- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 31, 2007

Jean Monnet, founding father of Europe, was this writer’s guru on European unification as Newsweek’s Paris Bureau chief in 1951. Whenever the magazine’s publisher or top editors came to Europe, the first port of call was Paris — and Monnet. He had already authored the “Schuman Plan,” which created the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), launched at half-century as the cornerstone of the Common Market, the foundation of today’s European Union.

Without integration, beginning with the coal and steel industries of Germany and France, the sinews of two world wars in 25 years, European prophet Monnet was convinced the Continent would become irrelevant either as an appendage to the United States or neutralized by the Soviet Union’s power. A European army, he told us in 1952, or integration of the armed forces of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands would not only accelerate the process but make it irreversible.

The European Defense Community project was stillborn. France, under Prime Minister Pierre Mendes-France, who negotiated peace in Indochina after the French defeat at Dienbienphu, and then recommended a daily glass of milk in lieu of several glasses of wine, vetoed plans for a common military.

A painstakingly slow economic route came next with the Common Market, or customs union; a Common Agricultural Policy that still eats up half the union’s budget; the European Community (with a Brussels-based executive and a European Council of Ministers; British membership, long delayed by France’s Charles de Gaulle; European Economic and Monetary Union; direct elections for a European parliament; the Schengen agreement that allowed 15 countries to dismantle frontiers between them and unimpeded movement within a common outer border; the Maastricht Treaty that created the European Union; abandonment of national currencies in favor of adopting the Euro by 11 EU members; and finally, enlargement (in five stages from six to 27 member nations over 50 years).

The first international clarion call for Mr. Monnet’s idea of a European Federation comparable to the United States came from Winston Churchill in 1946.

Despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary, European unification theologians have long argued their common enterprise could be widened and deepened at the same time. France and the Netherlands rejected a European constitution in 2005 — and deepening came to a jarring halt. Now the widening continues with little purpose.

EU negotiations over Turkey’s application for membership have been underway for two years in what is expected to be a 10- to 15-year talkaton. Only integration theologians believe a Muslim country of 74 million (80 million by the time the last word is agreed) can become part of essentially a Christian Union of almost half a billion people, which already includes some 20 million mostly unhappy Muslims.

As 27 nations celebrated the Union’s 50th birthday in Berlin last weekend, there was still an astonishing degree of disinterest in and ignorance about history’s most successful revolution. Much fun has been made of the EU’s Brussels Eurocrats who set everything from common standards for condoms to the maximum curvature for bananas and cucumbers.

The EU has still not mastered its image problem of thousands of mean and nasty Lilliputian Eurocrats tying down Europe’s Gulliver, a knight in shining armor who, set free, could bestride the world as an equal to the U.S. and China. But European integration has also pulled poor countries up by their economic bootstraps and made them wealthy — e.g., Ireland and Spain.

It’s partly their own fault that Brussels’ Eurocrats don’t get their message across. The Eurobabble they use — e.g., subsidiarity and comitology — is an “officialese” understood by a minority of civil servants in EU’s capitals. Many journalists who cover these events have trouble putting them into plain words, so the reading public tends to tune out. Only 40 percent of Europeans have a positive image of the EU, down from 70 percent in 1991. The Brits scored lowest, with 28 percent.

The ever-closer Union among European peoples, enshrined in the 1957 founding treaty, has been on autopilot for several years, with no dominant voice speaking on behalf of EU. Those EU countries that are also members of NATO dispatched units to serve in Afghanistan — sans common rules of engagement. That leads to British and Dutch units fighting Taliban while German and Spanish soldiers sit it out in a safe province because their parliaments decided they shouldn’t fire in anger.

The next surge in integration efforts lacks a credible leader. Germany’s Christian Democrat Chancellor Angela Merkel leads a coalition government with Social Democrats, whose lowest common denominator precludes bold initiatives. France is about to have an unknown quantity emerge from the second round of presidential elections in May. And Britain’s Tony Blair will soon relinquish his 10 Downing Street digs to Labor’s Gordon Brown, another unknown actor on the European stage.

Behind closed doors, a new set of Euro-sherpas is rewriting a draft constitution for a new leader to run with when he or she emerges.

The new members from former communist Eastern Europe are yet to be reconciled to giving up the sovereignty they only recently recovered from the former Soviet Union. Poles, for example, relate more to a large community of Polish-Americans than they do to faceless Eurocrats in Brussels or Euro-parliamentarians in Strasbourg.

The most coherent common theme of European thought is more anti-Bush than anti-American. Opposition to the Iraq war — which has inflamed Europe’s Muslim minorities and produced new recruits for Islamist mayhem — and opposition to deploying U.S. missile defenses against future Iranian rockets, is not the kind of geopolitical fuel European integration now requires.

There was much crowing about 50 years without a European war. Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo were swept under Berlin’s celebratory red carpet. But EU has also made another European war unthinkable as far this crystal ball can see. Unless, of course, the Kosovars decide to fight for a landlocked independence.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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