After the EU vote resulted in the dismantling of the EU Constitution, some journalists reported a feeling of schadenfreude in the United States. At this time, the question to consider is whether or not this covert glee is misdirected, for it is possible that the EU's failure to copy the Philadelphia Convention does not serve US interests. In fact, the consequences of this failure might shepherd in, not only, a prolonged period of institutional stagnation in the EU, but, might also, mark the beginning of the downfall of the European Union. Both possible consequences of the failed Constitution might impact the US negatively.
In order to properly analyze the way in which the failed European Constitution impacts the US, it is crucial to monitor the way in which Europe, itself, was impacted. The most important reactions to the failed Constitution, by both Europe and the United States, up-to-date, are the following:
Since France voted against maintaining the Constitution, French President, Jacques Chirac, has experienced a weakening in the polls, dropping from 42 percent approval to 26 percent, which is, according to The Guardian, the lowest approval rating in France since 1978. Seeing as how Chirac strongly opposed the US led intervention in Iraq and attempted to establish the European Security and Defence Union in the wake of the Iraq War as a separate defence structure alongside NATO together with Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, his historically low ratings probably account for the schadenfreude felt in the US. All the same, the United States needs France for its veto power in the United Nations and its international sway.
Similarly, there is a big chance that in the coming German elections of September, 2005, the German chancellor, Gerhard Schröeder - another European ‘foe' of the US during the Iraq war - will be replaced by Angela Merkel of the more pro-Atlantic CDU. These power shifts in both France and Germany mean that two leaders of the so called camp de paix, the group known for criticizing the Bush administration before and during the war in Iraq, will be weakened or removed. On the other hand, it is possible that Germany might fall into the hands of politicians equally, if not more, opposed to the war in Iraq, the war on terror, and the spreading of democracy. Moreover, if the Franco-German alliance were to incur strong support on its own, in the embodiment of an organization such as the European Security and Defence Union, the alliance would pose a greater threat to the US than as it stands now, checked by other member states of the EU.
More obvious reasons for the US to support, at least, the short term longevity of the EU include the fact that Britain's Tony Blair will take over the EU Presidency in the second half of 2005, which will certainly lead to a more US-friendly and pro-Atlantic EU approach. The EU-US partnership will be a greater asset to the US if the EU remains a strong organization, strengthened by a uniting constitution. Conversely, the US might find it more befitting their objective to see the EU weaken in spite of Blair's approaching authority, for his predecessor is still undetermined, as is the future potential of the EU body.
With the weakening of the EU, new EU member states could increasingly turn to the US and NATO for their security, thereby jeopardizing efforts to build a common European defence- the same defence which offers to both strengthen and weaken the US, simultaneously. In the near future, looming over the US is the possibility that past reluctance of the present EU-25 to accept new member states will be exaggerated by the constitution's failure, making the entrance of two close US allies, Bulgaria and Romania even more delayed.
The US may try to exploit the internal divisions in the EU to gain short term benefits or, on the other hand, it may lend its full support to the process of European integration. One can hear voices in the US saying that ‘Europe has been integrated enough' and that a deeper integration, especially in the field of defence and foreign policy, could hasten the emergence of a multi-polar world, thereby threatening US hegemony. There are others however, such as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who not only in her Sorbonne speech in February, but as recently as the US-EU Ministerial Meeting in Washington, on June 2nd, emphasised her support for ‘a strong and united Europe that is able to act as a global partner with the United States, given its democratic values and our long history together'.
Around the world nations have been responding to the failed EU constitution, some, clearly satisfied. The day after the French no vote, for example, China announced it would suspend its self imposed export duties on textiles, a measure especially desired by the French. Russian President Putin expressed his great satisfaction with the internal EU problems, clearly expecting that this would give him more freedom to act with or in the former Soviet republics. A same sense of satisfaction might be felt in Tehran as well as in other nations threatened by a great power, for a divided EU front does not exude the same strength as a united front. Therefore, although the US might see a temporary gain in exploiting the present crisis in the EU as a means of weakening the organization further and preventing the EU from challenging the US hegemony, by jeopardizing the EU, the US might fail in retaining enough worldwide support to combat terrorism and safeguard fundamental rights. A strong and united Europe, on the other hand, which shares ideations with the United States, is a greater, long term interest to the US and its mission to secure and preserve democracy.
July 8, 2005
Marcel H. Van Herpen
The Cicero Foundation