- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

If the European Union is truly intent on challenging America’s “unipolar” global power, it has a long way to go. For starters, union countries would have to begin by putting their fiscal houses together. Then, they will have to consider what exactly the European Union is. While bureaucrats in Brussels see the future of the union one way, Europe’s populace has clearly demonstrated it has other ideas. To make matters more complicated, Germany, the union’s strongest economy, has been rendered rudderless by its inconclusive election, in which neither of the dominant parties won a majority. Towering illusions of an European uberstate are buckling under.

According to recently released economic data, five out of the union’s six biggest countries last year breached the deficit limits of the E.U. Growth and Stability Pact, which back in the 1990s set economic guidelines for member countries. The pact was crafted to maintain a base of economic standards for those countries adopting the euro. Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Poland all failed to meet the fiscal limit last year, which is 3 percent of each country’s gross domestic product. Greece broke the record on busting the pact, with its deficit of 6.6 percent of GDP. Ten out of 25 member countries have failed to meet the stability pact guidelines.

France and Germany have been serial violators of the pact, and therefore launched a campaign last year to neutralize it. They have breached deficit targets so many times, though, that they may face penalties. The main problem is that EU economic targets are incompatible with countries’ financing of cradle-to-grave public services.

For the time being, the economic targets will be the victim of that incompatibility. Though EU members have trimmed some spending, much of the European electorate feels it is a country’s sovereign right to determine a national budget. That natural protection of sovereignty conflicts directly with the EU experiment.

If the directives of Brussels are to be shrugged off, what is to keep the union together? Certainly not an EU constitution, which was dealt a fatal blow by French and Dutch referendums in May. The EU electorate is itself polarized by divergent views of how much sovereignty should be surrendered to Brussels, as evidenced by the German election. The European Union did demonstrate its solidarity with its decision Monday to begin formal talks for Turkey’s accession, but the union will not be dealing with that decision for another decade, at a minimum. At that point, Turkey’s integration would be subject to referendums in at least some member states.

The European Union is being dealt successive blows. Member countries should first concentrate on their economic performance before striving toward a superstate.

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