Southeast Asians have strong nationalism

European Union

Otto jewelry

To person

Dr. Otto Schmuck, former head of the European department of the Representation of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate to the federal government and the European Union, Berlin. His main research interests are the participation rights of countries and regions in Europe as well as institutional reforms of the EU. He took over the coordination of the magazine.
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Federal state with strong institutions, European confederation in which ultimately the member states decide, or something completely new? The question of the model has accompanied the unification process since its inception. However, expectations of the EU have changed and are very different in the respective member states.

Chancellor Angela Merkel signs the Lisbon Treaty on December 13, 2007. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa, BPA Steffen Kugler)

European motives for unification in transition

There are numerous motives for European unification. In addition to the competing political and institutional models, these motifs provide information about the driving forces and the direction of the historical integration development in Europe. They also help to better understand the shape that political Europe is taking today. In an overview, six bundles of motives can be named as essential driving forces for European unification:
  • Peacekeeping,
  • Increasing economic prosperity,
  • Belonging to a community of values,
  • more influence in foreign and security policy
  • the prospect of greater success in solving cross-border problems,
  • the desire for good neighbors in a Europe that is growing together.
The importance of these motifs varied over time and varied from country to country.

Peacekeeping - still relevant
The idea of ​​European unification is not new. Philosophers, writers and politicians such as Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), Victor Hugo (1802–1885), Aristide Briand (1862–1932) and Gustav Stresemann (1878–1929) had very different plans for peaceful coexistence a long time ago European states put up for discussion. These ideas received public attention, but they had no impact on political practice. It was only the catastrophe of World War II that led to a rethink and concrete political decisions.

During the Second World War, parts of the resistance movement identified excessive nationalism as one of the main causes of the wars in Europe. After 1945, this idea was intensively discussed in numerous meetings of politicians and other committed citizens, including in September 1946 in Hertenstein, Switzerland, in August 1947 in Montreux, also Switzerland, and in May 1948 in The Hague, the Netherlands.

An important thesis developed at these meetings was that a political order based on national concepts in Europe would have repeatedly led to rivalries and tensions in the past, and subsequently to armaments and acts of war. In order to avert this danger for the future, the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874–1965), among others, suggested a cross-national approach in his much-quoted Zurich speech of September 19, 1946. This should be based on close and trusting cooperation, the transfer of responsibilities in precisely defined sub-areas and peaceful conflict resolution by a joint European court.

The advance of the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman (1886–1963) was of particular importance for the history of European unification. On May 9, 1950, he proposed the establishment of a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC, often also referred to as the coal and steel union), on which all European states should work together on an equal footing. His main motive was the reconciliation between Germany and France. The basis of the ECSC was to give the Community competences in precisely defined areas. Decisions should be made in novel Community procedures and it should be possible to review them in court. Through the joint and equal decision and control over the war-essential raw materials coal and steel, the peace should be permanently secured. With this offer, a new path was taken in the relationship between the winners and losers of a war, the path of an equal partnership.

This motive of securing peace, which is largely the basis of European unification, has taken a back seat today, as peace within the European community of states has long been taken for granted by many.

Economic rationale - the benefits of the single market
Another outstanding motive for European unification was and is the use of the advantages of a large European internal market. In a common market of 27 countries with almost 450 million people, production can be done better and cheaper than in a national economy. Large series enable more cost-effective production. There are no additional difficulties caused by different national approval procedures, customs duties or border controls. The common European currency of the member states of the euro zone increases the advantages of the internal market by eliminating exchange costs and exchange rate risks such as exchange rate fluctuations.

Today the EU is the largest economic area and at the same time the largest trading power on earth. Although the great competition within the domestic market also brings disadvantages for economically weaker providers, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. In other regions of the world (Southeast Asia, North America), neighboring states are therefore trying to imitate the economic merger of the EU with varying degrees of success, for example within the framework of ASEAN (= Association of Southeast Asian Nations, German: Association of Southeast Asian Nations) or by NAFTA (= North American Free Trade Agreement, Ger .: North American Free Trade Agreement), which was approved by the USMCA in July 2020 (= United States Mexico Canada Agreement) was replaced.

