The topic of European Integration is often approached tentatively in this country to say the least. A gap in the EU dialogue is the case for full EU integration and for Britain to relinquish more power to the EU as its primary governing body. In this article, I try to make a case for that and argue that this should be done without seeking consent from the British public
Here I intend to argue the case for deeper European integration and intend to show how European integration, within a federal mechanism as the European Union, is desirable and has been of great benefit thus far. As a corollary I would like the reader to also bear in mind that in its current guise, the European Union lacks the infrastructure to hold universal referendums or elections concerning matters such as the Lisbon Treaty or the election of President of the European Council and Europe’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs. Minimal consent should continue to be sought here in the UK, and in other EU countries, in favour of increased co-operation and ideally integration with the EU.
The EU as an ever larger collective can make a bigger impact on the global political stage. Take for example, the announcement made by the EU Foreign Affairs Council stating that Jerusalem should be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian State. The announcement is a diplomatic one designed to reach out to Mahmoud Abbas and offer him support and a way back into negotiations with Israel. The announcement gives further support to Abbas by refusing to recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders. The EU, representing a large powerful collective of states, has rescued a stale peace process led by President Obama’s attempts to facilitate a peace process based upon Palestinian statehood alongside Israel. Using its power as a collective, the EU has re-ignited a diplomatic standstill which was at risk of playing into the hands of extremists.
It is clear that in dealing with global problems such as the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, states working together behind a united collective as the EU will have a greater impact on the world stage. Indeed, this has certainly been the case with climate change where the EU is seen as the forerunning institution on the issue. In 2007 the EU agreed as a collective to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% of 1990 levels by 2020.
Closer EU integration on a global scale is positive, has been beneficial, and should be pursued. The Lisbon Treaty was a very small step in this direction. The treaties ratification has introduced a raft of beneficial measures such as removal of national vetoes in areas such as climate change and emergency aid. To those who may reply that removing the power of national veto is eroding our national sovereignty I have two replies. Firstly, Britain can pull out of the EU if it chooses. Secondly, although I disagree with this development, the UK secured clauses which allow the UK to opt-out on binding agreements regarding matters of asylum, immigration, visas and all issues of justice and home affairs. I would have preferred to have seen no such power to opt-out. Indeed, some argue that the UK should have in place a law similar to the Irish Supreme Court ruling of 1987 which compels a referendum to be held concerning any major amendment to an EU treaty which impacts on national sovereignty. I myself am moving away from the idea of referenda concerning issues, such as the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, which have a global impact. And my get out of jail free card here is to point out that if a referendum was held on ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, the adoption of the Euro or even membership of the EU, we would wake up tomorrow as the esoteric – anti-immigrant, anti-Europe – island the Eurosceptics wish we were. The ideas of strong attachment to ones nation, and ideas of nationhood, are being eroded, and for the better. This decision is best left to those elected to make decisions for us. And luckily, it seems they support closer EU integration. This is an odd line to take from someone who vehemently argues for a more proportional electoral system ‘accountable to the people, and representative of the people’ but, put simply, the logistics of carrying out a Europe wide vote, on the same day during the same hours, to determine the EU President and High Representative, or the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, at this point are un-realistic. Instead, good diplomacy, and the EU’s Council of Ministers, will do for now.
Besides, far from eroding national identity and sovereignty, in reality the European Union can protect national identity and sovereignty. Take the example of the famous Cornish Sardine which has been granted its own recognisable status by the European Union this week. Under the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, the Cornish Sardine description will be recognised across the EU in the same way as Cornish clotted cream. A slightly richer example of the EU protecting national sovereignty is found in the Eulex mission in Kosovo where EU personnel have taken over police, justice and customs services from the UN as the newly independent Kosovan state finds it feet.
Compliance with the rules of an interdependent organisation such as the EU discourages the narrow pursuit of national interests. Further, compliance with the rules of an interdependent organisation such as the EU allows European states to work collectively to bring about positive changes on global issues such as climate change and the Israeli-Palestine conflict. This is a call for further EU integration. Hopefully we will be inviting the Ukraine into the mix following national elections in January. Bring on further EU integration.
First published December 10th 2009