The European Community

FOR the 40th anniversary of V-E Day, the focus was largely on reconciliation with Germany. Although wise foreign policy, that was poor history. Reconciliation dated not from the allied victory in 1945, but from the Schuman proposal five years later for a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), including West Germany. At that time the new Federal Republic was still subject to the occupation regime. There were controls to prevent any rearming, an allied program for splitting up its heavy industries, and the International Ruhr Authority to regulate its coal.

The French proposal (prepared by Jean Monnet) offered Germany the alternative of becoming a partner in the ECSC. Security would be based on shared interests under a common regime instead of trying to keep Germany down. Konrad Adenauer accepted at once, despite Social Democratic charges of solidifying the division of Germany. For the six founding members (Britain stayed out), the ECSC was to be the first step toward a federal Europe, which would integrate economies within a common market and provide an effective partner for the United States.

Thirty-five years later, the Community falls far short of those hopes. It has helped tie the Federal Republic into the Western community -- a major achievement. But while growing from 6 to 10, and soon to 12, it has not yet completed the Common Market or integrated the economies of the members. The institutions have not become federal, although the weak Parliament is now elected. And while moving to concert foreign policies, the Community is not able to act as an effective partner of the US, except for trade negotiations.

Yet the Community has surmounted serious obstacles to survive and expand. The Economic Community and Euratom were formed after the defeat of the Defense Community. The ambivalence of Britain, the stubborn nationalism of Charles De Gaulle, and the oil shocks of the 1970s were damaging and disruptive but not fatal. Disputes over budget shares, the Common Agricultural Policy, and new members have been largely resolved, though Helmut Kohl now balks at cutting grain prices.

Today the Community is torn between two pulls: the strong practical needs to move forward, and reluctance to yield the authority necessary for effective decisionmaking and action by the Community.

The major members are deeply troubled about their future. With sluggish economies, their unemployed total some 20 million, 11.5 percent of the work force. For the decade after 1973, while the US economy was generating 15 million new jobs, and Japan's 3 million, Europe's was losing 2 million. The Europeans worry about their ability to compete with the US and Japan in innovation and new technology. And they resent their limited influence in foreign affairs.

There is growing awareness in Europe that a major cause of the lack of dynamism is the absence of a vigorous open market, and its stimulus to innovation. Intracommunity commerce is severely hampered by differing standards, customs complexities, the restriction of public purchases to domestic producers, restraints on trade in services (banking, insurance, transport), and ultimately the lack of a common currency.

Concern about stagnation in the Community has led both the Parliament and the European Council to examine how to make the Community more effective. For several years the Parliament has been focusing on improving decisionmaking and the operation of the institutions. Last year it approved a draft treaty for a European Union for submission to the member states for ratification. Drawing on past experience, it would consolidate the Communities, expand the competences, and strengthen the Community institutions.

A year ago, at their summit in Fontainebleau, the European Council of heads of government appointed an ad hoc committee which reviewed the objectives and institutions of the Community. Its recent report lays out an ambitious program for the Community. With many caveats by Greece and some by Denmark and Ireland, it calls for completing the Common Market and strengthening the European Monetary System, and for closer cooperation in foreign policy and defense. Surprisingly (with United Kingdom reservations), it goes far in supporting the institutional proposals of the Parliament, recommending the convening of a special conference to draft a European Union treaty guided by the draft of the Parliament. The European Council will consider the report at its next meeting, at the end of June.

Will these latest proposals have any practical results? Cynics can cite dozens of earlier ones that led nowhere. And the obstacles to decisive movement are serious. The key governments in France, Germany, and Britain have been steadily losing support and will doubtless be cautious and sensitive to pressure groups (the farmers) as elections draw nearer. The U.K., however, seems opposed to institutional reforms, and some of the other newer members (like Denmark, Ireland, and Greece) will make unanimity strenuously difficult to achieve. (The Parliament made the radical proposal that the draft treaty become effective when ratified by half the members, with two-thirds of the population.)

All things considered, it is easy to be pessimistic. We are unlikely to see a sudden leap forward. Yet the signs of vitality should not be played down, either.

Robert R. Bowie has been concerned with foreign affairs for nearly 40 years on the Harvard faculty, in government posts, and as a consultant.

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