Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


2. The Omissions

I leave out the problems which can, indeed, only be dealt with through intergovernmental negotiations - including those associated with the more effective co-ordination of foreign policy and the creation and deployment of a substantial rapid deployment force of EU Member States, perhaps under conditions of "closer co-operation". I will also exclude the Third-Pillar problems to which Member States have not yet granted a significant role to the Commission. But this still leaves a wide range of problems that could have been considered, but were not.

Among them are the difficulties caused by the European Monetary Union. The Irish conflict (which may also have played a role in the referendum on the Nice Treaty) has highlighted the fundamental problems of one-size-fits-all interest rates set by the ECB - which turn out to be much too low for the high-growth Irish economy and much too high for the low-growth Germany economy. It would have been interesting to read how the Commission sees its role in facilitating fiscal-policy co-ordination under conditions of economic diversity. Should there be effective sanctions against Ireland? Or should each Member State in the EMU be allowed to struggle on its own with the consequences of a common monetary policy that does not fit the national economy - even if this has external effects on average Euro rates of inflation?

But interesting as these questions may be, they are overshadowed by the omission of the problems of Eastern enlargement. Here, my concern is not with the necessary changes of EU decision-making structures (which were messed up, rather than resolved, at Nice) or with the determination and allocation of financial burdens which, again, can only be handled by intergovernmental bargaining; it is with the Commission's role in imposing the acquis on new Member States which had no voice in its definition and whose economic and social conditions differ fundamentally from those of the Member States from whose self-interested bargains these rules had emerged. If they are enforced with all the legalistic determination of which the Commission and the Court are capable, the fragile economies of new Member States will be destroyed just as the East German economy was destroyed when the acquis of the West German legal order was imposed and enforced without modification. How this consequence could be avoided without triggering domino effects throughout the EU legal system is a question that ought to cause sleepless nights for some people in Brussels - but not, apparently, to the authors of the White Paper.

But, then, the White Paper is generally not interested in discussing the substantive problems confronting the EU and its Member States at the present time - and this is an omission with serious consequences for its definition of governance problems, and even more so for the effectiveness and legitimacy of their proposed resolution. To put the matter more simply in game-theory terms: for the resolution of pure co-ordination problems, all modes of governance are effective and legitimate; for zero-sum conflicts, in contrast, only hierarchical authority can ensure a peaceful resolution, and it can only do so if it is supported by very strong legitimacy beliefs among the parties involved in the conflict. By failing to address the substantive challenges facing the EU, the White Paper underestimates the difficulty of the problems that need to be faced and overestimates the legitimating power of the governance procedures that are proposed.




This site is part of the Academy of European Law online, a joint partnership of the Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law, the Academy of European Law and the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute.
Questions or comments about this site?