Europe in the 1990s
Dr Kurt Biedenkopf
Question and Answer Session
11 July 1992
Q. The Treaty of Rome says that any European state may apply for membership of the Community. The Treaty at no stage defines what a European state is. Could Dr Biedenkopf give us his view of what constitutes a European state?
A. Historically and geographically, that is well-defined. Geographically, a European state, I would say, is a state that is on the territory of the continent of Europe. However this is not the only prerequisite for joining the European Community. I think the most important aspect for eligibility for membership is that there is a semblance of comparability in the structure of the state applying for membership; in other words, there must be, if not harmony compatibility of political and legal systems. A European slate that had a dictatorship as its political Structure would not be eligible for membership. A slate that does not have a market economy compatible with the principles of the Rome Treaty, and with what the structure of economy within the European Community should be and will be, would not be eligible for membership. So I think the most important factor of eligibility, aside from the state having to be in Europe geographically speaking, is that the slate does fit into the system. This is one of the great problems with the eastern states: it’s no problem obviously with the EFA countries: it’s no problem with the so-called neutrals - Switzerland, Austria, Finland - which are also EFTA Countries, but it will become a problem if Czechoslovakia separates into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, it will become a problem even for the Czech Republic until its economy has developed in such a way as to be capable of being integrated into the system of the European Community. This has been the practice in the past. There will be an individual examination of all those who would like to join and I think what will happen is that the eastern countries that we would like to bring into the framework of the European system, if not for any other purpose than to help develop them and secure stable conditions, in this part of Europe, that these countries will have to go through a longer period of affiliation, during which we will be able to help and assist them in building up their economic, their social and their legal systems in such a way as to make them compatible with what has already developed in the rest of Europe. Because if we don’t do this (and this is a lesson that we can draw from German unification), the cost of entry to the European Community and to the state in question will be enormous. If you would include, for instance, the Czech Republic, into the European system now, you would see that most of the industrial establishment in the Czech Republic is non- competitive. In other words, it would break down immediately and of course there would be a tremendous pressure to raise wages because of the mobility of labour within the European Community, which means that this part, the Czech Republic, which had been included in Europe, would need a tremendous amount of subsidy for a long period of time in order to overcome the shock of integration. This is exactly what is happening in Germany now.
Q. A British audience is bound to be particularly concerned with the consequences of what Dr Biedenkopf was saying for Britain. The future Europe he was conjuring up was essentially a Europe of regions under a federal government. Germany already has existing structures which fit that - so does Spain and so does Italy. Does he foresee the dismemberment of the United Kingdom? What in a Europe of regions would be the role, f any, of our existing government at Westminster?
A. Well, a dismembering of Great Britain to me is inconceivable. So, rather than thinking from the angle of how we conceive a European government and then proceed from that to define conditions that member states would have to meet in order to fit into the picture, we should start out from the conditions of the members and then figure out how a government should be organised that fits into the ensemble of members. I think one of the difficulties we have created for ourselves in discussing the organisation of Europe is that we fall back on the structural experience we have gained during the last couple of hundred years with managing national governments; and it is our framework of thinking that we apply this experience that we have gained in organising nations for various forms of government, that we apply this to Europe. But Europe is not a super- nation state. Europe is something totally new and there needs to be a lot of innovative thinking to find out what the right structure should be for this kind of composition of nation states, regions, governments with different structures, centralised, non-centralised. The difference between France and Germany, for instance, is even more striking than the difference between Great Britain and Germany in the sense that France does really have one centre, one dominating, very large urban centre - of which de Gaulle once thought that 20% of the Frenchmen should live there, namely Paris - while the united Germany has seven urban centres that are very capable of competing with one another, and that culturally, economically are of almost equal standing. So there is a totally different structure and we have to develop for Europe (and we by far haven’t completed that task) structures of government, to take care of our common interests, like defence, like foreign policy matters, that fit this particular condition. In other words, we have not yet developed in our history what I would like to refer to now - as a matter of differentiation - as supra-national structures that can be loci of sovereignty to the outside world. You can see this in the almost futile debate about the function of the European Parliament. Actually right now, if we are all honest with one other, nobody wants the European Parliament to be a super-parliament with the same standing and the same authority as, say, the federal parliament in Germany, or the parliament in Great Britain. We hesitate to concentrate this kind of power in Europe because we know that there will be a lot of conflict and that the Spaniards will say ‘we are not going to be over-ruled by a parliament in which we do not have a say’. So the new structures that have to found, I think, partly on the basis of subsidiarity, which needs a lot of explaining, will look different from a national government and must be formed in such a way that a nation state that is not federally organised, and a federation like Germany or Switzerland, can all find their places under a common roof. But to dismember or even intrude substantially in the historic development of member states I think would be foolish, because it would damage the locus of identity of the people involved in such a way that it would reject Europe; and Europe can only be built on a very sound consensus, otherwise it won’t work. After all, we’re trying to overcome one thousand years of conflict by institutional means and institutional means, of course have to be enforced, but unless they are built on consensus they won’t work.
