Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law

Symposium: Responses to Joschka Fischer


Enlargement and the Finality of European Integration

Jan Zielonka

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This paper is a part of contributions to the Jean Monnet Working Paper
No.7/00, Symposium: Responses to Joschka Fischer

The major reason behind Joschka Fischer's argument for deepening European integration is the forthcoming eastward enlargement of the European Union. As he puts it:

In the coming decade, we will have to enlarge the EU to the east and south-east, and this will, in the end, mean [a] doubling in the number of members. And at the same time, if we are to be able to meet this historic challenge and integrate the new Member States without substantially denting the EU's capacity for action, we must lay the last brick in the building of European integration, namely political integration.

According to Fischer, the outcome of the integration process will be a European federation, preceded by the formation of a `centre of gravity' within the Union; an `avant-garde, the driving force for the completion of political integration.'

Fischer's vision has been met with a great dose of scepticism, if not open hostility, among officials of the Eastern European applicant states. Some of them are worried that any ambitious reform project might further delay their entrance to the Union.1 Others fear erosion of the national sovereignty that they fought so hard to regain in their struggles against Soviet domination.2 Others again fear that far reaching reforms might arrive before they are in a position to shape them as full EU members.3 These are all important concerns that are being ignored by Western commentators debating the future of European integration in a most self-centred manner.

Candidates from Eastern Europe have no interest in paralysing European institutions. Like Fischer, they want the Union to work efficiently after their accession.4 However, as I will argue in this paper, enlargement and Fischer's vision are basically incompatible, despite all the assurances and qualifications spelled out by Fischer himself. I will try to show that a political federation within an enlarged Union is no longer possible, while the creation of a core group is set to undo the basic rationale for enlargement. Enlargement will greatly enhance the diversity within the Union and result in an ever greater disjunction between the EU's geographic and functional boundaries. The Union will increasingly act in overlapping circles and along a variable geometry resembling a neo-medieval empire more than a post-Westphalian federal state.5 If this is unavoidable, the Union should try to find ways of making the emerging neo-medieval empire work better, rather than attempting to re-construct a neo-Westphalian state writ large. A neo-medieval empire does not need to be seen as a recipe for chaos and paralysis. Effective governance is today about recognising complexity, flexibility and dispersion. However, the increased diversity and multiplicity of governing arrangements might also have negative side effects, especially in terms of democracy and cultural identity. The Union should try to find ways of coping with various negative aspects of the new diversified Europe while utilising positive aspects for the benefit of the entire continent.

1 See, for example, the Report of the meeting of the parliaments of the Member States and applicant countries of 17th June, 2000, that is readily available on the Internet at:

2 See, a commentary of Poland's Foreign Minister, Bronislaw Geremek quoted by PAP (Polska Agencja Prasowa), that is available, in electronic form, at the following address:

3 See, an interview with the Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orbán, for the Austrian newspaper Standard, June 18, 2000.

4 As the Polish government stated unequivocally: `It is Poland's intention to join an effective EU with all the consequences involved.' See, Intergovernmental Conference 2000: the Polish Position, Warsaw, 12 June 2000, which is available on the Internet at:

5 The term neo-medieval empire was first been used in Ole Waever's, `Imperial Metaphores: Emerging European Analogies to Pre-Nation State Imperial Systems, (Waever 1997:61)


© Jan Zielonka 2000


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