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
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.
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