Q …don’t think it is necessarily a question of intrusion. I think the recent new lease of life of Scottish nationalism was very much fuelled by the notion among some people in Scotland that they could join Europe as a separate entity, shaking off the oppressive centre and keeping all their oil, etc…
I’d like to draw you out on something you said at supper last night, which was that in Germany there is a twin tug, as you put it, of sovereignties: as sovereignty is to some extent drained away from the national government to, let’s say, Brussels, at the same time the Lander in Germany are beginning to struggle to make sure that they get some sovereignty back from Bonn or give it to Bonn - I’m not quite sure which. It would be fascinating if you could say some more about this.
A. I will gladly do this, but I would like to comment on your statement about Scotland: I think one of the characteristics or faculties that the organisation of Europe will have to develop - we are after all in an experimental stage and I don’t think that we can simply go to the drawing board and draw up something for Europe: that will never work: we have to find out - one of the faculties this organisation for Europe that we are looking for will have to have is the capability to manage change. In other words, to adapt to changing conditions. None of us can predict the importance people will attach to a national government thirty years from now. It may be that because of the development in Europe, national governments will be extremely important because people will feel more protected by a national government than by a government responsible for four or five hundred million people. It might be the reverse, it might be that people will feel the closer unit, the smaller unit is where we really find our identities, and so regionalisation will become more important.
Going on to the second part of your remark, it is not impossible to conceive, that given German history as it is, or let me put it another way ... the history of the centre of West Europe - which of course is not only German history, it is the history of Switzerland, Bohemia, Denmark, Sweden, and what have you - that this history will not stop in its present structure for good, but that there may be new affiliations, not necessarily touching on national borders. When you ask Mr Streidel, Prime Minister of Bavaria, he will say ‘we feel very close to Lombardy, we feel very close to Tyrol’, and if you ask the Prime Minister of Baden Wurttemberg, as far as Baden is concerned, the south-west part of Germany, he will say ‘we feel very close to Alsace, we feel extremely close to Basel’. These are all the same kind of people, with the same origin. So there are trespassers of national borders all over the place, and it could be easily conceived that these associations become more important for the people living there than the support of the national government, the sovereignty rights of which have been transferred to Brussels, or any other place, a long time ago, and this leads me to the sovereignty problem.
In a federal structure, like the German federal structure, sovereignty rights originated from the Lander, which were there first. It was the Lander, the German states, that formed the federation in 1948/49 and the sovereignty derived from the Lander. It did not derive from the Reich, which was discontinued. And then of course you had the normal process of the federal government drawing in increasingly sovereignty rights de facto if not de jure, because of its powers of taxation and distribution of tax income, which is also part of the German constitution. Now, with sovereignty rights increasingly transmitted to Brussels, which are domestic policy rights, not rights relating to foreign relations, etc., a conflict must by necessity arise between the federal government and the states.
