Counselor for EU-related affairs, Policy Planning, German Foreign Office
Preparing Europe' s Future: The Actuality of Joschka Fischer's Berlin Speech
Lecture in the Cicero Foundation Great Debate seminar: "The French Presidency and the Treaty of Nice", Paris, 17 November 2000
Thank you, Mr. Van Herpen. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak here today on Joschka Fischer's Berlin speech - a speech generally referred to as the Humboldt-speech. Working for policy planning I have, however, to start with a disclaimer. The good experience with policy planning is that you can really influence policy makers by your conceptual work. The bad experience - if you may say so - is that you never know whether and when your ideas and your interpretion of intellectual designs really are accepted. For this reason I want to speak today strictly on a personal basis. The very fact that I am still a member of the policy planning staff, however, gives you an idea that - so far - the mismatch between what I suggested and what was eventually accepted somehow was tolerable.
Speaking about the actuality of the Humboldt - speech is not only speaking about Joschka Fischer's speech, the concepts he developed and the already existing ideas he brought to bear. Speaking about the actuality of Joschka Fischer's speech is, above all, also speaking about the very lively public debate on Europe's future which has developed - a broad debate with contributions from Jacques Delors, Hubert Védrine, Jacques Chirac, Giuliano Amato, Guy Verhofstadt, Romano Prodi, Tony Blair and, finally, Paavo Lipponen. And it is a debate which - rightly - involves increasingly the future new members. Applicant states must have a fair chance to contribute to the final shape of the - so-called "common European house". After all they, too, will be living in it. Jan Kulakowski' s recent contribution "Federation and a Wider Union", therefore, broke important new ground. So my first contention is: speaking about the actuality of Joschka Fischer's speech is not only speaking about the Humboldt speech but also speaking about a lively public debate on Europe's future which has begun.
My second contention is that speaking about the actuality of Joschka Fischer's speech is not inevitably speaking about EU-reforms or European vanguard - as the title of this seminar is phrased. It is rather speaking about reforms through an - eventual - European vanguard. First, I firmly believe in a successful conclusion in Nice. And second, Joschka Fischer's centre of gravity, at least, is clearly meant to be non-exclusive, transitional and only a means of last resort. If I were to use a metaphor, I would use the following: a non-exclusive centre of gravity definitely is not a speed boat exercise, allowing some of the present EU-members to flee - in secret, at night - from an unmanoeuverable tanker EU. Rather it is a tug boat exercise by which some EU members shoulder the responsability to get the tanker EU moving ahead again. And it would be in the very logic of that exercise that the tug boat would be taken back on board after accomplishment of its mission.
In the first part of my presentation I would now like to dwell on the question what makes it nowadays even more important to engage in this debate, which clearly looks into a medium- and long term future after Nice. In that respect I would like to make two more analytical observations. What are the points of reference which have emerged in this starting finality debate? This will be the second part of my presentation and in this second part I would like to make three more operational remarks. Please note that I am proceeding in a "plan en deux parties". This is certainly also a reflection of the extensive joint German-French finality-thinking we undertook with the "Centre d'analyse et de prévision" of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to Joschka Fischer's Humboldt - speech.
What are my analytical observations and why do I want to argue that Joschka Fischer and the other speakers made most timely contributions?My first observation is: I firmly expect - at the very end - a sound compromise package in Nice. After all, we are now in the Post-Biarritz and - perhaps more important - in the Post-Vittel stage, where it became once again very clear that Germany is firmly supporting the French Presidency in its endeavours to wind up successfully at Nice. It is perhaps a truism, but nevertheless true: a previous German-French understanding is not automatically the solution to the Union's problems, but without it solutions are even more difficult. So if we are to assume that - at Nice - the Union will make sure that its institutional machinery can continue to work in an enlarged format - which is to say that the Union will be in a position to maintain its present level of integration - the next question to be decided will be the future shape, if not yet final shape, of the Union. This is the issue about further democratic deepening of integration, the issue of how to complete political integration in Europe. And this is exactly the topic of the debate on Europe's future. Whenever - in the run up to Nice - I still feel prone to growing pessimism, I go back to the comments made by the British observer at the mid-term session of the Messina conference, Mr. Russel Bretherton. Before rising from the negotiating table, he said: "Gentlemen you are trying to negotiate something you will never be able to negotiate. But if negotiated, it will not be ratified. And if ratified, it will not work." Compared to that the Union never has done so badly.
