[EDITORIALS]A period of uncertainty?As France, which has led the move toward European integration, rejected a constitution for Europe on Sunday, the European Union faces a major crisis in its effort to achieve political unity. It is highly likely that the EU will enter a period of uncertainty over its future course and potential inactivity.
In the course of integration in the past 60 years, this is, of course, not the first crisis Europe has confronted. The Maastricht Agreement of 1992 was rejected by Danish voters in a referendum. However, the treaty was renegotiated and was ratified in a subsequent vote.
In 2001, the Nice agreement was rejected by Ireland. But the decision was withdrawn after the EU declared it would guarantee Ireland’s neutrality.
But the French decision to reject the European constitution has a different meaning from the crises that the EU confronted in the past. France has been the symbol of bolstering European integration. Therefore, the result of the French referendum poses a very strong question of whether the EU can overcome the most difficult political barrier or not.
In order to achieve European unity, it is essential to achieve military and political integration. Unlike economic integration, however, military and political integration have made very slow progress so far, due to the practical difficulties and public opposition to the idea.
One good example was in 1954, when six European nations tried to conclude the European Defense Community treaty, a first-step measure toward military integration, and the French Parliament voted it down. Since then, the EU has concentrated its effort on economic integration. It took more than 40 years for the EU to try to draw up an agreement on a military issue ― discussions on the joint defense of Europe.
As the structural framework of the EU was established in the Nice agreement, the integration of European countries will not be jeopardized by the French rejection. Also, as more than half of Europeans have already agreed to the adoption of a European constitution, the will to achieve European unity is strong.
But the French vote has shown that the EU needs far more time to achieve military and political integration, although it has succeeded in creating a unified market since the establishment of the EEC in 1957.