Bonn Prods Europe For Expanded Union
BONN — PLOWING through the acrimony generated by a proposal to form a two-tier European Union, Germany is pressing ahead with efforts to expand and strengthen pan-Continental cooperation.
Germany and France Tuesday called on the European Commission - the EU's executive branch - to establish a framework for the incorporation of the formerly Communist states of Central Europe into the Western economic and political fold. The EU has indicated it is open to membership by Central European nations, but currently no precise blueprint exists for merging the formerly Communist states into the EU.
Bonn and Paris have been the driving force behind attempts to forge a federal Europe. Germany currently holds the rotating EU presidency. It will be succeeded by France on Jan. 1.
Meanwhile, German officials and commentators have been defending a controversial proposal on the EU's immediate future. The proposal, contained in a position paper made public Sept. 1 by Germany's governing Christian Democratic Union, called for an accelerated effort on EU integration, with Germany and at least four other EU nations forming a ``core'' to pave the way.
The German plan provoked a storm of protest from some powerful nations not slated to be in the core group, particularly Britain and Italy. Some leaders hinted that the plan demonstrated a desire by Germany to become a hegemonistic power in Europe.
While some German commentators concede the wording of the Christian Democrat position paper was heavy-handed, many insist that public debate on the EU's future shape is long overdue.
For Germans, speed appears to outweigh all other considerations in the discussion on EU integration. Hesitation, many Germans worry, could be fatal to the realization of a EU unified by a common currency and single foreign policy. And the alternative could be a return to the ruinous balance-of-power arrangements of previous centuries, some commentators suggest.
``He who waits for consensus will leave Europe in a dead end full of the vicious animals of nationalism,'' political commentator Theo Sommer wrote in the weekly Die Zeit.
If momentum for EU federalism dissipates, Germany, more than any European nation, would find itself torn between the relatively prosperous West and the developing East.
``Who [in Germany], except the extreme right, doesn't worry that the drifting apart of Europe would push Germany back into its old no man's land, forcing Germany to go its own way?'' Mr. Sommer added.
But while German leaders push, European bankers say haste has the potential to lay waste to EU designs. On Monday, the European Banking Federation said the time frame for EU monetary union should be relaxed, lest banking chaos result.
The common EU currency is due to be introduced between 1997 and 1999. But the banking federation said it would be the year 2000 at the earliest before European financial institutions could adjust in order to accommodate the single currency.
As it stands, only two of the 12 EU members - Ireland and Luxembourg - meet the stringent requirements on national debt levels that are a precondition for currency unification. EU members will meet Oct. 10 in Luxembourg to discuss the problem.
A bright spot for the EU could be the election win of the pro-EU Social Democrats in Swedish elections Sept. 18.
Sweden, Finland, and Norway are set to hold referendums this autumn on joining the EU. In all three Nordic nations, there is widespread wariness about the benefits of EU membership, and some observers say the Social Democrats' win in Sweden could tip the scales over to a ``yes'' vote there. Austria already has approved membership in a popular referendum June 12 and will join the EU Jan. 1, 1995.