The media is a beautiful case in point: the jurisdiction for legislation on the media is a strict jurisdiction of the German states, not the federal government. That was an answer to the misuse of centralised power over the media in the Nazi system, so we have decreed in our constitution that the states should be responsible for the media. Now comes Brussels and says ‘that’s fine as far as content is concerned’; but as far as the production of media crossing the borders is concerned, they apply what in America would be called an inter-state commerce clause; in other words they say, ‘that part of the media is commerce and therefore we are responsible for that part’. And the federal government has agreed to this, which means the federal government has intruded on the media jurisdiction of the states and now the states are sort of asking for that back. In other words what we have is a tug-of-war going on between the states and the federal government as to who pays the price for the loss of sovereignty that is connected with Europe. Presently the states say ‘we are not going to ratify Maastricht unless you give us some of our sovereignties back’. It’s not put in those crude terms, but it is very elegantly put. We have to redefine some of the de facto transferrals of sovereignty to the federal government, but de facto the states in Germany are saying two things: one, with the transfer of sovereignty rights touching upon the sovereignty of the states, we would like to have a say in the transfer process and we would also like to have a say in the execution of these rights by Brussels to the extent they relate to the state sovereignties. The latter is much more difficult to organise than the former. But the states have said that unless this is anchored in the German constitution they will not ratify. So we are presently negotiating how to anchor that in the constitution, and the states have said too, ‘We are going to ratify if that is anchored in the constitution but we also want a promise by the federal government that the remaining sovereignties be redistributed so that the states have more rights in legislating on matters that concern one or two states, and that only if there are more states involved the federal government should be able to legislate’. It’s a complicated matter but it will come to a realignment of respective jurisdictions of the federal government and the state governments. The major argument being that with the political union of Europe, what used to be or was foreign policy is now domestic policy and in domestic policy of course the states have a different standing.
Q. Imagine, Chairman, that your introduction is as much on the agenda as the lecture and the vote of thanks and I noticed when you were setting the agenda for the lecture to follow you quite lightly said, as if taking it for granted, when listing perhaps six items on the agenda that you would do so without using “this unpleasant word subsidiarity”. You referred to the fact that one part of the agenda was the transference of power and authority from Brussels to the capitals. I would like to hear whether Dr Biedenkopf accepts that that is a very important part of the agenda in Europe over the next six months.
Sir Antony Acland: Yes, I won’t use the word subsidiarity because I think it’s a menace and even in this distinguished audience Jam not sure that everybody would be absolutely clear as to what it means: it ought to be banished from the vocabulary and something else should be found. So that’s why I didn’t use subsidiarity and I am very happy to be on record that I believe that some powers should be transferred from Brussels back to central governments. Actually, Dr Biedenkopf said, and I wrote it down, that it was very important that Maastricht took a turn away from centralisation.
A. Yes, well I talked about repatriation of jurisdictions. Well, if we all agree on substance, what we then need is a new word. As to the problems we have with the word subsidiarity, a historic note strikes me, namely the fact that the - well shall we call it bourgeois class? – in the nineteenth century had tremendous problems with the word solidarity. It had tremendous problems with the word, it didn’t want to use it, it thought it strange and irritating, to say the least. Today it is a quite common word. Everybody knows what we mean. So since we have a new problem to describe, we probably will need a new phrase to describe it. But the real issue is, how we distribute jurisdictions? And who is going to do what, in a very complicated and complex system of cooperation? And in order to bring some semblance of stability in what has been brought together under the roof of united Europe, and we hope will stay there as a basic prerequisite for a peace order in Europe, we have to decide who organises what? It is really to continue what I have just said on the tug-of-war over sovereignty. What we observe in Germany is really a microcosm of what will happen in Europe. To give some practical cases: if Switzerland joins the European Community, it will have a much more pronounced federal system than the Germans. In Switzerland it is law in important questions to ask all citizens of a canton to make a decision, not just the canton government. So in very many cases the population, the so-called Stimmbürger, as such has to make a decision. Now is that sovereignty, which is a sovereignty residing directly with the people, without any representation , going to be maintained? One of the major worries of the Swiss is that it wouldn’t.
Now of course to apply this kind of structure to a system in which there are 340 million people is impossible, so you have to find some way to protect what is very important for the Swiss in the organisation of their affairs so it can be introduced into the European system without break and without disruption.
The same would be true in Great Britain or in France. Now in France there is a debate on regionalisation. Nobody thinks about instituting states as they exist in Germany, but there is strong pressure for regional autonomy of some kind or another. If you look at Spain, if Mr Pujol were here, he would say that he is most certainly the Prime Minister of Catalonia: he acts that way and of course the Olympics move him even higher up and he does a marvellous job, but actually this is not a state in the sense of Germany. On the other hand, for Mr Pujol it is totally unimaginable that Europe would lead to a decrease of what he has already accomplished. He is looking forward to an increase of autonomy for his region.
