly waned. As a result, European
"integration"--largely a process of regulatory standardization--has
become the alternative definition of unification. Yet while
integration is a perfectly sensible way of achieving an operationally
effective merger, a merger still falls quite short of an emotionally
meaningful marriage.

The plain fact is that bureaucratically spearheaded integration
simply cannot generate the political will needed for genuine unity.
It can neither stir the imagination (despite the occasional rhetoric
about Europe becoming America's peer) nor develop the mortal passion
that can sustain a nation-state in a time of adversity. The 80,000
page-long acquis communautaire (organized into 31 policy
sectors)--which a new member of the European Union must ratify--is
not likely to provide the average European with the needed
nourishment for politically energizing loyalty. However, it should be
reiterated that by now, given the absence of the other three more
traditional ways of seeking unity, integration is not only necessary
but is the only way that Europe can move forward toward "unity."

That gap between "unification" and "integration", in turn, explains
why integration is bound to be slow; and why, were it somehow
accelerated too sharply, it could even divide Europe once again.
Indeed, any attempt to accelerate political unification would
probably intensify internal tensions between the leading states
within the Union, since each of them still insists on preserving its
sovereignty in the critical area of foreign policymaking. At this
stage, anti-Americanism as the impetus for unity--even when disguised
by talk of "multipolarity"--cannot be a unifying force as
anti-Sovietism once was, because most Europeans do not subscribe to
it. Moreover, with Germany reunited, no one in Europe, outside of
Paris, still regards France as the putative leader of the new
Europe--but also no one in Europe desires Germany to become Europe's
dominant leader.

Integration, however, is not only a slow process, but each successful
step increases the very complexity of the undertaking. Integration
inherently means an incremental and highly balanced progression
toward deepening interdependence among constituent units, but their
growing interdependence is not infused with the unifying political
passion required for the assertion of genuine global independence.
That may happen eventually, when Europeans come to view themselves
politically as Europeans while remaining, for example, German or
French as a matter of linguistic and cultural peculiarity.

Horizontal Expansion

In the meantime, because of Europe's slow progression, external
expansion is likely to become a partial compensation for the crawling
pace of internal integration. Europe will grow, but more horizontally
than vertically since, as a practical matter, the two cannot
significantly advance at the same time. This painful reality is a
sensitive point among Europe's true believers. When Jacques Delors
dared to declare flatly in early 2000 that "the pace [of enlargement]
is unquestionably being forced . . . we thus risk diluting the
blueprint" for European integration, with the result that "we will
inevitably move away from a political Europe as defined by Europe's
founding fathers", he was almost immediately and publicly taken to
task by a compatriot EU Commissioner, Michel Barnier.

The Commissioners in Brussels hope that bureaucratic streamlining and
institutional renewal will invigorate the process of integration.
Buoyed by the modest success of the euro--despite some apocalyptic
predictions from its largely American and British
detractors--Brussels has moved forward, in anticipation of
significant expansion, with the long-standing inter-governmental
conference on the renewal of the European institutions. Key
institutional decisions are to be made by the end of the year. But
even the most forceful proponents of expansion concede that, at best,
politically significant integration will have to be confined for a
while to the smaller inner core of the EU, thus perhaps creating a
so-called "multi-speed and variable geometry" Europe. Yet even if
that were to happen, it is doubtful that this formula would resolve
the basic tension between integration and expansion in so far as the
development of a common foreign policy is concerned. Such a Europe
would mean division into first and second-class members, with the
latter objecting to any major foreign policy decisions taken on their
behalf by a directorate of allegedly more truly European states.

In any case, enlargement, too, is bound to become an increasingly
absorbing and complicated task. With some two hundred EU teams about
to begin the tedious process of negotiating the modalities of
accession with the dozen or so new aspirant nations, expansion will
probably slow down, both because of its inherent complexity and
because of a lack of will on the part of EU member states. In fact,
the admission of any Central European state by 2004 is becoming
increasingly problematic. In the longer run, however, expansion
cannot be avoided. An amputated Europe cannot be a true Europe. A
geopolitical void between Europe and Russia would be dangerous.
Moreover, an aging Western Europe would begin to stagnate
economically and socially. No wonder, then, that some leading
European planners have begun to advocate a Europe of as many as
thirty-five to forty members by the year 2020--a Europe that would be
geographically and culturally whole, but almost certainly politically

A Question of Muscle

Thus, neither integration nor expansion is likely to create the truly
European Europe that some Europeans crave and some Americans fear.
Indeed, an increasing number of Europeans do sense that the
combination of the euro and integration with slow expansion can only
create economic sovereignty. Political awareness that more is needed
prompted the three leading European states--France, Great Britain and
Germany--to join in 1999 in an effort to create a credible European
military capability, and to do so even before an integrated Europe
with a defining foreign policy of its own emerges. The projected
European military force is meant to put some muscle behind a common
foreign and security policy (CFSP), which is to be shaped by the
newly created post of Europe's High Representative for External
Relations and Common Security.

The proposed joint European rapid reaction force, which is to be
operational by 2003, will be the first tangible manifestation of a
political Europe. In contrast to the already existing, but largely
symbolic, "Eurocorps"--composed primarily of French, German, Spanish
and other draftees and possessing neither mobility nor real military
capability--the planned force would be assembled when needed from
pre-dedicated combat units, would number up to 60,000 men deployable
within 60 days, and would be sustainable in a theater of deployment
"in or around Europe" for at least a year. In effect, according to
various European estimates, such a force would be equivalent to a
full corps, supported by some 150 to 300 aircraft, 15 large combat
vessels, a strategic air transport capability, and the requisite C3I
(command, control, communications and intelligence). European
military experts are to conduct an accelerated audit of the inventory
of the available European assets so that the force can engage in
peacekeeping or even in some (otherwise unspecified) limited combat
operations. Its appearance would mark the emergence of a genuine
European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI), capable of military
action outside of NATO.

However, the European defense initiative--driven by the genuinely
felt sense of Europe's military inadequacy revealed by the Kosovo
war, fueled by French ambitions, but tempered by British and German
inclinations to reassure the Americans--has yet to pass three basic
tests: will the force be rapidly deployable, will it be militarily
capable, and will it be logistically sustainable? Europe has the
means to create such a force; the question is whether it has the will.

Essay Types: Essay