It was inevitable. Of course a single currency, to be shared across the borders of 11 countries, binding these sovereign states amid talk of “dream come true” benefits to Europe from a combined monetary system, raises an obvious question. If monetary union has such potential, what would be the benefits of greater political union?
Romano Prodi, the new president of the European Commission, is determined to find out. He stated in an April speech before the European Parliament, “The single market was the theme of the ’80s. The single currency was the theme of the ’90s. We must now fact the difficult task of moving toward a single economy, a single political unity.” This, according to Prodi, would include a “real harmonization of economic systems,” a “real schedule for enlargement,” a reforming of EU institutions to make this possible, and a new treaty which would increase Europe’s defense capabilities.
Now that Prodi is officially commission president, he has wasted no time in starting to make good on his word.
A document co-written by Prodi and former British Trade Minister and Government Adviser Lord Simon of Highbury, due to be released mid-October, has been described by insiders as “far more radical” than expected in paving the way for a more powerful European Union. Proposed is a greater integration of its member states, EU enlargement from 15 to 28 countries within the next three years, and a reduced use of the national veto in favor of “qualified majority voting,” which in all likelihood means that Britain and other states would lose their veto over issues such as direct taxation.
Prodi’s spokesman commented, “It is not practical to have too many vetoes. We are trying to make sure we can pass some kind of legislation without being blocked by one state.” Prodi also plans to reduce the number of commissioners, which would most likely see Britain lose one of its Brussels representatives. Britain’s leadership has tried to distance itself from the report, saying that “Lord Simon was ‘freelancing’ and that the contents of the report did not reflect the government’s views” (Daily Telegraph, Oct.14).
British Prime Minister Tony Blair now finds himself lodged between a rock and a hard place. He strongly supported Prodi’s nomination for the position and has cautiously tried to warm a very skeptical British public to his pro-Europe stance. Now we wait to see if he will reject the views of his pro-EU integrationist continental Allies or accept the report. Whichever position he chooses, he will undoubtedly either seek to ride the wave of the emerging EU superstate, or find Britain facing Europe from across an ever-widening channel.