German Chancellor Helmut Kohl offers a spirited defence of the objectives and ideals of European integration

Economic and monetary union is one of the greatest challenges facing us in the European Union at present. The current phase is a period of uncertainty, a period in which the very continuation of European integration is being questioned. Have the Europeans become tired of Europe again?

In the age of increasing European integration and of increasing globalisation in the political, economic and cultural fields, we have once again become aware that we cannot understand one another if we do not get to know each other. It is one of the unfortunate developments in European history that this correlation was ignored in many places over long periods. The policy of European integration is our continent's greatest success story. There is no reasonable alternative to ever-closer integration among Europe's peoples. We all need a united Europe. I would like to single out three reasons for this here.

First, the policy of European integration is in reality a question of war and peace in the 21st century. My deceased friend, Francois Mitterrand, shared this view. He stated before the European parliament in Strasbourg on 17 January 1995 that nationalism is war. I know that some people do not like to hear this. My warnings may contain an unpleasant truth. However, it is no use burying one's head in the sand. If there is no momentum for continued integration this will not only lead to standstill, but to retrogression. But we have no desire to return to the nation state of old. It cannot solve the great problems of the 21st century. Nationalism has brought great suffering to our continent - just think of the first 50 years of this century.

Second, we need Europe to ensure that our common views count in the world. We can only protect our interests if we speak with one voice and pool our resources. Third, we all need Europe to remain competitive in world markets. Only together can we hold our own in international competition with the other major economic areas of East Asia and North America. Latin America, too, is entering this competition with the Mercosur Pact.

We Germans, moreover, have specific reasons for needing a united Europe. Germany has more neighbours than any other country in Europe. What happens at the European level has an immediate impact on us and vice versa. We are therefore well aware of what we in particular owe to European integration. Germany has a fundamental interest in ensuring that all its neighbours become members of the European Union one day. In my view, reason dictates that we Germans keep in mind how our neighbours view us. Even today this image is marked by historical burdens, as well as the economic power and size of population of the united Germany. It is in our very own interests that we dispel distrust and act as a reliable partner. For Germany to pursue a foreign policy not committed to the principles and objectives of European integration would be irresponsible.

If we suffer a setback now on the road to Europe it will take considerably more than one generation before we are given such an opportunity again. From the German point of view, progress is vital in the following four areas: first, the strengthening of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. After the terrible years of war in the former Yugoslavia, this objective needs no further justification. We must not allow further progress to be blocked by inevitable difficulties over detail.

Second, co-operation in the field of justice and home affairs must be enhanced. In particular, this calls for a more effective fight against organised crime and terrorism. Third, the European Union must become more efficient and more capable of taking action. It must also become more transparent and easier to understand for its citizens. Legitimation largely arises from the citizens' understanding of political actions and decisions.

Finally, we must ensure greater participation of the European Parliament, as well as of national parliaments, in the process of European integration. Distribution of competencies between the organs of the European Union and national or regional institutions must be in keeping with the principle of subsidiarity to a greater extent than hitherto. I am convinced that these are priorities not only for Germans. I know from talks with my European friends that very similar views are held in Belgium and in neighbouring countries. Above all, I am certain that the citizens of Europe, particularly young people, share this position.

The European Council in Madrid on 15 and 16 December 1995 reinforced my conviction. We Germans are very much aware that German unity and European integration are two sides of one and the same coin. However, the road mapped out at Maastricht not only signifies great progress, but also calls for significant efforts on everybody's part to achieve a major step forwards.
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Without the further development of the Maastricht Treaty, the European Union will be incapable of mastering the challenges of the next century. However, treaty provisions alone will not determine the future shape of the European Union. It will only become a community responsive to its citizens' needs if the citizens themselves give it substance. Owing to the focus on economic matters from an early stage in the development of European integration, its real basis, Europe's cultural identity in all its diversity, has often been overlooked. The decades-long East/West confrontation did not help either. Today we can concentrate once more on the values and traditions which link individuals and peoples on our continent. Vaclav Havel spoke of a return to Europe. For this reason alone there are not only foreign policy and economic arguments in favour of the accession of the central and south-eastern European countries to the European Union.

Enlargement of the Union is basically a question of what the Maastricht Treaty calls 'Europe's identity'. Prague or Cracow are central European cities! I cannot, for example, imagine Poland's western border remaining the eastern border of the European Union for ever. I would regard it as a disastrous development if Europe's strength were to diminish with its enlargement. However, I would find it equally disastrous if Europe were only able to derive its strength from keeping others out.

The world expects us to make a constructive contribution towards safeguarding peace and prosperity, towards progress in democracy and the rule of law. The European Union can only do so if it is able to act, if it preserves its partnership with the US and helps to develop a pan-European security system. During the next few years we will have to prove that a viable Europe can be built with 15 and more states. At the same time, however, the slowest ship in the convoy should not be allowed to determine its speed. If individual partners are not prepared or able to participate in certain steps towards integration, the others should not be denied the opportunity to move forward and to develop increased co-operation in which all partners are welcome to take part.

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©Kensington Publications 1996