With regard to EU membership, economic motives are also important in other ways: structurally weaker EU states and regions receive support from Brussels in a variety of ways. Around a third of all EU spending goes into regional policy and, above all, into the regions whose income is below the threshold of 75 percent of the EU average. This funding, which also brought considerable financial benefits to the eastern German states after reunification, is now mainly used to benefit the economically weak regions of the new EU states in Central and Eastern Europe.

Belonging to a community of values
From the outset, the goals of European unification went beyond increasing economic prosperity. The founding of the Council of Europe in 1949 was intended to serve to respect and uphold common values, which - in addition to securing peace - include the protection of human rights and the primacy of law. The Treaty establishing the Coal and Steel Community in 1951, the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 establishing the European Union (EU) also contain general references to the fundamental common values ​​of the member states.


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Important EU treaties

Treaty of Rome: France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, the founding states of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), sign the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957, establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) . They come into force on January 1, 1958. The three communities have two common organs: the Court of Justice of the ECSC and the Parliamentary Assembly.

Maastricht Treaty: On November 1, 1993, the Maastricht Treaty came into force. The EEC becomes the EC; the economic and monetary union is decided. The former European Political Cooperation is now the Common Foreign and Security Policy. There is also cooperation in the area of ​​home affairs and justice. These three pillars make up the new European Union.

Treaty of Amsterdam: On May 1, 1999, the Amsterdam Treaty came into force, which included institutional reforms and the new post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Nice Treaty: The Treaty of Nice, which came into force on February 1, 2003, made some institutional changes with a view to the "eastward enlargement" of the EU in 2004 and 2007 (ten new member states from Central and Eastern Europe). These included, among other things, the rebalancing of votes in votes in the Council of the EU, a new distribution of seats in the EP (it reflected the size of the population much more), the transition to decisions by qualified majority and the possibility of sanctions against member states.

Lisbon Treaty: This reform treaty, which came into force on December 1, 2009, was the result of a lengthy negotiation process. The innovations made the decision-making process more democratic and efficient, the EU was given new powers, for example in the area of ​​climate policy, and the national parliaments were involved in the EU decision-making process as part of the new subsidiarity monitoring system. In addition, with the "European Citizens' Initiative", EU citizens were given the right to participate in legislation.

Own compilation

The Lisbon Treaty of 2007 summarizes the essential characteristics of these common values ​​in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) as follows: "The values ​​on which the Union is founded are respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality , Rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values ​​are common to all Member States in a society characterized by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men. "

In the course of the discussion about the eastward expansion of the EU and the associated initiative to draft a European constitution, a convention met in 2000 under the leadership of the former German President Roman Herzog, which drew up the "Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU". With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009, this Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding. (For more details, see section The EU's Foundation of Values ​​in the chapter The EU's Path).

Respect for and protection of fundamental rights has become an increasingly important issue in the EU institutions due to controversial laws and measures in several EU countries. In the period 2017-2020, the Commission filed several complaints against Poland and Hungary with the European Court of Justice for disregarding European standards and values. This included politically motivated judicial reforms, the unreasonable treatment of asylum seekers and discrimination against unpopular non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and universities. The Commission also worked out proposals on the basis of which the allocation of EU funds would be linked to the principles of the rule of law.

Influence in foreign and security policy
The realization that the European states, as individual actors, cannot play any or only a very limited role on the world stage increased the motivation for the European merger. As early as the early 1970s there were efforts to establish "European Political Cooperation" (EPC) with the aim of overcoming the deficits of the "economic dinosaur" EC, which were felt at the time. However, changes in the decision-making structures and responsibilities in foreign and security policy could only be achieved outside of the Community procedures. In concrete terms, this meant that foreign and security policy decisions were generally only taken unanimously by governments, bypassing the European Parliament, and that the European Court of Justice was not competent. The member states were often unable to agree on a common approach to important foreign policy issues.

