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On 1 January 1999, Germany took over the Presidency of the European Union. The Federal Republic should use this opportunity to clarify the German position for its EU-partners and the accession candidates. A credible European policy links the awareness of Germanys key role with the willingness to bind Germany to Europe, to subordinate its own scope for action to the common decision-making procedures and to bring emphatically its politically creative capacities into the EU arena. As a result of these basic orientations, Germany should pursue a twin-track strategy of deepening and widening the EU. This is characterised by the following elements:
Deepening: The German policy of deepening the EU is comprised of three key points: The three aspects of reform of economic policy stimuli (stronger co-ordination of economic and social policy), new priority spending areas (restructuring of the EU budget in favour of innovative, growth oriented sectors, qualification mechanisms and an effective preparatory and complementary strategy) and institutional reform. Germany is striving for a more proportional representation of Member States within the bodies of the EU. As a consequence, this would give Germany a stronger formal position in the European Parliament and in the Council. At the same time Germany is prepared to accept majority voting in more areas. Germany is no longer going to block reform of the CAP and is seeking effective and concentrated implementation of EU structural funds.
Widening: Germany is striving for a criteria-led, step-by-step enlargement. Of particular interest to Germany are the accessions of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Accession negotiations should rapidly be concluded but not, however, at the price of undermining the present Acquis. Therefore, derogations to present rules should have a limited time span, and transitional periods which last more than ten years should generally not be agreed. The limits of the purposefully open process of widening the EU lie in the political-institutional sphere and are due to modernisation and transformation needs of the applicants. Regardless of the EUs enlargement policy in the narrow sense of the term, the EU has to pursue a policy of integration. Therefore, the EU must develop an effective preparatory and complementary strategy for its neighbours before they enter the EU.
The aim of German policy must be to mobilise a robust coalition for the twin-track strategy. The key states in this process are France and the UK, as they are able to influence the states that are near to them.
Germany in Europe: Interests and risks
Germanys primary economic and political interests lie in the process of western integration - just as they did prior to 1989. This process of integration is not currently endangered, but the signs of risk are becoming more frequent: Germanys western neighbours have firstly to get used to the larger, united Germany; they only partially share Germanys commitment to the East; the southern Member States worry about North Africa and the Mediterranean area; in spite of the deepening process the multiplicity of differing interests that are reflected in EU membership have become more subtly differentiated (opt-outs, flexibility); the problems of adaptation with regard to monetary union are not yet assessable; mass unemployment and relative poverty have strengthened the populist, Euro-sceptic and nationalist forces within Europe.
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Germanys principal interest in the West faces a relatively weaker, but growing interest in Central and Eastern Europe, where the risks to peace, security, stability and prosperity are clearly greater. Above all, Germany needs stable immediate neighbours. Poland and the Czech Republic, along with Hungary, do indeed belong to the most advanced group of reforming countries with proven democracies, but economic and social problems will subject their young democracies to further political strain. Further to the east and to the south-east are countries that have undertaken delayed processes of reform or have façade democracies, and that are frequently embroiled in their own conflicts concerning their nation-statehood. The stability of Russia is consequently of outstanding importance for both Germany and the entire region.
The twin-track strategy suggested earlier is the most suitable method for pursuing German interests and for taking the associated risks into account. The twin-track strategy has to prove its superiority over other options which are favoured by the other sides in the European political debate, or which develop independently as a result of differing constraints.
Deepening: Firstly, it is essential to ratify and to implement the Treaty of Amsterdam. But the reforms envisaged are not sufficient to bring the EU nearer to the citizen and make it more efficient, let alone make the EU fit for widening. Parliament and the Commission should not exceed a certain size, and it is as a result of this that a new benchmark for distribution must be defined. As a general rule, the European Parliament should have a maximum of 700 members divided more proportionally between the populations of the Member States with the weighting of votes in the Council reducing the proportionality deficit. The President of the Commission should be personally elected, in order to increase legitimacy and political profile. An increase in the volume of finance should take second place to the reform of costly policies, in particular the Common Agricultural Policy. It is, above all, in the context of monetary union that the EU requires economic policy initiatives which flank the strongly increased liberalisation of markets through tax, employment and social policies. They should ensure that all citizens share in welfare gains. In view of the increasing heterogeneity within the Union, Germany is interested in the differentiation and increased flexibility of the EU, that, in the context of the political system and/or policy areas of the Union, offers a better possibility of solving problems or increases the opportunities for Germanys European policy. Any fraying or backward steps in integration in key areas would not be in keeping with German interests.
Widening: Apart from circumstances involving a major crisis, like an anti-democratic coup and subsequent aggressive foreign policy initiatives in Russia, there is no reason to hurriedly push forward the widening process. On the other hand, hostility towards adaptation, xenophobic tendencies towards separation (fortress Europe), and the high economic and political costs that would accompany them, are to be resisted. It is also the case that adopting an approach which gives absolute priority to deepening could hardly be conveyed to the accession candidates. Instead of this, the accession negotiations are to be continued rapidly, and the previously suppressed conflict of interests between the EU and the candidates is to be given more attention. The conditions of accession have to be shaped so that both sides are able to come to terms with the social and political consequences of closer economic integration. Before the commencement of further negotiations, the candidates have to be examined in relation to criteria that take into account the central dimensions of political and social
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stability and compatibility. Pre-accession assistance and preparatory strategies are to be used for this purpose. As far as other neighbouring states are concerned - those that are not able to become members in the medium-term - the EU should agree a growth pact with them, that both supports and flanks internal reform strategies through monetary co-operation and less protectionist trade policies. In particular, it is important to convince Turkey that, on the part of the EU, no fundamental obstacles stand in the way of future accession.
On 1 January 1999 Germany assumed the Presidency of the European Union. According to current regulations, the next Germany Presidency will not be until 2006. The Federal Government should use this opportunity to clarify Germanys position for its EU partners and the accession candidates. Section I introduces the key elements of the twin-track strategy that is proposed here, based on a critical analysis of the EU from a German perspective (section II) and an appraisal of different reform options (section III) between deepening and widening.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | August 1999