Imagine the world in 20 years' time. Consider the likely vitality of the Chinese economy, the hi-tech innovations that will still be pouring from the Far Eastern Tigers, the range of investment options that will be globally available to Japanese and American capital, the ambitions for international success in the parvenu economies of Brazil and Argentina. Then ask whether we will really look back affectionately on the years when we decided it was better, after all, not to accelerate the integration of our European markets and institutions.
The forthcoming Inter-Governmental Conference has to be an opportunity to provide real leadership to public opinion about why a more deeply integrated Europe sharing a strong sense of collective destiny in the modern world is essential to our prospects for growth and jobs. To argue for "A Europe governed by variable geometry" which would allegedly "fit better a world in which power is diffused, roles overlap and responsibilities are shared" is to argue for a cop-out.
A Europe which suits all our national neuroses, which sends us down into the small print rather than out into the big picture and which elevates all the destructive solipsisms of "national sovereignty" is a Europe which will keep bureaucrats busy but, in the long run, no one else. Sooner or later, the cruel reality of globalisation will force Europe to embrace tighter integration, sharper economies of scale and faster decision-making; if it doesn't, it will make us pay a terrible economic and social price.
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