From Confederacy to Federation – Thoughts on the Finality of European Integration
Speech by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer at Humboldt University in Berlin, May 12, 2000
Almost fifty years ago to the day, Robert Schuman presented his vision of a “European Federation” for the preservation of peace. This heralded a completely new era in the history of Europe. European integration was the response to centuries of a precarious balance of powers on this continent, a balance that led again and again to terrible hegemonic wars, which culminated in the two World Wars between 1914 and 1945. The core concept of Europe after 1945 was and still is a rejection of the European balance-of-power principle and [a rejection of] the hegemonic ambitions of individual states that emerged after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, a rejection that took the form of a closer meshing of vital interests and the transfer of nation-state sovereign rights to supranational European institutions.
A half century later, Europe, the process of European integration, is probably the biggest political challenge facing the states and peoples involved, because its success or failure, indeed even just the stagnation of this process of integration, will be of crucial importance to the future of each and every one of us, but especially to the future of the young generation. And it is this process of European integration that is now being called into question by many people; it is viewed as a bureaucratic affair run by a faceless, soulless Eurocracy in Brussels – boring at best, dangerous at worst.
Not least for this reason I should like to thank you for the opportunity to mull over in public a few more fundamental and conceptional thoughts on the future shape of Europe. Allow me, if you will, to cast aside for the duration of this speech the mantle of German Foreign Minister and member of the Federal Government – a mantle that is occasionally rather restricting when it comes to reflecting on things in public – although I know it is not really possible to do so. But what I want to talk to you about today is not the operative challenges facing European policy over the next few months, not the current intergovernmental conference, the EU’s enlargement to the east, or all those other important issues we have to resolve today and tomorrow, but rather the possible strategic prospects for European integration beyond the coming decade and the intergovernmental conference.
So let's be clear: this is not a declaration of the Federal Government's position, but a contribution to a long-running discussion in the public arena on the “finality” of European integration, and I am making it simply as a staunch European and German parliamentarian. I am all the more pleased, therefore, that, at the initiative of the Portuguese presidency, the last informal EU Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in the Azores included a long, detailed, and extremely productive discussion on this very topic, the finality of European integration, a discussion that will surely have consequences.
Ten years after the end of the Cold War and right at the start of the era of globalization, one can literally almost feel that the problems and challenges facing Europe have wound themselves into a knot that will be very hard to undo within the existing framework: the introduction of the single currency, the EU’s incipient eastern enlargement, the crisis of the last EU Commission, the limited acceptance of the European Parliament, and the low turnouts in European elections, the wars in the Balkans, and the development of a common foreign and security policy not only define what has been achieved but also determine the challenges still to be overcome.