03 December 1993 - 05 December 1993

European Union: Current Progress and Future Development

Chair: The Rt Hon Tristan Garel-Jones MP

Meeting just two years after Ditchley last tackled European Union (EU) we had a sense of breathing-space after a tougher travel-stage than the previous gathering had foreseen. Maastricht was now safely ratified (albeit not implemented). Most of us accepted this as a genuine advance, though the process had been a salutary warning of how far, and how riskily, élite cosmopolitan enthusiasm had in many member countries outrun popular understanding and sympathy. More must be done by leaderships, we felt sure, to mobilise the peoples of Europe behind the aims and concepts of the next stage, as we moved towards the Inter-Governmental Conference scheduled for 1996. But what were those aims and concepts to be? The Maastricht Treaty offered a sketch, but neither a complete nor a certain one; in particular, so some participants argued, its thinking largely pre-dated the historic opening eastwards with the end of the Cold War.

Recession, as we recognised, provided an uncomfortable environment for the Union’s development. Institutional advance might have to take second place to the tackling of stagnant growth and grave unemployment; the Union was confronted by awkward economic problems, for example about the affordability of costly welfare-state habits amid intensifying global competition. European participants were more dismissive than non-European ones of the danger of a drift towards protectionism in the wake of the Uruguay Round (which had interestingly illustrated both the reality and the limitations of the EU as a global actor). Almost all however acknowledged the difficulty, in such times, of persuading electorates to accept yet further near-term discomforts in the service of higher goals. Views were strongly expressed, and as strongly contested, that Bundesbank-led monetary austerity lay at the root of low growth; and this prompted vigorous discussion of the value, pattern and pace of European Monetary Union (EMU). For some, it was simply a bridge too far, even given a slower advance than the now-unrealisable Maastricht schedule; notable doubt was expressed about whether Germany would ever really sign up to the reality, and to the surrender of political authority it implied on matters historically of special domestic sensitivity. This scepticism did not seem the majority opinion; but the majority was itself not uniform. Different judgments emerged on whether EMU was separable from commonality and centralisation of economic policy, and on how far it was essential, as distinct from highly helpful, to the proper working of the common market. Many thought that EMU would come before very long, but on the basis of an inner-core group within the Union; and further differences of judgment then emerged both on how far such a limited-membership EMU would cause difficulties in the general working of the Union, and how far the “inner-core” concept would be apt to infect also the working of “political” union.

It was evident that for some participants, especially from the Western side of the Atlantic, the problems and intricacies of EMU were something of a side-show. The key challenge for European Union, it was argued, lay in how it handled the eastward tasks. Those, we heard, were the issues which would surely inspire a returned Monnet and Schuman; could not Western Europe recognise the immense political opportunity and moral demand of post- Cold-War reconciliation, as of post-World-War-II reconciliation forty years ago? Evidence that Western Europe truly accepted the need to open its markets (if only to ward off the alternative of massive further immigration) was not easy to find.

The broader question of enlargement had several aspects. We encountered the familiar tension - however much we protested at the short-hand - between “wideners”, generally keen to see the countries of the European Free Trade Area (whose continued enthusiasm for membership, given the Union’s current condition, we perhaps assumed too readily?), of Central and Eastern Europe, and - less enthusiastically - of the Mediterranean, join as soon as ready; and “deepeners” concerned to concentrate first on maximising political and institutional cohesion within the current membership. Whatever the preference as to pace and priority, we all agreed that Russia (and almost all that Ukraine) could never be members of the Union, since their accession would create an unmanageably wide and loose entity; but we realised that it would be awkward both substantively and presentationally to establish now, in a shifting world, definitive long-term boundaries for the Union’s extent, especially as the processes of accession were multi-stage and complex and their completion was constrained by the Union’s absorptive capacity as well as by the fitness of candidates. With Russia and Ukraine the EU must particularly strive to build close and constructive alternative relationships.

Our discussion of the future realism and contribution of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) evinced rather more doubt than confidence, even after most of us had - albeit uneasily - turned away from ex-Yugoslavia as an unfairly severe early test. Cooperation and coordination, with a strong presumption in favour of congruent attitudes and actions, were clearly valuable, and could remain so even if, as over Macedonia, the present Twelve were not all of one mind. But these were not new ideas. CFSP ideally aspired to something more; and it was at best unclear, even before enlargement made the problem harder still, that this something more was truly attainable unless the EU became truly a single body politic in a way that lay wholly beyond current prospects. The defence aspect highlighted the matter: what political authority had the ultimate right to put the citizen soldier’s life at risk? That issue led us into the relationship between NATO and Western European Union. None of us, it seemed, doubted that the Atlantic Alliance remained the prime practical instrument for European security, and the view was strongly asserted both that the experiences of ex-Yugoslavia and in DESERT STORM pointed to the unreality of Europe-only alternatives for major tasks, and that membership of WEU but not of NATO should be firmly dismissed as a non-option. We did not directly tackle the issue of NATO’s own eventual boundaries, and we recognised that the United States’ voice was crucial in that; but we were minded to judge that it would be found artificial, awkward and unnecessary to deny the option (which would not automatically be taken up) of NATO membership to countries becoming full EU members, with all the characteristics so implied.