So much for the IGC and its function as a link to the ongoing finality discussion. The three crucial issues are well known: maintaining an enlarged Union's capacity to act, improving the democratic legitimacy of EU-decisions and launching a a post Nice-process towards further constitutionalizing the Union. I would only like to stress that it would be very wrong to approach Nice as a conflict between large and small Member States. All Member States of the European Union have - in view of an EU of 27/28 members - the same interest in the effective working of the institutions and an effective and democratic decision-making process, including a functioning community method and closer cooperation as an instrument for deeper, non-exclusive integration.
My second observation is that the process of enlargement is gaining further momentum. In its new progress reports the Commission now envisages a roadmap for the accession negotiations, including a target date for the conclusion of negotiations with the most advanced candidates. Over the whole range of negotiations the question now definitely is not any longer whether, but how and when. Enlargement - and this will never be superfluous to state - is essential for the stability in Europe. Europe, as a result, is deeping and widening at an accelerated pace. It is no accident that, together with the process of enlargement, the CFSP - and in particular European crisis management - has become a very dynamic integration project. Prospects are very good that we can take this process another important step down the road in Nice. Against this background of growing political integration it is no accident either that Member States - through government representatives and parliamentarians - have elaborated a Charter of Fundamental Rights. Obviously the Union has reached a degree of integration where there is not only a need to spell out civil rights, but also to reach an understanding about the values which form the basis of the European project. All in all integration, therefore, now has reached a "critical mass". By way of widening and deepening the Union is now reaching three classical areas of national sovereignty: currency, defence and civil rights. The developments - and I just refer to those in the past couple of months - are going very fast. In a historical sense this is not surprising: before 1989 deepening and widening could be conceptualized in terms of a process. The block order provided for a reliable framework. Thus deepening was related to internal, civilian and trade issues, while Nato and the United States were determining the foreign and security policy radius. Widening per se was only possible to the borders of the Soviet bloc. So after 1989 the issue is - with an ever accelerating pace - how to define - now in a deliberate act, the process of widening and deepening of the Union.
What are my more operational remarks and why do I want to argue that Joschka Fischer is offering also most pertinent substantial food for thought? My first remark is: after Nice clearly four specific reform issues will dominate the debate about the future shape of Europe. In practical, legal terms, having adopted a Charter of Fundamental Rights simply raises the issue of how to include it in the Union Treaty. Giving the European citizens greater powers raises the recurring question what the EU's powers actually are, so that, at last, we can say, as far as it is possible, what it is supposed to do and what it should not do. This issue, again, involves the even more important issue of the competences of the European institutions and the checks and balances that exist or should be established between them. And, last but not least, talking about giving the citizens greater powers or making the process of integration easier to grasp also requires, to remain credible, establishing a more readable treaty. The issue is - as I said - not only about efficient decision-making in an enlarged Union, but, above all, also about its democratic quality. In a wider Europe we need stronger institutions, but these institutions also need stronger legitimation. The issue of reweighting the Council votes and the composition of the European Parliament are very important steps. The problems of democratic accountability and democratic control, yet, go much deeper. In general terms the problem is: on the one hand the Union relies on its Member States in which citizens may exercise their democratic rights and send "the scoundrils" home. On the other the Union has grown into a dynamic entity, in particular in the wake of the introduction of the Single Currency and the evolution of the CFSP. In spite of having increasing obligations vis-à-vis the Union, EU-citizens, however, basically still have to rely on their democratic rights in their respective home states. In specific terms the problem is the poor acceptance of the European Parliament and its worrisome alienation from the European citizens. And here Joschka Fischer' wish to parliamentarize the institutional framework of the European Union - and his lively debated proposal for a European Parliament with two chambers - comes in. Joschka Fischer visualizes a European chamber - which could be composed of members also belonging to national parliaments - and a second national one. For this second national chamber - according to Fischer - a decision will have to be made between the Senate model and a chamber of states along the lines of Germany's Bundesrat. Having a national and European chamber in the European Parliament, admittedly, takes us in a way back to conditions which existed before 1979 - while now the European Parliament is co-legislator and on an equal footing for the majority of legislative business. Wondering about practicality is certainly a legitimate concern. The much stronger concern, however, must be: how do we bridge the fatal gap between national parliamentarian elites and European politics, how do we reconcile the national and European public? Without resolving this problem we will not be able to improve democratic legitimacy in the Union. In this vein of thinking Joschka Fischer also suggests to have the President of the Commission elected by the European citizens, thus giving him real legitimacy to represent all of Europe. Democracy is - I think - always also about identification. My second