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EDITORIAL
from issue no. 06 - 2005

Europe, forward step by little step


That the European Union is going through a difficult moment cannot be doubted. And to underline it further is the growing volume and resonance of information that is still not, on the other hand, adequately sensitized to provide reciprocal knowledge to the citizens of the twenty-five member countries


Giulio Andreotti


 French President Jacques Chirac (with his back to the camera) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at the summit of the European Union in Bruxelles, 16 June 2005

French President Jacques Chirac (with his back to the camera) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at the summit of the European Union in Bruxelles, 16 June 2005

That the European Union is going through a difficult moment cannot be doubted. And to underline it further is the growing volume and resonance of information that is still not, on the other hand, adequately sensitized to provide reciprocal knowledge to the citizens of the twenty-five member countries.
The chief piece of pessimistic evidence is logically the negative results of the two referendums (France and Holland) in which the majority of the respective populations rejected the European Constitution. Some people have wanted to stress, in a gratuitous extension, that when citizens choose directly, they are more incisive than parliamentary mediation. Something that remains entirely to be demonstrated.
Nevertheless, to get a grasp of the ongoing crisis one does in my opinion need also to consider the reservations and even the opposition that exists within countries in favor of ratification, not excepting Italy. I refer not only to the number – limited – of contrary votes, but to the wide reservations and suggestions for revision coming from voters in favor, including in Italy. In fact, besides the positions of the Northern League and of Rifondazione comunista, there has been a considerable series of orders-of-the-day, not rejected, one indeed (from the government majority) approved by the government, with the commitment to re-examine, reconsider, check again.
Yet the text of the Constitution is the outcome of an ample and even solemn procedure that entailed comparisons, consultations, exchanges of guidelines. Under the respected guide of president Giscard d’Estaing authoritative representatives of parliaments and governments (also of candidate countries), with many personal qualifications of great note, worked on the preparatory Convention.
Quid agendum? The coincidence of having to decide in this atmosphere on the pressing problems of the Community budget certainly didn’t help. We have seen the rekindling of arguments for and against the agricultural politics of the Union, against the haste in expansion (in truth earlier planned to take place in stages) and against the perpetuation of the so-called (and badly called) just return by which a very tough Mrs. Thatcher conditioned British adherence.
But precisely the memory of the highly regarded lady suggests a thought. Without taking anything from the gravity of other difficult moments along the way, perhaps the origin of the crisis lies precisely in the moment in which – lacking the British vote – the Social Charter could not take on the dignity and the role of shared statute. One needs to be careful here. The United Kingdom did not challenge the contents of the Charter (claiming that on some points it was even more advanced than its own domestic legislation), but it made it a question of principle, setting the social question within the jurisdiction of the individuals participant States. The lack of the required unanimity blocked the qualitative leap. And trade-union representatives continued to be received, on the eve of European Council meetings, with a liturgy that was mere window-dressing.
It should, however, be recognized that when a more marked and specific commitment was made, the observance that followed was limited indeed.
If, for example, at Maastricht, instead of proclaiming a common foreign and security policy, we had sanctioned a gradual convergence in this sphere, maybe we would have taken a step or two forward. I understand that going into reverse in the Convention was difficult.
Europeans heads of  State and government posing for a group photo in the Michelangelo courtyard of the Capitoline at the end of the ceremony of the signing of the European Constitution, 29 October 2004

Europeans heads of State and government posing for a group photo in the Michelangelo courtyard of the Capitoline at the end of the ceremony of the signing of the European Constitution, 29 October 2004

But, putting aside all hesitation about revision - that I believe to be essential – of the constitutional text we must set out credible directives, and ones of developmental breadth, even for small steps.
It’s true. A Foreign Minister of the Union has been created, but he is the twenty-sixth Foreign Minister! Is it really impossible, going even in phases, to foresee a single diplomacy at the end of the course?
Another delicate point is that of the armed forces (in the bitter memory of the failure of the Defense Community in 1954) with the present coexistence of frontiers blurred between the Union and Nato.
On the margin of the present difficult state of affairs - but not secondary to it – is the brusque external position taken by France on the extremely delicate (and complex) problem of negotiations with Turkey.
Reference to pessimism and optimism is always hit-or-miss. I believe, however, that a pause for reflection is necessary, without striking flags or aggravating critical aspects.
We older people, who had the good fortune to share in the enthusiasm of the beginnings, must, in the face of such widespread opposition and scepticism, exhort others to continue to believe in a united Europe. Today more that ever.
A Europe – that of the founders – that didn’t need to deem itself Christian because it was. In the profound aspiration of safeguarding peace and in the conviction that peace itself cannot exist without a strong yearning for justice.


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