In Italy we have, historically speaking, three major segments which have developed totally differently. We have national unity for now 150 years; before that there was no national unity in Italy of the kind of modern national unity that we are used to, and regionalisation in Italy is very strong, but they don’t have any Lander. So I think a European constitution of the future will have to provide various forms of regionalisation of authority that are structured in such a way that they are compatible without being equal in structure. In other words, they have to be organised in such a way that they can communicate on the same level or on a somewhat equal level. Maybe the Assembly of Regions is the first start in that direction - I don’t know. The German Lander are rather hesitant about accepting this kind of structure because to them it is a lowering of the status that they would like to maintain, while of course it is a raising of the stature of, say, Lombardy, or of a French region.
So, if we are to be successful in this process, we have to find this kind of flexible instrument because one thing is quite certain: everywhere in Europe where regions are the original or the prime source of identity for people, where national identities are either defunct or of less importance - and of course you have all manner of variations of relationships between the regional and national identities - everywhere that these regional identities are important, they have to be maintained if Europe is to work. Because, one thing you can learn from Czechoslovakia is that a lack of understanding of regional identities - and of course the Czechs did not really understand the Slovak regional identity sufficiently, at least they didn’t show that they understood it - a lack will lead to a breakaway, not necessarily in a period of economic rise and economic well-being, but as soon as things go wrong, as soon as you have to ask people to sacrifice. These identities are very important and if they’re defunct, then you will have all kinds of difficulties in maintaining a peaceful order. This is the real reason - not a governmental one - but this is the real reason why the regions are so important and this of course is basically true in continental Europe which has a totally different regional and structural development from Britain, which after all is fortunate enough to have an ocean around it, as an island, and that leads to a different structure from a continent in which you can move around and in which you have instability.
Sir Antony Acland: And of course, it’s exactly on these very issues that the referendum in Switzerland will be decided. And I’m sure Dr Biedenkopf will have his views as to which way it will go. My Swiss friends - and you’ll have your contacts as well - tell me that the popular vote may be quite close but the cantons on which the success or failure of the referendum stands will almost certainly vote against - or, the majority of them will probably vote against - because of the worry about the retention of their regional ties.
Q. Over the last 12 months a couple of widely quoted books have come out in the United States warning about the dynamism of Germany. There have been speeches along the same lines. I wonder what your reaction is?
A. Well, I have full understanding of notes of caution and signs of irritation about the unification of Germany in the centre of west Europe leading to a nation state, the structure of which I will refer to in a minute, which is larger in population and in economic performance - often referred to as economic power, but I prefer the word performance - than all other member states in Europe. Now, there are a number of developments in Germany that should all lead to a less concerned position: one is - what I have already referred to - the decentralisation of Germany; a recentralisation of Germany, which would be the prerequisite for any kind of evil intention for Germany in Europe is impossible. It will not work. Should anybody try it, they would break up Germany. The new states - and that is a very fortunate result of the development of the last 45 years - the new German states are so rooted now in Germany. We may have a restructuring of state borders in order to form a more homogeneous group of Länder, for instance putting Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate together, or even Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hessen, or Saxony and Thuringia. This is something for the future, but we’re thinking about it, because right now the sizes are very different - from a population of 600,000 in Bremen to 16 million in North Rhine-Westphalia. So there are strong imbalances. This may change, but basically the German states would not permit any kind of recentralisation.
Two: The modern industrial integration that was brought about by Europe makes it almost impossible for the German economy to develop the kind of structure which will be required for a country to be capable of exercising an autonomous foreign policy.
It was I think 14 years ago that George Kennan published his book ‘The Clouds of Danger’, in which he described - as an example he took the oil industry
- the tremendous dependence of foreign policy on domestic policy developments. Now, if a country in the centre of west Europe like Germany were to try to exercise independent foreign policies, it would immediately damage the international integration of its own economy. So economic integration, which after all was one of the raisons d’être of the European Community, makes it impossible to activate national sovereignty in such a way that it becomes dangerous.
There is a third reason which I would like to add as a footnote, if you please, and that’s a demographic reason. In its aggressive periods, the young nation state of Germany had an average population age of below 25. The average age in Germany at the end of this century will be 50. Now it is historically unknown for an ageing and wealthy population to become aggressive! Seriously speaking, this is a problem for all of Europe, by the way. If you look at the willingness of the population to undergo dramatic changes in its conditions of life, distribution of wealth, structures of thinking, you will find that there is a great factor of stability there, in the sense that the willingness to make any changes of that kind is very, very small; it’s too small even to adapt to German unification, as we find right now, so we need a tremendous amount of political pressure and leadership in order to make changes. No, I would say, these historically understandable concerns are not founded.
