Glyn Morgan: Federal Europe is dead. Long live the superstate

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The Independent Online

The European Constitution is almost certainly beyond repair. If the French don't junk it, the Dutch, the Danes, or the Brits will. The project of building "an ever closer union", a project initiated by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, appears for the moment to be finished. Some Eurosceptics will be hoping that the European Union itself will now fall apart. They should be careful what they wish for. Without the EU, Europeans can kiss goodbye to security and prosperity.

The European Constitution is almost certainly beyond repair. If the French don't junk it, the Dutch, the Danes, or the Brits will. The project of building "an ever closer union", a project initiated by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, appears for the moment to be finished. Some Eurosceptics will be hoping that the European Union itself will now fall apart. They should be careful what they wish for. Without the EU, Europeans can kiss goodbye to security and prosperity.

Selling the constitution, an unlovely 336-page tome, was always going to be tricky even in the best of times. And these are not the best of times. Europe today faces four extraordinarily difficult challenges.

First, Europe is undergoing a demographic transformation. During the next half-century, the median age of Europeans will, according to a recent UN report, leap from 38 to 50. Americans, in contrast, will remain a youthful 35. Under the impact of this, many of Europe's national welfare systems will, without painful reform, disintegrate. Second, Europe has failed miserably in integrating its ever-increasing immigrant population. Both in France and the Netherlands, fear of immigration has been a driving force behind the "No" campaign. Third, Europe, like every other advanced industrial society, has to meet the challenge posed by China, India, and other low-cost, increasingly high-skilled economies. And fourth, Europe must come to terms with the United States - a military superpower quite willing to act unilaterally in pursuit of its own national interest.

Befuddled by these challenges, many Europeans, particularly in France, have slipped their moorings from reality. Both the Eurosceptic left and the Eurosceptic right have reached for the security blanket - moth-holed and threadbare, though it is - of nationalism. The Eurosceptic left's embrace of nationalism is particularly insidious, because it hides behind the language of social justice. Time was when the European left was outward-looking, internationalist, and concerned with the least well-off, no matter where they lived. In Europe today, the least well-off are to be found primarily in central and eastern Europe. European enlargement, one of the greatest achievements of post-war Europe, offers these victims of history a life-line into the modern democratic world. That's the reason for admitting Turkey.

To close the borders against central and eastern Europeans, as many on the Eurosceptic left would do, is to shirk the requirements of social justice. It's also imprudent. In the absence of European enlargement, both actual and promised, a number of the central and eastern European states - Romania comes to mind - would probably have elected authoritarian populists antagonistic to an open society. A western Europe ringed by such regimes is no recipe for future security and prosperity.

In contrast, the Eurosceptic right trumpets its commitment to nationalism. It values the preservation of national identity - which in Britain boils down to the preservation of "Westminster sovereignty" - no matter what the cost to security and prosperity. The only antidote to this argument, if it even counts as such, is a vigorous debate about the values that a polity, whether located at the national or European level, ought to prioritise.

Ideally, the remaining national debates will focus on the three different types of polity possible in Europe today - a Europe of nation states, the current "intergovernmental" EU, and a politically integrated European superstate. Their merits must be assessed in terms of security and prosperity, the two most basic political values.

The most neglected challenge comes from the present balance of military capabilities between the United States and Europe. Security is not simply the absence of war. Security also involves freedom from dependence on other more powerful states. At the moment, Europe, which remains dependent on the US to project effective military power abroad, is not secure in this broader sense of the term. Europeans will become no more secure in a Europe of nation states. Indeed, a lesson of US history is that the projection of military power abroad requires a great deal more political centralisation than we currently see in Brussels.

Prosperity will prove just as elusive as security in a Europe of nation states, especially if each nation state pursues its own protectionist policies. Europe desperately needs more flexible labour markets. It also needs to redesign its welfare systems for a world where people live a long time, have few or no children, and are likely to pursue a range of jobs over the course of their lives. The reforms necessary are best tackled at the European level. They require a far more politically integrated polity - a superstate, if you will - than Europeans have as yet dared to create.

The writer is Professor of Government at Harvard and author of 'The Idea of a European Superstate', to be published next month

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