AT their summit meeting in Dublin last weekend, the European Community (EC) member states moved forward in their persistent progress toward political integration. The 12 Western European states commissioned a study on union to be completed by the end of June. At that time, an intergovernmental committee would address specifically the revamping of the constitutional basis of the EC. This has a special significance, in that it propels into the limelight a power redistribution that could make the EC a real democratic entity. This leap forward comes at a critical moment in the 32-year history of the EC. Most important, the 12 members have answered those critics who believed that the momentous Eastern European upheavals of 1989 would slow down, divert, or derail the European Community march to the completion of the internal market by the end of 1992.
The demands of German unity have been and continue to be major priorities for the western democracies, but Dublin signaled that the European Commission, led by President Jacques Delors, and the Franco-German centerpiece of the EC, led by President Mitterand and Chancellor Kohl, would not be deterred in pursuing even the political component of the Single European Act (SEA) of 1986.
The conditions in post-1989 Europe will necessitate institutional reform if a real general market is to be created and be capable of functioning effectively. The SEA acknowledged the vast structural limitations of the European Community in the future, particularly in the power deficiencies of the Commission and European Parliament. The act prescribed the need to design new roles for those two critical organs of the EC, and Dublin has now placed that objective alongside the achievement of the single market and the Delors plan for a monetary union. This triad of objectives will become the cardinal agenda of the EC in the '90s.
Working out the specific details of changes in powers within the EC will be a difficult task. The outlines of both a strategy and institutional arrangements have emerged, however, from the efforts of Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey and of Belgian Foreign Minister Mark Eyskens. These two statesmen have not only found a general consensus among their Community partners, but determined that there already exists approval for both majority voting in the European Council of Ministers and increased powers for the European Parliament.
There is some controversy nevertheless, particularly in the British-led reluctance to deviate from the present veto system (strongly advocated by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher). From this viewpoint, any procedure that centers on weighted majority voting is a direct challenge to national sovereignty. This possible opposition within the intergovernmental meeting may become intensive and lead to real conflict within the EC if, for instance, the notion of power-reallocation involves the establishment of a common foreign or defense policy capability for the EC.
There is reason to believe that the German problem has been managed successfully by the Community partners. For the first five months after the Berlin Wall collapsed, it appeared that the German drive to reunification would dislodge the 1992 project with its substantial demands of time, effort, and money. Most of these differences have receded with cautious and cooperative Western diplomacy. What is striking about the entire process is the steadfast and assertive manner in which the Common Market states have kept both the economic- and political-union goals not merely alive and on-track, but viable possibilities for the near future.
Although the battles on the political aspects of further empowerment still remain, there now exists an optimism that the new Europe is still in the mainstream of the current debates of the European states. Perhaps central to this entire development will be discussions about and eventual attainment of a more democratic Community.
The existence of a ``democratic deficiency'' within the structures of the EC has been one of its weakest characteristics, and the call for democratic legitimacy has focused on enhancing the EP with more clearcut roles. A truly meaningful European legislature that has real budget powers and is directly accountable to the European citizenry, and an elected president of the Commission would open the door to a European government both responsible to and also reflecting the wishes of its people.
Furthermore, this development would be a global symbol of the success in our times of liberal parliamentary democracy. As we note the 50th anniversary of the commencement of World War II, with its seeds in European clashes over non-democratic governance systems, the Dublin decisions give us good reason to believe that Europe yearns and labors toward a peaceful and democratic new decade and century.