The changed global political situation after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s and the associated higher expectations of other states - especially the USA - for increased European involvement increased the pressure on the EU to take on greater global political responsibility. This mainly concerned international peacekeeping and crisis management. Conflicts and wars in the Persian Gulf, ex-Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria demonstrate the need for greater EU involvement in resolving international conflicts. The Union has responded to these requirements through improved procedures and instruments. Corresponding reforms were agreed with the Lisbon Treaty, which came into force in December 2009.

The foreign policy motives for joint European action also include cooperation with countries in the global south; Here the EU has been making a largely positive contribution for decades on the basis of treaties with a large number of African, Caribbean and Pacific states ("ACP states"). Through its longstanding cooperation with innovative and partnership-based instruments as a "civil power Europe", it has gained considerable trust in these countries, although there is still room for improvement on this point.

Cross-border problems require common solutions
Many of today's political problems can no longer be tackled effectively at a purely national level - this realization is another major motivation for the European unification process. This can be seen most clearly in environmental and climate policy. Fighting acid rain, keeping rivers clean or preventing disasters caused by major technical projects such as nuclear power plants or chemical factories can only be done together, across borders. Illustrative examples of this are the helpless international reactions in the 1980s to environmental disasters such as the reactor accident in Chernobyl, the contamination of the Rhine after an industrial accident at the chemical company Sandoz in Basel (both 1986) or the tank accident off the Spanish Atlantic coast in 2002.

In other areas, too, a coordinated European approach is becoming increasingly necessary. This applies to the fight against international terrorism, drug smuggling and international money laundering as well as stimulating the economy, creating new jobs, securing natural resources over the long term and approaches to solving the causes of global migration. The coronavirus pandemic, with its diverse cross-border effects, is also a vivid example. In many cases, global solutions would be most effective, but corresponding agreements - for example within the framework of the United Nations - are often not binding.

Get to know and understand your European neighbor better
Last but not least, one of the motives for European unification is the pursuit of a good European neighborhood. Regions, cities, schools and associations form partnerships; Schoolchildren, students, young professionals and other interested citizens take part in exchange programs and thus build a "Europe from below". Such contacts are facilitated by open borders and improved language skills, which are acquired in schools, universities, adult education centers and special language courses provided by private providers, but also through private contacts. The EU promotes and supports such activities through a variety of programs. For example, students can take part in the Erasmus + exchange program and study abroad for a few semesters. There is the Comenius program for schools. And the teaching of languages ​​is supported with the Lingua program.

There are many reasons for continuing the path of European unification. However, there were and still are different ideas about the structure and the ultimate goal of a united Europe. These became visible again and again in the previous stages of unification.

Target perspectives and models of European unification

In the process of building Europe, the politicians involved have always referred and still refer to specific European policy models, which can be explained by their respective national, political and cultural backgrounds. The contrast between "federalist" and "intergovernmentalist" models was and is particularly significant. The main question is how deeply European integration should progress.While the federalist model favors a European federal state endowed with sovereign rights, the intergovernmentalist model prefers a European confederation that leaves the sovereignty of the nation states largely untouched and in which the cooperation of national governments is in the foreground. There are also other ideas about the future of Europe, such as the concept of a "Republic of Europe with strong regions" or different approaches to increased cooperation between individual states or groups of states. Against the background that more and more people from poorer regions of the world who are often affected by civil wars are immigrating to the EU, there is also more frequent discussion as to whether the EU wants to take on a role internationally as a "partner Europe" or whether it will develop into a "fortress Europe".

In political practice, these models do not appear in their pure form. Nevertheless, they are important for determining the level of integration achieved and the European target perspectives.

European federal state model
Above all, representatives of the six founding states of the European Economic Community - Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg - are pursuing a European federal state as their goal. The federal model also appears plausible from a German perspective because it corresponds to its own political system made up of the federal government and the 16 federal states. The European federal state is characterized by a clear division of competencies between the EU and its member states as well as by democratically legitimized governments at the various political levels that are capable of acting. At the European level, too, the government would emerge from elections according to this model. This could happen, for example, that the European head of government or the European head of government would be elected by the European Parliament with a majority.