remark is: it is now fairly clear that the Union will have to be finalized on the basis of its intrinsic features, its so-called sui generis character. It is now a quite natural thing to speak of the constitutional issue which is now raised in Europe - because what else than traditional constitutional issues are involved when you talk about including a Charter of Fundamental Rights, better defining competences within the Union and improving the checks and balances? One could equally call it a constituent treaty - the term Joschka Fischer prefers in his Berlin speech. But what really matters is that it is not about a state-constitution but about a non-state constitution, a non-state constituent treaty. And in this sense, evidently, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair and many others do not have problems to refer to a European constitution. Again, this conceptual step is essential for democratizing Europe. The European Union - as things stand now - clearly is not meant to become a "superstate". For the time being, at least, the Union is not about becoming a classical federal state disposing of a clear hierarchy between a federal and a state level. Quite to the contrary, for the time being nation states with their different cultures, languages, histories and traditions, will continue to exist within the Union. And this aspect is so important to Joschka Fischer that I would even dare to state it officially. To quote Joschka Fischer: "the existing concept of a federal European state replacing the old nation-states and their democracies as the new sovereign power shows itself to be an artificial construct which ignores the established realities in Europe". During the course of time, yet, the European citizen has acquired a special status. Therefore, in analytical terms, the Union now disposes of a dual character as Union of States and a Union of Citizens. The realm of the Union of Citizens is being represented by the European Parliament and the European Commission, the Union of states is represented by the Council of Ministers and the European Council. Taken together this is a Union which reaches out far beyond a mere confederation. The Union is a politcal project to pool sovereignty to secure a European way to security, stability and prosperity. Further organizing the European Union, therefore, always means finding a better balance between the two poles of a Union of States and a Union of Citizens. Thus, the issue is about finding a proper division of sovereignty in a horizontal sense and in a vertical sense - in a horizontal sense between nation states and the Union, in a vertical sense between the Union's institutions. Seen from the specific angle of democratic deepening the issue is about how to make best use of a dual legitimation: the direct legitimation by the Members of the European Parliament and the legitimation by the Member States, which in turn is based on democratic national elections. And here again Joschka Fischer's ideas come in. Stressing the perennity of the nation states he suggests - in conformity with Jacques Delors - to visualize as a final goal - a "federation of nation states", disposing of a dual character as Union of Citizens and a Union of States. To recap his proposals in this vital conceptual perspective: In terms of a horizontal division of sovereignty Joschka Fischer visualizes "a lean European Federation, but one capable of action, fully sovereign and based on self-confident nation-states", putting into practice the principle of subsidiarity. The areas of sovereignty in which - for him - the European level clearly matters are the single market, the single currency, justice and home affairs and external relations, including defence. In horizontal terms Joschka Fischer proposes to consider reinforcing the European Parliament. I already referred earlier to his specific proposals on which there has been a lively debate. As to the executive level, Joschka Fischer, against the background of the dual nature of the Union, recalls the two possible options: either one decides in favour of developing the European Council into a European government. Or one takes the existing Commission structure as a starting point - allowing the option of an directly elected president with far-reaching executive powers (I already referred to this proposal). Two things seem to be certain for Fischer: to work sufficiently the Union needs a strong, performing Commission with a right of initiative. And the basic problem with the Council is that it has a double role as a European executive and a European legislator.
So much for the conceptual actuality of Joschka Fischer' s speech. My third remark is that it is now fairly clear that finalizing the eventual shape of Europe requires procedural thinking. Let me begin with the most radical idea I already mentioned: the idea of a centre of gravity. Given the enormous pressure under which the Union finds itself now - both to cope with the challenges of widening and deepening - the "one million dollar question", if you permit me this expression, of course is: how can we move towards a more constitutionalized, final shape of Europe? The Danish referendum, just to refer to a recent event, made it quite clear that even not all present member states might be prepared to go ahead at the same time. This is the point of departure of Joschka Fischer's analysis. If the alternative is - by the irrefutable historical challenge of enlargement - "either erosion or integration" - to cite Joschka Fischer again - then there might be a need for a centre of gravity to emerge. Anything short of this would not have the coherence to complete political integration and to form a nucleus of a politically integrated Union. Because the situation - once again - would be extremely difficult: either erosion or integration, to be meaningful this nucleus for a politically fully integrated Union would have to develop ist own institutions, establish a government which within the Union should speak with one voice on behalf of the members of the group on as many issues as possible, a strong parliament and a directly elected president - if possible on the basis of a constituent treaty. History proves that a pure, lasting intergovernmental cooperation would simply not be efficient enough, not to mention its lack of democratic legitimacy.
