MaltaToday | 18 May 2008 | A bigger pie with more flavours

OPINION | Sunday, 18 May 2008

A bigger pie with more flavours


The ‘too many cooks’ as opposed to ‘the more the merrier’ debate has always puzzled me. This is not merely an issue of semantics since it bears a great resemblance to the intergovernmental versus federalist conflict which has characterised the European Union’s recent past.
Some people simply do not like growth. It brings about change and perhaps implies a need for a newfound maturity. They want to remain young and use naivety as an excuse for their mistakes and misjudgements. Others see growth as an inevitable process in life. Its there and we have to deal with it one way or another.
Fortunately for the rest of us, just as the cliché goes, variety is the spice of life, and diversity is the new constant. We the people welcome it with open arms. Label us disillusioned but do not dare attempt to put a halt to our dreams of unity, peace, economic growth, cultural diversity and a better standard of living.
Look at us a little closer and you might notice that perhaps we are not as disillusioned as you first thought. The European Union’s past is a catalyst for its future and the experience of these last fifty-plus years is what makes us so confident that more can be achieved.
Every great idea and invention starts as a series of phrases or sketches which only the creator or idealist can find hope in. If these contain the requisite spark they will catch on and prove irresistible to others who share and understand that initial vision. A phrase becomes a chapter, and then a novel. A sketch becomes a room, and then a building. A plan for unity becomes one of peace and economic growth.
Empires are not created overnight and the world will not be a better place tomorrow morning just because some of us have that desire this afternoon. It has taken Europe a long time to arrive at point ‘B’ but many believe that even this point is solely a temporary one. Such is the nature of an ever evolving entity being driven by those who see endless possibilities, yet, at the same time, are fully aware of the obstacles that can and will be encountered.
What has been achieved in Europe thus far is remarkable. From an association based on the need to share and better utilise coal and steel to a realisation that together we are stronger. Keeping your friends close and your enemies closer may have been what guided our forefathers in their decisions but today the enemies have largely morphed into allies despite the inevitable differences.
We are rich in history, language and attitude and by no means intend to change that. What we intend to do is keep extending our invitation to like-minded states who share common values which are necessary to make our continent a better place to inhabit. If you believe in democracy and respect human rights, and you’re prepared to pledge your allegiance to these pillars of the European faith- come join us.
Of course, everything has its costs and deterrents, and the EU, like any other entity, has committed its share of blunders. In what has been criticised as an already highly bureaucratic entity, the addition of new member states can only complicate matters. Enlargement is not the only problem area which the EU faces. The alleged democratic deficit and the EU’s seeming inability to react promptly to global crisis are also matters of concern.
However, having a vision and a will to succeed necessitates an ability to adapt. Whilst the proposed constitution for Europe is no more, the Reform Treaty is currently riding a wave of authoritative and educated support. This is the means through which we can ready ourselves for a bigger and better Europe. Perhaps the EU’s inaction on matters such as Tibet, the Olympics, and Iraq will become a matter of the past with the creation of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, one of several Reform Treaty innovations.
Every new link created by the EU is done with the premise of mutual gain. The priorities in an extended Europe are numerous and must be respected. Aiding the weaker in an attempt at their strengthening is not done selflessly but in the hope that, soon enough, the weak become strong and will then be in a position to pay it back to those who helped out, and perhaps also forward to those still in need.
The benefits of enlargement depend on the manner in which this process is tackled. However, if past evidence is anything to go by we can set our minds at ease about the future. Of course all depends on one’s vision of European Union. The schpiel of a Europe a-la-carte, a two-speed Europe, principles of variegation, enhanced co-operation and a pick and choose entity present matters to be tackled when dealing with the question of enlargement.
Having few members on the same page is hard but denying others a chance to participate would be wrong if done for the sole reason of avoiding future hitches. This is where the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity should kick in and prove their importance.
The EU is now in a somewhat privileged position and has a respectable level of clout on the international scene. This has allowed it to raise the bar when contemplating future candidates for membership. The necessary implication is that if and when the invitation is extended, the potential member states will already possess the fundamental principles and a level of economic development with which the union can then work on in tandem with the state.
The strength-in-numbers reasoning is not just a romantic idea or a political motto to be ignored. More member states means more European citizens and, despite the fact that these may not instantly be considered our compatriots, they will grow to be our foreign acquaintances.
Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil speaks of enlargement as ‘the most powerful EU foreign policy instrument’ and believes that its effectiveness can be gauged by the way that countries that joined the EU have changed dramatically, politically, socially, and economically. He feels that ‘Malta has been through this silent revolution and today we live in a country in which fundamental freedoms, free market competition and high social standards are guaranteed. None of these would have been achieved without membership.’
One only realises how important something is when it is threatened, be it by a political promise or by a set of non conformists. Europe has come to be our extended identity and the thought of this being jeopardised brings out the claws of those who cherish it dearly.
It is impossible to please all parties concerned but that is when democracy steps in and offers the best possible solution. This is why the common European values are so fundamental to everything we have and aspire to. And this is why it is through their continued respect and enforcement that a larger European Union is not just the dream it used to be but a plausible possibility we look forward to discovering.

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