Is talk of EU federation compatible with enlargement?

Joschka Fischer, Germany’s foreign minister, started a debate on the future of the European integration by outlining a federalist vision of the European Union. Fischer said that enlargement could hopelessly overload the EU’s present institutions, which were created for the six original member states.

Joschka Fischer, Germany’s foreign minister, started a debate on the future of the European integration by outlining a federalist vision of the European Union. In a policy speech at Berlin’s Humboldt University he said Europe had to move towards stronger central government in order to establish a viable institutional framework for enlargement to 13 new member states.

Fischer said that enlargement would depend on close co-operation between Germany and France, and warned that enlargement could hopelessly overload the EU’s present institutions, which were created for the six original member states. EU institutions “just about function with 15,” said Fisher, and added that the inclusion of 13 more members could lead to “severe crises”. He stressed this should not be used as an argument against enlargement but as an argument in favour of reforming the political institutions of the EU.

In Fischer’s view, countries wanting to give the EU stronger political powers could form a “centre of gravity”, but this group should remain open to all members of the EU. He spoke of an “avantgarde” which would not be an exclusive group: Berlin mentions the six founding members of the European Community, plus Spain, and eventually Greece and Portugal.

This is an echo to the call of former Commission president Jacques Delors for a “hard core” political union. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder supports the idea, and calls for “flexibility, which means the possiblity of certain countries to proceed with faster integration than others”.

Paris is also close to this idea: French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who takes over the EU Presidency on 1 July, supports the ideal of “Europe of variable geometry”, within which some member states could develop closer co-operation in certain areas.

This opens the question of the positioning of the future new member states in such a deepened Union. According to Delors, candidate countries should be given a more ample “European Conference” process. Chairman of The European Policy Centre Stanley Crossick says that one solution worth studying is the creation of a Wider Europe Economic Area (WEEA).

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