Q. Much has been said and written about the economic and financial impact of the reintegration of the east into Germany. I wonder if you would comment on the other side of the coin, that is what do you think this reintegration of 17 million Germans means in political, psychological and nationalistic terms? To put it another way, are there Le Pens and Perots working in Rostock?
A. I think there are Le Pens and Perots in all modern industrial societies. They’re usually French phenomena. The last polls we have taken in the eastern part of Germany show that our equivalent to Le Pen, the so-called Republicans, would poll 2.5% of the vote, in West Germany they would poll 11% of the vote. So, the real problem of Rightist resonance right now is not in East Germany but in West Germany. And that’s very understandable. I don’t want to be misunderstood when I make this statement, but the East Germans have such tremendous problems to solve that they simply do not have the time and the energy for this kind of an activity. They are much more concerned with solving the immediate problems and this would only change if, let’s say within the next three to four years, it were to become apparent that the problems were insoluble with the present structure of the political class and the body politic. Right now this is not the case. It is interesting that in East Germany the number of people optimistic about future development is higher than in West Germany, even though in East Germany the problems are much bigger.
It must have something to do with the growth phenomenon. If you live in a society where you experience improvement - visible improvement - in short periods of time, even though you may not participate in the improvement yourself, it will generate within you an optimistic feeling that in turn you may participate in that improvement if it is so obvious. Now if you live on a very high level of performance, like the West Germans, in comparison to the East Germans - GNP in West Germany being 93% of the total GNP, even though it’s only 80% of the population - and you have a growth of 1.5% which in absolute terms is of course much bigger than a growth of 10% in the East but is not experienced as a visible change of condition, you might be more frustrated. The maintenance of a high level of performance is much more exacting than rapid growth from a very low level of performance. And this is exactly what we are experiencing right now.
As a consequence, in answer to your question, Perot or Le Pen phenomena will probably be more likely in West Germany than in East Germany. I don’t want to elaborate now, given the time frame that we have, on the economic side of this, but I understand that you were mainly concerned about the political side.
We don’t have a long time frame on which to extrapolate. The whole process is a year and a half old, for practical purposes. In November1990 we didn’t even have state governments, we had to build up the state governments first even to become operational. So in operational terms it’s a year and a half. Now this year and a half is extraordinary; we cannot make any forecasts and yet we find that there is an increasing number of people - younger and older - coming from West to East Germany, because they feel it is exciting to participate in the process. And they’ll tell you it’s much more fun even though housing is lousy, and the streetcars are lousy and the water is undrinkable and the air is polluted: it’s much more fun to rebuild than to maintain.
Q. History suggests that a nation can only hold together on a permanent basis if there is both a strong central symbol and a theme or common purpose which holds it together. The United States clearly has that central symbol and theme in the American flag and American philosophy. What do you feel is the central theme and symbol which will be the rallying point to hold the Community together? A. Well the central theme to hold the Community together is the maintenance of peace, as far as I’m concerned, under conditions of a free society. I’m not sure whether symbols of that sort, that hold nations together and sort of symbolise their identities, and the national consensus can be artificially constructed and tied to something that the European Community one day will become, or that, if this experiment is successful, the period in which a viable European identity could develop, could be shortened artificially. I think it would take a long time. But I’m not sure whether you really need that for the European Community. As I tried to outline before, one of the defects of the discussion of the political Europe in my view is that we try to apply what we have learned about the nation state and its conditions to a politically united Europe and that gets us into conflict with what has already developed, because in order to organise Europe on the blueprint of a nation state you would have to preempt the existing nation states in order to have the substance of a nation state available for Europe. But that’s exactly what won’t work. The building up means that we reach a new level of organisation; we have to develop new structures and we may have - let’s say two, three, four generations from today - a European flag and a European anthem, and not national anthem, that may rally people together. I think it’s more unlikely that this will happen. I think what will happen is that we will find a European order of cooperation and cultural identity. I think the cultural identity part will be the most important because, for instance, when in Germany we say Christliches Abendland - we mean that part of Europe that was Roman Europe. We mean that this Roman Europe was deeply shaped by Christianity and that in spite of all the differences that separate us in language, in tradition, in outlook of family life, in values, we have basic values in common, and that these basic values separate us from the rest of the world, which actually is the case. This cultural, historical identity is what Europe is really about and I do not want to see actually a development where this cultural and historical identity is deflected by efforts to create something like a national identity for Europe in the sense of the nation state; I think that would be a step back rather than forward into the future.
