The European Summit of 8-9 December produced two sets of conclusions. The first, which was somewhat rather static, with all 27 signatures, then a second set with 26 signatures that opens up a new dynamic for the future of Europe.
The first conclusions document is organised into three sections. The Heads of State and Government set out their economic policy in the first section, energy in the second and enlargement in the third. No surprises there.
Of course, starting with what is most important is highly educational. There one can already detect the new signature of Italy under the leadership of Mario Monti. To find a way out of the crisis, it will be necessary to implement the measures needed to complete the Single Market and relaunch economic growth. Without growth, which we all hope will be sustainable and environmentally-friendly, the repayment of European sovereign debt will be quite simply impossible.
That said, this document gives the impression of a European Union at a standstill: there is no breakthrough in the coordination of national fiscal policies, no sign of encouragement in the energy domain, and the programming for the accession of Croatia on 1 January 2013 while the brakes are applied to Serbia’s membership were both predictable. Europe has ground to a halt and this situation is highly regrettable.
A completely opposite feeling arises on reading the second document of conclusions. This statement reveals a new dynamic on the scene. These are the conclusions of the 26 or, to be more precise, of the 17 members of the Eurozone together with 9 Member States that have indicated their intention to be associated with it. The absence of the signature of the British Prime Minister David Cameron at the end of the text gives the first indication of a move towards the exit: that of the United Kingdom. His refusal to reduce his demands for an opt-out from future financial market regulations in exchange for a revision of the Treaty, (which in any case only concerned the Eurozone members), has brought this to a head. The exit of the English, Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish from the European Union is today no longer a vague possibility. It has become a probability, and that is a real pity for the entire European Union.
Then, there is a dynamic of rapprochement. The debt crisis is pushing the other Member States towards a more federal European togetherness. The decision has been taken to bring forward the implementation date for the European Stability Mechanism to July 2012 and to amend the voting rules for this instrument which is due to become at European level what the International Monetary Fund is at global level. The rule of unanimity in decision-making has been replaced, in cases of urgency, by a qualified majority of 85%. This means in practice that only three Member States - Germany, Italy and France - retain a right of veto.
Then there is a new Treaty, (the legal implementation of which will be beset with problems), which will preserve the budgetary sovereignty of all the Member States during periods of sunny weather, especially thanks to the budgetary rule limiting the annual structural deficit to 0.5%. However, in stormy weather, that is when a Member State is sinking under excessive debt, the operating mode will change substantially. It will become federal. In the framework of an ‘economic partnership’ the Member State in question will submit itself to the supervision of the Commission and of the Council, which will themselves be subject to the democratic control of the European Parliament. Of course, this is only the start, and many questions remain to be clarified, but it is this federal aspect that gives us the chance to hope today.
We should not forget what Jacques Maritain wrote in Spring 1940 in his article Europe and the federal idea: ‘Economic interdependence between peoples is only one of these conditions, only one of these material foundations, and in itself it is really not enough; you have to have a common past and shared memories , even if they are only of wars and battles ; you have to have a common idea of the general aims of political life and of the joint project to be worked upon; to sum up, you need a shared ideal and a shared spirit of civilisation … That is why, hard as the task may be, one can and one must believe in the coming of a federal Europe.” More than 70 years later, the day has perhaps come for his ideas to be seen as completely up to date. A little further on in his article, the author of ‘Integral Humanism’ gives us yet another lesson to meditate upon: “Federal Europe will only exist if the Christian spirit makes it exist.”
Translated from the Original French