This article has been reproduced with the permission of Survival, a publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
This is not just another crisis. It is an existential crisis at the worst possible moment, a year after the largest ever round of EU enlargement, with several candidates still lining up, and at a time when international tensions—including global terrorism—demand a politically coherent European Union. Moreover, in the wake of French and Dutch voters’ “no” to the European Union’s draft constitutional treaty, European leaders have so far failed to rise to the occasion. Rather than struggle to define a reasonable way forward at the June 2005 summit in Brussels, European governments fiddled over relatively trivial budget issues while the EU burned.
Ironically, the draft EU constitution has died—or at least has fallen into a deep coma—in France, where the European project was initiated more than half a century ago. The endeavour is now stalled. A battle of visions has started amidst widespread confusion about what to do with the constitutional treaty. The time has come to clarify the institutional nature, as well as the ultimate goal, of the European Union. A multi-speed Union is the best possible way forward.