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Core Europe idea put into context

Hajnalka Vincze

Europe today is characterized by a strategic and identity-related vagueness: she is without geographical and political outlines. Her geographical borders are still imprecise towards the East and South, as well as towards the West. As for European sovereignty, it is in a sort of no man’s land: the Member States abandon entire sectors of their national sovereignty without there being anything, at a European level, resembling a political entity ready and able to defend Europeans’ capacity to decide and to act autonomously.

Imbalance between the economic and the political aspects leads inevitably to a down-leveling of the ambitions. Given that there are no Community priorities and strategic preferences which can act as a counterweight to the pure logic of the internal market, those who would follow more demanding objectives (for example on social, cultural, environmental, security matters) would find themselves penalized in the race to growth, compared to the rest of the Member States. All this supports a dynamics of an avant-garde, namely the regrouping of the most ambitious countries in order to constitute a critical mass to assume the political-strategic preferences and priorities. It should be noted that the avant-garde is not an end in itself, but a consequence and an instrument. On the one hand, it rises from the current (both deplorable and dangerous) state of this fuzzy Union, without autonomous political prospect. On the other hand, it is used as lever to try to involve, sooner or later, the other Member States onto this more demanding path in terms of defence of European sovereignty, values and interests. The creation of an avant-garde has a sense only if it is pursued simultaneously on two distinct fronts. Absolute intransigence as for the substance (the actual content of the strategic project) must be accompanied by particular precautions as for the form (the modalities of implementation). Because even if, in the long term, one can hope for the possible adhesion of all to the project, the launching of the avant-garde does not fit into the logic of a multi-speed Europe. At the beginning, it acts basically as the expression of differentiated political will (multi-goal Europe). It is therefore necessary to proceed with maximum firmness with regard to the strategic content of the project. Otherwise, through successive concessions to obtain the agreement of every one, we would go back to the starting point at Twenty-five. Meanwhile, it would be advisable to show particular vigilance with respect to the form. The greatest care is required to take into account the European project as a whole, the concerns of the citizens, and the sensitivities of those who remain outside. As regards the European project, symbolism becomes of paramount importance: the continuation of the original plan of the Founding Fathers and the Franco-German "heart" are a considerable factor of legitimization. In order to gain and sustain popular support, it is necessary, on the one hand, to address the the citizens’ preoccupations (market economy moderated by social solidarity and inter-generational/environmental, as revealed by a TNS-Sofres poll, in spring 2005; a Europe independent from the United States as wished by 82% of European citizens according to the last Eurobarometer). In addition, the avant-garde should produce tangible results as fast as possible, be it in the field of the infrastructures, in the triad growth-employment-ecology, or in new strategic projects following the example of Ariane and Airbus. Finally, to reduce the hostilities against the restricted group, a distinction is essential between those who remain outside by choice (different or deficient political will) or by necessity (insufficient socio-economic performances). In the latter case, it is crucial to underline the temporary character of their exclusion. It is therefore advisable to install solidarity mechanisms facilitating to join in later, and inclusive institutional arrangements (allowing socialization of future members, but without prejudice to the autonomy and integrity of the avant-garde’s decisional and executive structures). To sum up, the implementation of the avant-garde project would succeed only if one does not compromise on the political ambition, assuming even an act of rupture if that proves to be inevitable. But always insisting on the bonds with the original vision of the Founding Fathers and with citizens’ expectations, as well as on solidarity towards those who – for objective and temporary reasons – remain outside of the more ambitious circle. Since the concept of avant-garde is not something intrinsically positive that would lead us straight to more Europe, more power, more prosperity. It might even result in the opposite. The outcome depends on two things: in the service of what kind of strategic vision and according to which modalities the conceptualization and the implementation are to take place.

Full text in French.

 


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