The New Institutional Architecture of the European Union: a Franco-German third Way?
Foreword by Jacques Delors
On 22 January 2003, France and Germany celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, expressing thereby their strong commitment to revive the co-operation between the two countries after the elections of 2002. The three preceding months had been marked by an impressive series of bilateral initiatives. On 24 October 2002, an informal agreement between the two Heads of State allowed the release of the delicate dossier regarding the financial package for the enlarged Union until 2006 and opened the door to an early conclusion of the enlargement negotiations. Then, the two countries deposited four contributions on the secretariat of the European Convention on the Future of the Union. These contributions focused on CFSP and ESDP, Justice and Home affairs, economic governance, and finally the institutional architecture of the European Union. Lastly, the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Treaty provided the occasion for a joint statement, significantly entitled "Franco-German friendship at the service of a common responsibility for Europe".
More than 50 years after the beginnings of European integration, this statement was clearly to mean that with the years of reconciliation having been accomplished, the ultimate horizon of a revival of the bilateral relations could be only that of the political construction of Europe. This involved the conclusion of the Agenda 2000 dossier in early 1999 as well as the completion of the Treaty of Nice in 2000.
The two negotiations clearly left the feeling that Europe had run out of breath, that the heads of state and government had failed to imagine the challenges ahead, to agree on some kind of a creative compromise and finally, for some, on the necessary instruments for assuming collective leadership.
The paradox is that this revival of the engine of European integration, although somewhat expected everywhere across Europe, did not contribute to the reuniting of Europe on the basis of a joint integration project. On the contrary, it seems that the Franco-German "rélance" - in addition to the Iraq crisis - has mainly caused a new division between the EU countries concerning the main institutional and organisational outline of the EU's system. The very enthusiasm of the revival of the Paris-Berlin tandem may explain - or justify - only partly the reactions of rejection. In addition, one can plainly argue that the negative reception of the Franco-German contributions is as much linked to deeper factors, such as the transformation of the international system or the increased heterogeneity of the enlarged Union.
The relevance of the Franco-German engine and its capacity to push its partners towards their assent to the bilateral positions are thus questioned - and highly disputed at the practical level at the very moment of its revival. Rather than a theoretical analysis, we therefore suggest an analytical scheme aimed at shedding some light on the potential dynamics of Europe. Thus we will focus on the likely effects and the future of the related proposals made to the Convention. The reflection on the contribution to institutional architecture is necessary, for numerous reasons. First because this proposal affects the most decisive question for the success of the Convention, that upon which the Nice psychodrama hinged until the last moments of the negotiations: It directly concerns the horizon assigned to the revival of Franco-German cooperation.
Secondly, because this contribution is symptomatic for the tradition of this cooperation: Instead of imposing a single and unified vision upon the other partners, Franco- German proposals have traditionally aimed at a synthesis of opposing and extreme positions on a given theme in relation to EU integration - the federalist versus the intergovernmental visions - that mirror the assumed field of reasonable disagreement.
It thus leaves a wide room of manoeuvre for further and more profound debates regarding the consistency and the substantial improvement of the proposals. Finally and probably owing to its rather open character, the contribution as such was rather welcomed and only moderately criticised by those who perceived the paper as an "aggressive" or "ignorant".