- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Efforts to create a great European uber state collapsed dramatically in Rome last week. The fears of smaller European states that a burgeoning French-German alliance would dominate the European Union ultimately doomed the summit, which was intended to lead to a consensus on a new EU constitution. The summit made glaringly clear how discordant Europe remains on key issues and how much damage France and Germany have caused to their own Euro-integrationist cause. This apprehension was coupled with strident concerns over the European Union’s administrative competency.

Spain and Poland were the holdouts on the constitution, staunchly defending their current voting rights within the European Union, which gives these countries voting weight disproportionate to their population and financial contributions. The defense by Spain and Poland of their voting rights underscores the deep ambivalence within Europe about the surrender of national sovereignty and, more specifically, apprehension over how France and Germany would wield greater power within a more integrated European Union.

This apprehension is highlighted by the fact that Germany is the lead contributor to the European budget, and would therefore be expected to have some clout with the EU countries that are net recipients of funds, such as Poland and Spain. But France and Germany have rebuked other countries for not walking in lock step with their wishes on a variety of issues. And many European nations were put off by the ability of France and Germany to evade the economic guidelines of the EU stability pact.

Britain was something of a kindred spirit to Poland and Spain. Although it didn’t join forces with these countries on the voting-rights issue, it has threatened to veto any new constitution that does not uphold the ability of any country to reject EU policy on certain issues, such as taxes, budgets, and judicial and foreign policies.

Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller is being cheered at home for his positions in Rome by both integrationists who are keen to see Poland maintain its EU prominence and by those who want to see the country indefinitely protect its sovereignty. “I think this is the best Christmas present divine providence could have given Poland — that we will not lose the sovereignty of the Polish state,” said Roman Giertych, leader of the League of Polish Families.

Ultimately, the missteps of Germany and France will buy time for national sovereignty in Europe and, therefore, democracy. For at least the coming months, the European Union’s monolithic bureaucracy won’t overshadow the continent’s representative governments.

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