Under assertive French leadership, the flagging fortunes of the Common Market are being revived. But more than economic cooperation is required to produce European unity. FOR THE time being at least, the slide of the 10-nation European Community into oblivion has been halted.
French President Francois Mitterrand now says that "a very vigorous and vital relaunching" of European unity can begin.
Not a minute too soon, many experts believe. For many a year the world's largest economic bloc had been teetering on the brink of dissolution. Two disastrous summits of the EC's heads of government had collapsed, largely over the issue of the size of Great Britain's contribution to the Community budget.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had insisted on a reduction in annual payments for her country, plus a reform in the EC's budget, which overwhelmingly goes to subsidizing continental farmers and has resulted in huge surpluses of butter, beef, grains and wine.
Mitterrand Clears the Way At the recent June summit, at Fontainebleau, near Paris, a last-minute agreement hammered out by France, West Germany and Britain settled the British payments dispute. But more than that was accomplished, largely through the efforts of French President Francois Mitterrand, who, observers noted, had skillfully handled the "British problem" in the last six months in which he has held the revolving presidential chair of Community affairs.
With the payments problem out of the way, the assembled leaders ordered the drafting of a single customs document for the whole Community to replace the 70-odd documents Europeans now need to sell to one another.
Even though critics claim the new form, if adopted, is still too long and cumbersome, it should speed up border crossing delays, which add an approximate 5 percent to the cost of Community — produced goods. The simple fact is, the Common Market is still a good distance from being "common."
Also, the 10 EC heads of government agreed to channel more resources into joint industrial projects instead of farm subsidies, which now eat up about two thirds of the EC budget in Brussels. Extra cash, reaching US $5,000,000,000 a year by 1986, will be poured into ventures that include telecommunications and the launching of a European space station.
The leaders hope that by such a reorientation of priorities — even though they expect howls from farm interests — the Community will be able to overcome what is variously called "Europessimism" and "Eurosclerosis." The terms reflect the widespread belief among Europe's leading industrialists that Europe is slipping, perhaps irrevocably, behind the Americans and the Japanese in high technology-based industry.
Early in the year the editors of the European edition of The Wall Street Journal conducted a survey of 200 chief executives representing the leading companies in 16 nations in Europe. Overall, reported the editors, the survey produced "stark evidence that Europe's executives believe their continent has declined as a source of technology leadership with the U.S. maintaining its top position and Japan gaining in importance."
"No European country," the survey found, "ranks as the leading source in any technological area, in the executives' view."
Such a bleak future the Community leaders hope to change by reorienting the EC's funding processes.
Indicating the importance he places on a Community "relaunch" Mr. Mitterrrand also agreed, with Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany, to end all customs inspections at the Franco-German border.
The French President has also announced that he wants university diplomas and credit requirements to be standardized, and a "European peace corps" organized for assistance to the Third World.
President Mitterrand also wants Europeans to sense, to a far greater degree than before, that they have a European as well as national citizenship. A standardized European passport has already been agreed to in principle by the 10 governments, and Mr. Mitterrand displayed the French version at Fontainebleau, saying it will be issued by next year.
The French leader also would like to put new political momentum into European policy-making by establishing a political secretariat. This body would be different from the European Community commission in Brussels that is concerned primarily with economic operations. A political secretariat would, in effect, be an embryonic European foreign ministry.
Greater Defense Cooperation The French have been active in the field of greater defense cooperation in Europe as well. Since defense matters lie outside the purview of the European Community, such efforts have taken place under the aegis of the long — dormant Western European Union.
The WEU is a mutual assistance pact, predating NATO, and which links France, West Germany, Italy, Britain and the three Benelux states. It was originally established to supervise West German rearmament after World War II.
The French apparently are looking to this revived body as a kind of European inner-circle that will be the place to do business on cooperative arms — production projects, as well as the exchange of intelligence information and sensitive issues of East-West relations.
As a result of the first meeting of the foreign ministers of the WEU states, on June 12 in Paris, 30-year-old restrictions on West German manufacture of long-range missiles and strategic bombers were scrapped.