Q. The very complex institutional adjustments and cultural identity which you have been talking about are really vastly complicated by significant migration, as you suggested last night. If we have not yet reached the point where the problem is unmanageable, what European initiatives, restrictive and otherwise, do you see as necessary in the next few years to deal with what is apparently going to be a very large problem?
A. I’m not capable of putting it into figures, but comparing it with the need to restructure and rebuild East Germany in order to avoid an east-west mobility within Germany, which we would have had had we not progressed to unification very quickly, I would say in Germany, it’s obvious, we know that we have to invest about 5% of GNP for the next 10 to 15 years in order to re-establish a kind of infrastructure and living conditions that will keep people from moving. Now, I don’t want to say that the same amount is necessary to arrive at conditions in the north African coastal states or regions, or in Poland, to prevent large scale mobility from taking place, but I don’t think that we are very far away from that. In other words, what we have to determine politically as Europeans, if we are to survive under peaceful conditions - because a tremendous influx will most certainly create tremendous political tension and conflict in Europe - is what kind of outlays are we willing to make in order to assist developments in the Maghreb, in Egypt, in other areas, that allow people to stay where they are without starving, or without living under inhumane conditions? But it is not only money: as I was trying to explain last night, more important is the transfer of knowledge, of know-how, of organisational and cultural prerequisites to organise a modern society, and this means we have to engage physically - not only in terms of money - and we have to apply our inventive capabilities to develop structures that meet the prerequisites and the capabilities of the people involved. We usually have a tendency simply to transfer our structures to other areas. That doesn’t work. It doesn’t even work in Germany. We transfer our West German structures to East Germany and we find they produce all kinds of injustice and not chaos, but a lot of disorder, before we adapt them. So I think Europe will have to draw up - aside from being concerned with itself - a fairly large and ambitious programme to stabilise the societies around its borders. And this will require more or less, let’s say, 5% of our GNP - I wouldn’t be surprised if it would amount to that - 5% of the European GNP - or 3%. But if we don’t do this, the alternative is that we shall spend the same kind of money to stabilise ourselves internally - to fight certain types of conflict, to house the people, to make all kinds of investments in security matters, in police, in the rebuilding of border controls, etc. etc. We have to make a choice. Do we want to internalise the problems of Europe, or do we want to take our strength and solve the problems where they begin to develop? I think a common purpose of Europe could be to do the latter and thus give Europeans a purpose - of course, a lot of explaining will have to be done in order to make people in Europe understand that this is their immediate concern and that it is to their own benefit to act that way. I would very much like to see something like this happening, because it would give Europe a common purpose - a common purpose which has a lot to do with the security implications for Europe, as well as with the long-range stability of an European peace order, in a world which is rapidly expanding, population- wise, and in which Europe becomes an even smaller minority on an island of prosperity. So a lot of things have to be done in order to maintain the legitimacy of this island in the light of an ever-growing world population.
Q: Isn’t there going to be a mismatch of time in the short term in that people are going to want to move for economic reasons before it has been possible actually to improve their conditions?
A: You are absolutely right, but experience is the best teacher: if we tell the Europeans that they have to do it in order to avoid mass mobility in five years from now, they won’t act. It is our experience even with the last 20 to 30 years - take ecology, take other matters - consensus formation in the right direction only takes place if insight is assisted by immediate danger.
Q: Could I ask you to say a bit more about security issues? You have used two or three times the phrase ‘a European peace order’ and in your lecture last night you accepted that there were serious difficult security problems, not least in Yugoslavia ,and that plainly there might be others perhaps of a similar character in central and eastern Europe and of course the finding of a new balance in the former Soviet Union is going to involve a great deal of conflict. How do you see the problem that we are stuck with, that in the different states of the European Community there are rat her fundamentally different views of war and peace and different national experiences and this shows whenever there is a crisis, be it over the Falklands, the Gulf or Yugoslavia etc. In all these cases there seems to be a tendency for action to be either on the national level or at a level that is higher than Europe – either NATO or the UN. The layer that seems to get left out is the European one. You have just said that this is the fundamental central moral purpose of European unity, then we have this paradox that on many issues of war and peace the European level seems to be at present the least effective.
