Does Europe need a James Madison?
It was the "father of the Constitution" who led the effort after 1776 to turn 13 former American colonies into a federation known as the United States.
At the time, Europeans watched in amazement as the newly independent states created a national identity with a central, democratic government. Two centuries later, Americans can watch as Europe tries to create a united continent.
A US-style federated European Union won't be easy. The EU has to unite long-standing sovereign states with no common language. Still, France and Germany, leaders of the current 15 EU members, have put different plans on the table to better govern the eventual 30 countries and 500 million people that could become a "united states of Europe." (See story on page 6.)
The issue is front and center because the EU plans by December to restructure itself before it can admit new members from Eastern and Central Europe. Governing by consent won't work with so many members.
Germany would go the furthest toward a US-style federalism. Britain the least. France would set up a French-style bureaucratic elite, one controlled by an inner core of nations.
The union was designed in part to keep old enemies from going to war again. At that, it has succeeded. It has also uplifted many nations and now has a single currency.
But while business abhors borders, nationalism doesn't. A constitution that creates a central power with democratic legitimacy and that defines rights of citizens may be generations away. Still, EU enlargement is a necessity that requires new governance.
New members should not be treated as second-class nations, as France proposes. That would not be a truly federated Europe, nor would it form a more perfect union.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society