No. 5




The future of Europe: union or federal state?

14 June 2002


RiTo No. 5, 2002

  • Paavo Palk

    Paavo Palk

    Head of the Political Department of the European Commission Representation in Estonia, historian

The objective of the European Convention was to work out recommendations on the future shape of the EU.

Wide-scale reform of the union is not a good aim. The EU has found a fairly good balance, proceeding on one hand from the need to unite the power of the member states to defend their foreign and economic-political interests and on the other to preserve the sovereignty of its member states.

Instead we should focus on intensifying cooperation in certain fields and make the decision-making process more understandable. For example, we should address the question why courts still need to issue orders for extradition of criminals from one EU state to another. In such cases, Europe could certainly be treated as a single unit, with complete mutual trust in members’ judicial systems. In the same vein, the Council of Ministers, which is responsible for the adoption of legal acts, could be called the lower house of parliament. People are used to parliaments passing legislation. Why not follow this custom? It is much easier in the EU to accommodate majority popular opinion than it might initially seem.

Unfortunately EU reform programs often are based all too often on the notion that dissatisfaction over intensifying European integration is caused by the union’s institutional structure. That is like claiming that the social ministry’s structure is the cause of disgruntlement among Estonia’s pensioners. Here Barry Buzani’s words are all too apt: imagined threats are not real, but their effect is.

In reforming the EU, we should consider the simple truth that all people are not equal, in the sense that some need to be given more time to adapt to and understand European integration, as much as we want wider support for European integration. A moving target provides entertainment for only a few, while it is beyond the abilities of most to hit it.

Full article in Estonian