All levels share responsibility for the overall system. The basis of democratic coexistence would be a fully formulated constitution in which fundamental and human rights are bindingly laid down as common values. The European federal state should also be given clearly defined responsibility for foreign and security policy as well as economic and monetary policy. In addition, the EU would have its own tax revenue and a tax assessment right.

"European Union of States" model
British and Scandinavian voices in particular have always pleaded for a pragmatic approach towards a European confederation. Such a concept is also supported by important political parties in Austria and in many Central and Eastern European EU countries. A confederation of states is based on the cooperation of the governments of sovereign states, without them relinquishing the right of final decision-making. The representatives of the governments decide - usually unanimously - in the Council of Ministers or in the European Council of Heads of State and Government on all major issues.

By joining forces, current problems should be solved together more efficiently than would be possible if the state went it alone. A strong European Parliament is not aimed at in this concept, as it would restrict the government's scope for action. The decision-making procedures are protracted because of the unanimity requirement and - at least on the European level - not sufficiently democratically legitimized. The results of the negotiations are often unsatisfactory because of the need to seek compromises under the pressure of consensus. In addition, such decisions can only be reviewed to a limited extent by an independent European court.

"Differentiated Integration" model
The difficulties in achieving progress towards unification in a growing EU led time and again to considerations and concepts of "differentiated integration". Models based on this pattern are characterized by several, partially or completely overlapping mergers of different degrees of integration density, which are grouped around a federal core. In this way, the member states can participate in sub-areas of cooperation in different compositions and with different tasks. At first glance, such a procedure appears particularly attractive because it is easy to implement. There are three variants to be mentioned here, but on closer inspection they all have significant disadvantages.

"Two-speed Europe": Here common goals are set bindingly by all member states, but achieved according to different timeframes. With different starting conditions, new political tasks can be tackled by a group of states leading the way and the other states undertaking to follow suit after a specified time or after certain criteria have been met.

Increased allowance of special government paths (English: opting out): Individual states can temporarily or permanently disengage from joint developments. As the introduction of the euro shows, this procedure works, but it can raise institutional problems in decision-making and thus jeopardize solidarity between the EU countries.

Concept of "variable geometry": Here, individual member states come together pragmatically in ever new arrangements for joint problem solving. For example, all 27 states could participate in the internal market procedures, ten of them could pursue a European research policy and eight others could come together on a common defense policy. According to experts, however, this procedure jeopardizes solidarity between the Member States and thus the EU as a whole. In addition, it can hardly guarantee democratic legitimation at European level.

The concept of a "two-speed Europe" could become more attractive, especially if it is no longer possible to make progress towards unification within the framework of the enlarged European Union: it opens the way for the EU states that are prepared to quickly establish a democratic and effective one European Union. For the other EU states, acceptable contractual arrangements for later accession would have to be found.

However, the very complicated structures are criticized by the juxtaposition of different groups, each with different institutions and procedures.

Model "Republic of Europe with strong regions"
Since the mid-1980s, the European regions have increasingly spoken out in the discussion about the future of Europe and have called for the EC / EU to develop into a "Europe of three levels". At such a third level, the regions could participate in decision-making in the EU. At the beginning of the European unification process, the regions were primarily objects of European politics. As a result, however, they pushed for greater opportunities for participation in the EU.

With the Maastricht Treaty, which came into force in November 1993, they were able to achieve a number of improvements in their position. The most important of these are the establishment of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), in which 329 representatives of the regions and the local level are currently involved in advisory services on European legislation, and the amended version of Article 16 (2) TEU with the result that since then ministers at the regional level can also act on behalf of the member states in the Council. In concrete terms, this means for Germany that, according to Article 23 (6) of the Basic Law, in areas of exclusive federal state competence - school education, culture and broadcasting - the exercise of the rights that Germany is entitled to in the EU must be exercised by the federal government on a representative appointed by the Bundesrat Countries is transferred.

With the anchoring of the principle of subsidiarity in Article 5 TEU, the importance of the lower level in the Community has also been underlined. In addition, in the EU "decisions should be taken as openly as possible and as close to the citizens as possible" (Art. 1 TEU). From the point of view of the regions, this citizen-oriented decision must not stop at the national level. With these innovations, the EU has evidently developed in the direction of a "Europe of three levels" in which - in addition to the member states and the European level - the regions also play an independent role.

