Paris, 30/01/2003– Franco – German proposals, Commission or Council, rotating or stable Council Presidency, structure of the European Parliament, … most of the European debate seems to be seen through the prism of Member States size. But ‘Small or big?’, is it still a relevant question?
Every state is a minority in the EU
Today’s EU, and even more tomorrow’s Europe, has become a unique political entity where states are always small compared to the rest of the EU. Even the biggest ones, Germany, France, UK or Italy, are just a small fraction of European population. Tomorrow, with more than 500 millions EU citizens, Germany will only represent 15% of EU population. Indeed all Member States have become small and differ only by being smaller or not than others. If we go beyond the EU and look on the world scene, this is even more obvious.
Thinking ‘small and smaller’ rather ‘big and small’ does change a lot one’s perspective
Politicians, diplomats, intellectuals may seriously see their conce ptions modify whether they keep on thinking in terms of ‘big and small’ countries rather than ‘small and smaller member – states’. Let’s take the French for instance. We were definitely in the ‘big’ category for centuries (at European and global level). From this time we tend to keep on thinking in the same way whilst more and more often make mistake in our international or European strategies because we overestimate our influence or strength. Too bad indeed, because we have kept a significant influence. But this influence will be much more efficiently used if we would consider it from today’s point of view of being a minority in Europe and a very small minority in the world. Being French, I speak of my country; but let’s be clear, all the other ‘big’ ones may get the message as well.
Let’s take the Council/Commission issue to see that small/big divide is totally irrelevant
Today’s rift is supposed to be between the small countries willing to strengthen the Commission while the big states would like to reinfor ce the Council. But meanwhile, small states want to keep a Commissioner (which creates a totally unmanageable College of Commissioners), while big countries disagree most of the time on major issues (see again on Iraq where Italy and UK go one direction, w hile France and Germany go another one). And, that’s not all: the collegial process at the Commission would require consensus, while the council seem to move into more qualified majority voting.
Not only is this division irrelevant, but it prevents real debates to occur
Politicians, media and intellectuals love to focus on this debate between ‘small and big’. Easy concept, easy thinking, easy polemics. Problem: it’s all fake and prevent the same ‘opinion leaders’ to discuss real issues like:
- How will the EU bureaucratic machine be democratically controlled when more power will be transferred to it?
- How will Europe be felt as ‘effective’ at citizen’s level?
- How will we generate an accountable political process and structure in tomorrow’s Europe?
- How will we be heard worldwide as Europeans?
From a citizen point of view, the size issue is none. Citizens are always the smallest part of any system in any case; so they don’t care much on size issues (national elites do on the contrary because it is part of their ‘job’ which is at stake). They care about deliverables; not ego trips.
Size is a static feature. And in static you have ‘state’
States are static. That’s were their name come from. The EU is an ongoing process which cannot be understood or influenced from a static position. Size is definitely an argument for state apparatus and elites, preventing people to look at what makes their nation strong: their people, their skills, their history, their visions, … .
Size is no argument. It is just an excuse to prevent innovative solutions to be found. On the long run, it is not the size of Germany (not even existing at the time) which made Beethoven a European genius, neither the size of England which created the Elizabethan era. Neither it is size which made a difference when Europeans abstained to let Ghadafi’s Libya becoming chair of the UN Human Rights Commission. Shame is “one size fits all”. Good leadership is what Europeans expect. Not big or small leadership!
In any case, let’s not forget that if all our states went into building the EU … it is because they all felt too small to face alone both their future and the rest of the world.
Franck Biancheri, Paris, 30/01/2003
©Franck Biancheri Documentation 2018