We did not find time for extended examination of internal EU mechanisms, though we noted that the addition of extra members would complicate these to the point that change - on voting, for example, and on Presidency arrangements - would be inescapable if breakdown was to be avoided. Enlargement could not prudently be allowed to import further complication; loosening in some respects (whether under the banner of subsidiarity or otherwise) might be an inescapable price. Better arrangements for the interface between Commission and Council of Ministers were required, and (we were told) were emerging.

Our exchanges on the “democratic deficit” were inconclusive. As the travails of Maastricht (and the recent significant yet double-edged decision of Germany’s constitutional court) had shown, something fresh needed to be done to anchor EU development in democratic accountability; but we were not clear whether this should be in national Parliaments or in the European Parliament, or (if both) in what blend between them. The European Parliament had at its elbow more power than it had yet found the confidence to wield; but we heard both vigorous defence of its basic merits and misgiving of its natural centralising disposition and of its detachment from the grass-roots political responsibilities of raising as distinct from spending resources.

As we looked forward, we were unable to discern clearly the agenda for the 1996 conference. Our general sense, despite all the particular problems and complexities we had surveyed, was that the mood of EU advance could and should be one of continued confidence in the vigour and fruitfulness of the European idea rooted in shared values of democracy and of respect for the rights of others. We suspected that exploiting that idea might be harmed if debates continued to be conducted in excessively polarised all-or-nothing terms. It might for the next few years, so it was eloquently argued, be better expressed in the tackling of a problem-solving agenda, seeking results with whose value European publics could identify, rather than in institutional macro-designs which publics might find relatively arid and which offered short-term temptations to national politicians disposed to scapegoat Brussels. Not for the first time at Ditchley, on this as on other topics, we longed for confidently successful political leadership on the international stage.

This Note reflects the Director's personal impressions of the conference. No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.

Chairman: The Rt Hon Tristan Garel-Jones MP
Member of Parliament (Conservative), Watford; Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) (1990-93)


Mr David C Goss
Deputy High Commissioner, Australian High Commission, London

Sir Roy Denman KCB CMG
Consultant in international trade

Mr Geoffrey Denton
Writer, Lecturer and Consultant
The Hon James Elles MEP
Member (Conservative), Oxford and Buckinghamshire, European Parliament

Mr Geoffrey Fitchew CB
European Secretariat, Cabinet Office

Mr Nigel Forman MP
Member of Parliament (Conservative), Carshalton and Wallington

Sir Michael Franklin KCB CMG
Retired Civil Servant; Chairman, Europe Committee, British Invisibles

Mr Michael Jay CMG
Assistant Under-Secretary of State for European Community Affairs, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Mr Graham Mather
President, European Policy Forum, London

Sir Peter Middleton GCB
A Deputy Chairman and Director, and Chairman, BZW Banking Division, Barclays Bank

Sir Brian Unwin KCB
President and Chairman, Board of Directors, European Investment Bank

Mr Robert Worcester
Chairman, Market and Opinion Research International (MORI);

HE Mr Ivan Stancioff
Bulgarian Ambassador to the Court of S t James’s

HE Mr John J Noble
Canadian Ambassador to Greece

Mr Graham J L Avery
Commission of the European Communities, Brussels: Director, Task Force for Enlargement

Mme Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam
Member, Conseil Supérieur des Français de l’Etranger for the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and the Channel Islands

M Richard Narich
Minister-Counsellor, The French Embassy, London

Dr Hans Arnold
Retired as Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the UN in Geneva (1982-87)

Dr Hans Werner Lautenschlager
Lecturer, University of Bonn

Dr Angelika Voile
Executive Editor, Europa-Archiv, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Auswärtige Politik e. V, (DGAP) Bonn

On. Giuliano Amato
Aspen Institute Italia, Rome; Prime Minister of Italy (1992-93)

Dr Miguel Herrero de Miñón
Partido Popular Deputy for Madrid

The Hon David Aaron
United States Ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

Professor George A Bermann
Professor of Law, Columbia University School of Law

Professor Michael Brenner
Professor of International Affairs, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburg

Mr David Brooks
Deputy Editorial Page Editor, Wall Street Journal Europe, Brussels

Mr Michael Calingaert
Senior Fellow, National Planning Association, Washington DC, and international consultant, Brussels

Ms Mary Fleming
Special Representative for The German Marshall Fund of the United States, Paris, specialising in developing the Fund’s program focused on the implications for the US of European integration

Dr Michael Froman
Member, joint International Economic Affairs staff, National Economic Council and National Security Council, Washington DC

The Hon Richard N Gardner
US Ambassador to Spain

Dr Walter Goldstein
Professor of Political Science and of Public Policy, Rockefeller College, State University of New York at Albany

Mr C Randall Henning
Research Associate, Institute for International Economics, Washington DC (specialises in the politics and institutions of economic policymaking in the US, Europe and Japan)

Professor Mark Kramer
Senior Research Fellow, and Deputy Director, European Security Studies, and Assistant Professor of International Relations, Brown University’s Center for Foreign Policy Development

Mr Craig R Whitney
Bonn Bureau Chief, and European Diplomatic Correspondent, The New York Times