The German political scientist Ulrike Guérot and the writer and publicist Robert Menasse from Austria developed interesting impulses for upgrading the regions. Guérot advocates the concept of a European republic with regions, provinces and metropolises as their constitutive bearers: "The everyday remains in the provinces and metropolises, the big goes to the republic, this is how the European democracy of the future could look like." In this utopia, the nation states would no longer be of any importance. Rather, the free citizens of the regions and cities are the actual pillars of the project. European citizen Europe would be born, the elite project Europe would be buried. Robert Menasse spoke out in favor of a European network of regions. Regions are of a manageable size, which specifically create identity and enable people to participate politically. In addition, the regions know exactly that they can never be self-sufficient, i.e. depend on cooperation with other regions.

In any case, the regions in Europe can play an important bridging role: They represent manageable political units in which their citizens feel at home. A well thought-out concept of a "Europe of the Regions" could contribute to greater acceptance of European unification among the citizens.

"Fortress Europe" as a counter-image
In addition to these mostly positive models of European unification, the discussion about the future of Europe also frequently refers to the counter-image of "Fortress Europe" EU - for example between Denmark and Germany - as well as a restrictive immigration and asylum policy of the EU states.

It is assumed that people living within the borders of Europe are on an "island of bliss" of security and prosperity, while around them there is poverty and a "struggle for survival" takes place. From this perspective, it seems essential that the EU must protect itself against the uncontrolled influx of willing immigrants by setting up border installations and strict controls at the external borders. Frequently, reference is made to current TV images of refugees arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa, on Malta or in the Greek border area with Turkey.

However, for a number of reasons, such a "Fortress Europe" model is neither a realistic nor a desirable alternative for the future of the continent.

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Concepts of European integration at a glance

In the discussion about the future development of Europe, there are often clearly defined positions that can be assigned to five basic directions:

European federal state model
The federal concept is based on institutions that are capable of acting and democratically legitimized. The basis is a written constitution with a compilation of the common basic values. Decisions can be made efficiently and democratically legitimized with a majority. The main point of criticism of the model is the loss of power of the member states, which would mean that they would no longer be able to decide on important political issues alone.

"European Union of States" model
This concept is characterized by a dominant position of the governments of the member states. The focus is on the efforts of these governments to solve common problems to a limited extent, but not to surrender the right of ultimate decision-making. Cooperation is characterized by cumbersome procedures, as there are no majority decisions. Parliaments only play a subordinate role in this model.

"Differentiated Integration" model
The EU states interested in progress in Europe agree to a closer union with democratically legitimized decision-making structures capable of acting and an improved distribution of competencies between the European and the national level. Existing EU states that do not want to belong to this core group will have access to the internal market and to selected programs and activities, but will not be involved in other areas of cooperation for a limited time or not in the long term. EU states can also agree on further fields of cooperation, depending on their interests. This model is seen as a possible way out if individual reluctant states are not ready to take further steps towards integration. However, the complicated structures are criticized by the juxtaposition of different groups, each with different institutions and procedures.

Model "European Republic with Strong Regions"
The aim is a fundamentally changed framework for a democratic future in Europe. Oriented towards the common good ("res publica"), citizens should be able to participate equally in European decisions. The decision-making process should take place via strong regions. In doing so, the dominance of states that exists today and thinking and acting in national categories should be overcome. The European Council and the Council of Ministers should be abolished. Proximity to the citizen is cited as an advantage of this model.

Model "internal market with the character of a fortress"
This model aims to maintain the functioning European internal market, including the cohesion services that are deemed necessary to compensate for structural deficits, and considers stricter controls at the EU's external borders as well as a restrictive immigration and asylum policy of the EU states to be necessary. Further steps towards agreement are rejected. This model is mainly supported by the Central and Eastern European countries.

In political practice, these models do not appear in their pure form. Nevertheless, these models are important for determining the integration density achieved and the European target perspectives.

Own representation