A: I would agree with that and if I try to find an explanation for it, I would see one of the major causes for that status that you have described, and with which I agree, in that we are in a very difficult period of transition, the length of which is difficult to estimate. I remarked yesterday evening that bi-polar Europe has led to a reduction in the capability of national responsibility in west Europe, because, in the last resort, in cases of conflict there were the two world powers, and there was a certain comfort connected with the fact that you lived under the umbrella of a protective force. Now we have developed institutional arrangements for handling military conflicts in the NATO area and we have in stadio nascendi developed certain arrangements for handling conflicts under the United Nations.
We have not yet developed the European Community to such an intensity that it could act as a political unit in matters of security, and that of course is one of the goals we’re striving for with Maastricht. After all, the European Community is still basically an economic union and not a political union. Now during that period of transition, it is very difficult for this transitionary unit to assume the kind of responsibility that is connected with military intervention, leaving aside the different historical attitudes of the member states.
What I could imagine will happen is that we have to develop the possibility of military intervention on two levels: one is what I would like to refer to as future European domestic policy. There, the execution of law is the most important and you could refer to that part as a European police, policing the peace order. Now it’s quite obvious that you need that. So far the nation states are doing it and they are doing it more or less efficiently if the European Court makes any decisions, but the legal order has to be stable or there will be no stable peace order. And the other aspect is, how will Europe assume as an entity its political responsibility for at least that part of the world within which it exists? Now that would be the Near East, the Balkans, and East Europe.
I’m not sure whether we will succeed in building a European army as a consequence of a political Europe and Jam not sure what NATO’s function would be if something like this developed. There could be a concurrence in membership which of course is difficult with the enlargement process; and whenever this enlargement process takes place in the sense of a political union of Europe, the question will arise again of what the role of the United States will be. In Germany we most certainly feel that the United States is an indispensable partner in the process. We do not want to separate this partnership even though it will most likely be based on a new general basis, so we cannot conceive world conflict or large regional conflicts where the European interest is involved, but not the interest of the United States.
Yugoslavia is a perfect case in point. I feel that the United States were waiting to see whether the Europeans could do it, and only after they found that the Europeans had great difficulty did they begin to become interested. But this leads far beyond what I can speculate at this point. I think again a pragmatic development is important. Let’s do one thing after the other. Before we have a political union it is very difficult to establish a European peacekeeping force as such and for as long as this is not possible, we should rely on the instruments we already have.
Q: I was glad to hear Dr Biedenkopf describe the European enterprise as a fundamental enterprise. Does he not fear that some of these experiments are dangerous? I have in mind the Maastricht business. I appreciate that much of the discussion this morning has been about the redistribution of sovereignty, about giving people in Europe a better sense of being democratically involved. Sadly, it is possible to do violence to people’s democratic aspirations in other ways than having them properly represented. It seems to me that one of the features of the Maastricht operation - the same applies to the reform of the agricultural policy in the last few months - is that governments decide ahead of time that there is going to be a treaty two years from now, time goes by, civil servants rush off to Maastricht at the last minute to put together compromises, some kind of compromise is indeed agreed but it is not published immediately. In Britain the Maastricht was available from the Stationery Office only two months after the event. The people of Europe, however sovereignty is redistributed to regions and so on, are left with the impression that a compromise has been foisted on them. It is only partly palliated by the way in which heads of government then return and say “we had a famous victory in this compromise deal”. My question is what would Dr Biedenkopf see as the way out of that tactical way of doing violence to people’s democratic sense of being European?