A communique issued June 28 after a follow-up meeting in London said representatives of the seven nations decided unanimously to cancel "the outdated remaining restrictions... concerning the manufacture of conventional armaments by the Federal Republic of Germany." The move was viewed as having primarily political impact since Germany has said it doesn't intend to start making strategic missiles or bombers.
Which Way America The road that Europe takes in the future will largely be a result of a reaction to trends in the United States.
In the field of economics, the Europeans are becoming frightened at what some call the "Jamerican challenge" — the high — tech blitz of the United States and Japan. To prepare for the challenge, the Common Market leaders know that they must put internal squabblings to an end. Europeans are also concerned that a changing America sees its future more as a Pacific Basin power.
In the security arena, nearly all European strategic thinkers also envision an eventual U.S. reduction — if not total pullout — of U.S. military forces in Europe.
No greater proof of this eventuality was the speed with which a troop reduction proposal spread through the U.S. Senate this past June. It called for a phase-out of about one third of the more than 300,000 U.S. troops committed to NATO defenses in Europe unless the Europeans contributed more funds to their own NATO commitments.
The measure was narrowly defeated, but only because of a lot of senatorial arm-twisting by President Ronald Reagan and urgent transatlantic pleas from top officials in Europe.
President Reagan was especially alarmed over the measure. Only two weeks previously he had delivered a stirring message on the beaches of Normandy, commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-day. In his remarks, Mr. Reagan stressed that America had "learned bitter lessons from two world wars," meaning that it was better to keep forces on the Continent in peacetime indefinitely than have to send a mighty army to deliver Europe from totalitarian bondage.
European leaders are "getting the message," however. Such troop withdrawal plans will be reintroduced time and again as America and Europe increasingly go their separate ways.
As a result, President Mitterrand, Chancellor Kohl and others have been discussing ways to strengthen the "European pillar" of the NATO alliance — to make up for what they see as the inevitable diminution of America's commitment.
More than Economics Needed In his book The Europeans, published in 1983 by Simon and Schuster, the late Luigi Barzini stressed the difficulties ahead for Europeans as they strive for unity.
The urgency of unity is recognized, but the will to unite still is lacking. "A unified Europe could," he noted, "... prepare itself in time for the dangerous, turbulent, and violent decades ahead, possibly the most treacherous times since the fall of the Roman Empire."
Yet, Mr. Barzini observed, conflicting national prides and interests remain major stumbling blocks. Furthermore, he stressed, economics has its limits as a unifying agent. "European unification," he wrote, "has been really retarded and possibly prevented forever by, the delusion that a customs union would one day spontaneously generate a political and defense union....
"The reason why the economic union is a dead — end street is that it is based on a limited, oversimplified, and inadequate philosophy that became predominant in Europe after the Second World War. It was believed to be the final solution of all problems. It holds these truths to be self-evident: one, that the economy is the principal motor of history; two, that an increasingly bigger GNP was the only and sufficient condition for progress."
Much more is needed, insisted this well-known expert on European culture. "There cannot be a really united Europe without a common currency and a common foreign policy, but above all, a common defense policy. This, in the twentieth century, means nuclear weapons and space defenses."
All of these aspects leading Europeans realize they must have. Since 1978 an embryonic European currency — the European Currency Unit, or ECU — has been in operation However, it is essentially a computer computation, representing a "basket" of individual European monetary values. It is not yet a full-fledged currency.
The French now are talking of beginning a common foreign policy directorate. And, this past summer, both the French and the West Germans agreed to the need for developing a joint satellite intelligence network.
Furthermore, among some French officials, wrote Sam Davidson' in the March 5 Financial Times of London, "it is now becoming acceptable to raise the long — taboo notion that there needs to be a change in the relationship between West Germany and nuclear weapons.
"It is Jacques Chirac, no less, the leader of the Gaullist party, who has said that this problem needs to be addressed; how he does not claim to know, but somehow or other, he believes, it must be addressed. And quite recently a French Socialist deputy, writing in Le Monde, argued that, as part of a move towards a more united European defense posture, the Germans should have dual — key control of some of the French nuclear weapons."
