Estonia and the debate on the EU’s future
Since the creation of the EU, the central topic of European integration has been expanding and deepening it. Deepening embraces expanding spheres of cooperation as well as increasing cooperation and placing it in under joint state-wide (supranational) control.
At the EU’s Nice summit of Dec. 2000, a declaration on the future of Europe was adopted that called on EU member and candidate states to hold extensive and deep debate on the future of Estonia.
The declaration defined four fundamental questions that the future debate should find answers to:
- defining separation of powers between EU and member states based on a subsidiary relationship
- the status of the charter on fundamental rights
- simplifying foundation agreements
- the role of parliaments of nation-states in European integration.
The subject of the debate is actually much wider. The goal is to devise the direction of the EU’s future political development (federal vs. intergovernmental Europe), answer the question whether to continue in the framework of existing agreements or create a new fundamental document for European integration – a European constitution. Also needing clarity: questions such as what is Europe’s role in a world that is globalising and what ideologies and policies to develop in a reformed Europe?
The declaration states that many of the problems of European integration are unresolved, and it recognises that the need for reform is extensive. A new date is suggested for an intergovernmental conference – 2004. It stresses at the same time that the new IGC cannot become an obstacle or prerequisite for the process of EU expansion.
Estonia’s official positions on the future of Europe and the European Union are mainly confined to former foreign minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ statements. He was one of the first to respond supportively to Joschka Fischer’s proposal to form a federal EU. He considered necessary a bicameral parliament similar to the American model (proportional representation in lower chamber, territorial representation in the upper chamber). But Ilves did not agree with Fischer about a popularly-elected president. In a speech at Humboldt University, he said that if the EU had an elected Commission president, which in the interests of democratic rule of law, he felt it should, then the EU should ensure that all member states’ citizens felt they were participants in the process. Ilves has also supported the writing of an EU constitution, but this need not mean that the EU becomes a superstate or megastate. The constitution would be necessary to legally clarify the relationship between the political process and citizenry. As for the declaration on the future, Ilves says he feels it especially important that the next IGC not become an obstacle to expansion, meaning that the more successful candidate states should not have to wait until after the IGC to join but should participate in it just as in the next European Parliament elections.
Naturally, Estonia just as all other nation-states are interested in what the EU’s potential constitution’s relationship would be to states’ own constitutions. Estonia would probably not want to change the constitution too much, even though it will be necessary to a certain extent. There are points in the Nice charter on fundamental rights that Estonia has difficulty accepting in the framework of current legislation.
It is possible to detect a new Europolitical tone in the first speeches, articles and statements of President Arnold Rüütel and members of the new cabinet, so there is a basis for talk of a new Estonian Europolicy. While Ilves and Meri supported Estonia’s rapid and unconditional accession to the EU, Rüütel and foreign minister Kristiina Ojuland stress protection of democratic and national interests in Estonia’s possible accession and support the future EU as a conglomeration of nation-states.