Jean-Claude Juncker, the former President of the European Council, is correct in his assertion that “whoever holds doubts about the European Union should visit a military cemetery.”
After having experienced two World Wars, Europe needed a fresh start. Political and economic agreements were settled in order to ensure peace. An economic union of the coal and steel industries was advocated by the then French foreign minister.
The logic was that the mutual trade would disable another destructive Franco-German conflict, and ensure long-term economic and political stability in Europe, which was badly needed so Europe could heal its wounds from the War. By establishing the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, the foundation was laid for what is now the European Union.
It was not until 1992, however, that the EU was formally created by the members of the European Community. The Treaty of Maastricht divided the EU into three key pillars: the European Community, Common Foreign, Security Policy and Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters. Supranationalism is still developed distinctively within each pillar depending on how sensitive states are concerning their national sovereignty.
Today the EU consists of a confederation of 25 member states and over 460 million inhabitants. It is the most developed intergovernmental organisation worldwide. Nevertheless, numerous problems and questions remain unanswered.
How to resolve the issue of the democratic deficit? What about a common foreign policy? And how does the idea of a multi-speed Europe come in?
Structural deficits and lack of electoral support continue to hinder the democratic legitimisation of the Union. Furthermore, recent events have shown the EU still cannot act as a single player. Not all the member states, it would seem, are ready to proceed with further integration.
What impact does the rejection of the European Constitution by two of the orginal founder states have on the future of the EU? Is the future of the EU itself at stake? It is the opinion of this society that the refusal of a common constitution by the French and Dutch voters should rather be seen as an opportunity to rethink collective goals and cope with current problems in order to strengthen the Union.
Coming back to Juncker’s quotation, we must recognize the incredible developments that have been achieved since 1945.
In 50 years, the zone of peace has been established, the level of prosperity has increased significantly and economic imbalances have been compensated. Overall European integration has been successful, but there is still a lot to be accomplished. Therefore, further consolidation should be pursued until one day we are unified as the “United States of Europe”.