A: I cannot really share your sentiment because the Treaty of Maastricht was not a valid treaty when it was signed by the Heads of State. It will be a valid treaty when the people have accepted it. And this acceptance process is, for each nation involved, a different one. In France there is even a popular vote on it. In Denmark there was a popular vote on it. In Great Britain the House of Commons as the representation of the people has to make a decision as to whether they want to accept it or not. If it is accepted - fine; if it is not accepted, we have to go on experimenting. And if it were not accepted - I hope it will be accepted, but if it were not accepted - that wouldn’t be Doomsday. It will only mean that we have to try again. And by all means it is worth trying twenty times to achieve something as historical as a political unification of Europe, so I think that the people are involved. How are you going to negotiate a treaty in other ways? You cannot begin to publish drafts and have national debates on drafts. That would make any treaty impossible to arrive at, because governments would be tied to national opinions before they were even capable of fathoming the possibilities of compromise. We have the same problem in the federal state of Germany when the states are entering into treaties; our parliaments usually clamour and say that the sovereignty of parliament is eliminated but when we try to ask them beforehand, we never arrive at a treaty, because then the governments come to the bargaining table and say, ‘well, we can’t move. Our people have instructed us so and so and so and so’. These instructions are usually made without knowledge of the interests of the other parties involved, so those who make instructions cannot weigh the various points in order to arrive at a compromise. I think the present system where the people have to accept the results of such negotiations is fine, provided - and that of course is an if - provided that governments do not feel that if they fail the first time, the whole process has failed. That would be wrong: if you would force people to accept a treaty with the argument that unless they accept it, the goal can no longer be achieved - period - that would really be forcing it down the throat of people and that would not be consensus-forming. But the Danish vote in the long run will be seen as a very helpful thing because a lot of people were shaken up and began to rethink ‘is our consensus-formation effort really sufficient?’ And a lot more has been done after the vote in Denmark than was done before. So even if that’s the only result and the Danes finally say ‘all right, we’re going to join the party’, they still have changed a bit the way to Europe.
Q: I want to touch on the non-military aspects of security, which are becoming much more important. Ministries of defence are fine for handling the military responsibilities, but what about the economic and social foundations? Violence is used now much more at the sub-national level and has its roots in local issues. Is this something that you see increasing as part of regional or Land policy?
A: Yes, and I think we should have - and I hope I’m not misunderstood - I think we should have a less scared attitude towards local violence. We have a tendency to describe any disturbance in the smooth process of a highly developed society and economy as a crisis, which is dangerous, because we lose sight of the larger purpose. I mean, of course it’s very unfortunate when the French farmers or the French truck drivers interrupt traffic for a couple of days and there is a lot of loss in production and discomfort for the tourists, etc. etc., but that’s not a crisis. It would be a crisis if the French government were incapable of getting control of things within four weeks, or even longer, that I would begin to consider a crisis, but other than that.. I would like again put it in a frame: Europe and all societies in evolution are restless processes and with the rearrangement that is connected, the social re-arrangement, the dislocation of people, where new technologies are introduced, etc. etc., there are always substantial economic tensions involved. We have to manage in two and a half years in East Germany in the textile industry what was managed in West Germany during a period of 30 years, namely the displacement of 80% of the workers in the textile industry, in the process of modernisation. In West Germany, that took place over a period of 30 years, in East Germany it will take place in a period of two and a half years. Now to me, it wouldn’t be in the least surprising if hundreds or even thousands of textile workers were to storm Dresden and simply refuse to accept this kind of dislocation in their lives. They haven’t done it - for miraculous reasons - but if they had done it - I would have said ‘you’re right; you have to somehow show your frustration, your anger, and the consequences of your dislocation’. I wouldn’t have considered that a crisis. If we suppress this kind of exposure of defects in society by the argument that they would endanger the cohesion of society, we would only produce much larger unrest and dislocation at some later period of time because it would all build up, as the pressure could not express itself. So these kinds of utterances, so to speak, collective utterances, in society where dislocations or very substantial sacrifices are asked of parts of the population, are an important signal to governments of where to pay attention, and you cannot plan all this in advance; it’s impossible in a revolutionary situation to plan all this, you have to react to this, you have to anticipate it to a certain extent, but if it breaks up - I would say it’s part of normality really.
Q: My admiration for Dr Biedenkopf’s vision last night has redoubled as a result of his exposition this morning. But there was one point where you left me with an impression that I am not absolutely sure about on the question of security. It seemed to me that you were a bit hesitant about that. You said that of course the existing machinery should be allowed to work - the old thing with which I utterly agree: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. On the other hand it seemed to me that because of your vision of Europe you had to go along perhaps with the idea that at some stage in the future we would create some European identity, some kind of armed forces which would take their place because Europe was Europe. But if you are not going to build a European national state, why should we go along with that? Why should the Germans encourage the French with ideas like the Franco-German corps when we’ve got a perfectly good concept now which involves a close partnership with the United States through the NATO alliance, in which the United States is firmly embedded here. Security is surely too important to be experimented with because of French prejudices and I do urge the Germans that they should not encourage the French in this kind of approach. And I think that people like Dr Biedenkopf who have such tremendous influence should not feel they have to go along with some idea of a European defence force because this is part of Europe. Let us stick with what we know, with what we have, which has been satisfactory for the last forty years.
A: I will interpret this as an appeal, not as a question.