EUROPEAN UNION COULD 'SPLIT' OVER CONSTITUTION
Thu Sep 23 2004 21:52:02 ET
THE EUROPEAN Union could be destroyed by divisions over plans for a new constitution, the world's most influential business journal declared today.
In a warning to Europe's leaders, The Economist said it was 'probable' the EU would split into rival camps if one or more countries votes against the constitution.
But it argued that such a collapse would actually be a good thing with Britain and other countries able to choose how much - or how little - they wanted to be involved.
'These referendums could throw the EU into the sort of crisis that puts the integration process into reverse or even causes the EU to split,' warned the magazine.
'The EU may indeed split. But a split need not be a dis-aster. It could lead to a multi-layered EU in which different countries adopt different levels of political integration and experiment with different economic models.'
However, the magazine added that there was also the potential for a 'darker' out-come. 'A split could cause Europe once again to divide into rival power blocks. 'That could threaten what most agree is the Union's central achievement - peace in Europe.'
The Economist's analysis is spelt out in a special 14-page report today on the state of Europe under the headline 'a divided Union'.
It argues the European Union have been gravely damaged by three core problems - economically it is falling far behind the U.S. and Asia, politically it is deeply divided on issues like Iraq, the new EU constitution and the euro and its legitimacy has been shattered by a crippling 'lack of popular understanding and enthusiasm'.
These problems have left the EU highly vulnerable at a time when it has just taken in 10 new members, including eight relatively impoverished countries from Eastern Europe, fuelling fears about immigration and cheap labour.
And The Economist identifies the controversial new constitution as the straw that could break the camel's back.
A total of 11 countries - including Britain - have now pledged to give the people a vote on the constitution.
The magazine also argues that change is necessary to stop Europe slipping further behind its rivals.
'Europe's share of the world economy is shrinking as the United States constantly outstrips European growth and the Asian economies surge ahead,' it warned.
One of the smartest men alive today never thought it was viable to begin with.