Dangerous Trend? That Europe should come to a greater sense of unity, economically and even militarily, seems logical to many, even in the United States. The U.S. government has long officially supported such a goal, though primarily mostly out of lip service. A more independent Europe could be a far more challenging economic competitor. And, in matters of defense, who knows what would happen.
An editorial in the Los Angeles Times early in the year stated, cautiously: "There is a danger that the movement for 'Europeanization' of European defense could become a vehicle for anti-Americanism in Europe and isolationism in America."
And in the Spring 1983 edition of Atlantic Quarterly, in an article entitled "European Self-Reliance and the Reform of NATO," author Healey Bull wrote that a more independent Europe "is likely to disappoint some of the expectations that Americans commonly have about it. It would be less willing to follow the American lead, more capable of working against American policies should it wish to do so, and more of a risk as an ally of the United States than one America is able to control."
Nevertheless, influential policy framers in the United States are actually encouraging such development of a militarily independent Western Europe.
For example, Melvyn Krauss of the Hoover Institution in California recently urged that the United States "must reduce Europe's defense dependence on this country.... The Europeans must be made to realize that, given unilateralist and anti-Western sentiment in this country, U.S. troops will leave Western Europe one way or another."
"Moreover," Mr. Krauss added, "the Europeans must have their [own] nuclear umbrella to replace the American one."
It is largely the European dependence on the United States that has impeded the development of European defenses, contended Mr. Krauss. "When that guarantee is removed," he emphasized, "and Europe's military again becomes important, people of daring and imagination will be attracted to serve."
Few stop to reflect, it seems, on the military genius that the European nations have generated in the past — "people of daring and imagination" that, at times, have threatened the entire world.
The fact is, as pointed out by Josef Joffe at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, America's 39-year-long presence in Europe has been the key to Europe's unprecedented peace and prosperity. America has been, Mr. Joffe explains, "Europe's pacifier" — protecting not only Western Europe from the East, but "the half — continent against itself."
"NATO's detractors ignore," claims Mr. Joffe, "the central role America has played in pacifying a state system that almost consumed itself in two world wars."
During this time of pacification, Europe's traditional adversaries, France and Germany, have learned to cooperate to an unprecedented degree. And while possessing sizable military establishments, they have not had to be concerned about their ultimate security, provided by the U.S. nuclear "umbrella" and the "trip wire" presence of U.S. forces in Europe.
Remove these forces and the nations of continental Europe will have little choice but to as quickly as possible develop their own replacement force. This time they will likely cooperate with each other, but not necessarily with the United States, nor with Great Britain, which is less than enthusiastic about the possible emergence of a "European pillar."
The British are known to be edgy about all this talk — on both sides of the Atlantic — of America packing up, departing Europe and leaving a united European defense behind in its wake.
Where would such a development leave Britain, a nation whose ties to the Continent are tenuous at best? This was perhaps best reflected in a public opinion poll in France in which Frenchmen were asked to name their least admired foreign heads of government. British Prime Minister Thatcher finished third — after the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran and Muammar Kadafi of Libya, and ahead of Fidel Castro of Cuba.
Role of Religion Even the military and security factors will not suffice to cement a new Europe together. The greatest "glue" is religion.
Pope John Paul II has consistently urged the nations of Europe to "rediscover their roots," meaning their Christian, or Catholic, heritage. Peter Nichols, the Rome correspondent for the Times of London, wrote on April 6:
"John Paul... has repeatedly spoken of Europe as stretching to the Urals. He sees his election as a sign that Eastern Europe must be given its just place as an integral part of Christian Europe and not be treated simply as a painful diplomatic question. He insists on common Christian roots and, added to this vision, is a dream of reconciliation between Western Christianity and the Eastern Orthodox churches."
The activities of the Vatican in promoting European unity must not be overlooked.
Continue to read the pages of The Plain Truth and see where the inevitable trend toward European unity will lead — and how its development will gravely impact the fortunes of both the British and American peoples.
In the meantime, if you have not yet done so, write for our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. It grippingly lays bare the true heritage and destiny of the Northwest European and North American peoples.