To be acceptable such an avantgarde must - and this would be imperative - never be exclusive, but must be open to all member states and candidate countries, should they wish to participate at a certain point in time. For those - and I continue to cite Joschka Fischer - who wish to participate, but do not fulfill the requirements, there must be a possibility to be drawn in. This must be particular true for the candidate countries. For it would be - and if there is anything close to the heart of Joschka Fischer then it is this - historically absurd to exclude them at a moment where Europe is in the process of unifying. And mechanisms would have to be developed which allow members of the centre of gravity to cooperate smoothly with others in the Union. A possible sequence could be: from closer cooperation towards a European constituent treaty, first within the framework of a centre of gravity, then encompassing the entire Union. In intellectual terms one could even imagine a very simple way of determining the members of this centre: those member states, e.g., who are willing to ratify a European constitution that all members have worked out together (present and new ones alike).In Fischer's line of reasoning a centre of gravity - very clearly - would only be a transitional strategy, a strategy of last resort. In intellectual terms it would simply be unsincere to exclude such a way forward. This does not mean that it is a desirable or unavoidable strategy. The mere prospect of not being part of the dynamics of integration, so far, has always worked wonders and mobilized the necessary energies. The euro is a case in point. And why should it be different in the future? The real-life issue, therefore, is now how to organize the Post-Nice-process. To be very explicit: this is not about administrating new left-overs, but about finding ways and means to tackle the four Post-Nice issues I elaborated earlier: the legal status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, a better definition of the competences and the checks and balances within the Union and vis-à-vis the national and regional level, and, last but not least, the streamlining of the EU-treaties. The idea is now to treat these issues at an IGC in the year 2004. To prepare for this conference one could consider establishing a body of wise men. And the Belgian Presidency in 2001 could - according to the recent proposal by Prime Minister Verhofstadt - launch a preparatory political declaration about the rationale of European integration. And it might also be wise to consider how the positive experiences gathered with Convent procedure could be exploited (after all this is an IGC plus a parliamentarian input). And it might also be wise to visualize, once again, a step by step approach. While it might be wishful, for instance, to overcome the dichotomy in the CFSP, it certainly cannot be decided as early as 2004.
To sum up: Speaking about the actuality of Joschka Fischer's Humboldt speech is not only speaking about his speech, but is about a full fledged discussion on Europe's future which has begun. And speaking about the actuality of Joschka Fischer's Berlin speech is above all speaking about reforms through - eventually - a European vanguard. The very fact of having such a broad debate is per se already a positive fact. We have now reached a stage in European integration where we need to define how we want to complete the political integration. The worst thing to happen, therefore, is silence or secrecy around the European project. It is silence which nourishes fear and gives ground to demagogic temptations. I think General de Gaulle was pretty right in saying: "Il faut combattre la démagogie par la démocratie." This debate, lastly, is about how to democratize the Union and it will require, above all, a change from a top-down approach to a bottom-up philosophy of direct public involvement. Once the European Union has agreed on the institutional prerequisites for enlargement at Nice the debate will, I am sure, gather even more momentum and will turn very practical. If the Union is to hold another IGC around 2004 it is very clear that candidate countries must be duly involved. And it must be clear that its conclusion will not be a further prerequisite for enlargement. In his Humboldt speech Joschka Fischer certainly does not pretend to have all the answers. Yet, by referring to Jacques Delors' concept of a "federation of nation states" and refining it by the notion of a "Union of Citizens and States" he might have offered forward looking, consensus allowing concepts - "food for thought" to conduct the necessary "division of sovereignty" and the indispensable promotion of more democratic accountability. The biggest actuality of his speech, however, may be that he managed to make other people accept a word like "finality". A few years ago this would have been considered just another "f"-word. I will stop here and I am happy to take questions, be it only to hear that I was all wrong, or even worse, that it was very wise for me to speak strictly in my private capacity, because everything I have said would never get accepted by Joschka Fischer.