1309Belgian leader proposes 'United States of Europe'
- Dec 2, 2005http://euobserver.com/?aid=20465&rk=1
Belgian leader proposes 'United States of Europe'
01.12.2005 - 17:39 CET | By Mark Beunderman
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - In a bid to go against the
eurosceptic tide that is dominating EU public opinion,
Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt has pleaded for
the creation of a federal "United States of Europe."
Mr Verhofstadt, a liberal, on Thursday (1 December)
presented his new book, provocatively entitled "The
United States of Europe."
The work is meant as a "political statement against
the current trend", the Belgian leader indicated.
In the book, Mr Verhofstadt proposes to break the
deadlock that faces the EU after French and Dutch
voters voted down the EU constitution, by creating a
In analysing the current mood of EU uneasiness among
citizens, Mr Verhofstadt primarily points to fears
that European citizens have about globalisation and
international crime, but these fears should not lead
to calls for "less Europe", Mr Verhofstadt writes.
Pointing to the European Commission's eurobarometer
surveys on public opinion "people do not want less
Europe, but another Europe", he states.
People want the EU to do more in foreign affairs, and
do less unnecessary regulation that, for example
"decides how French cheese should be made."
Mr Verhofstadt believes that citizens' concerns can be
best addressed by a more deeply integrated Europe,
which could make a fist in the globalised world, boost
the European economy by better economic co-ordination
and fight organised crime.
In proposing a concrete architecture for his "United
States of Europe", the Belgian politician reverts to a
range of ideas that have long since figured in the
debate about the future of Europe, but are more
federalist than the rejected constitution.
He pleads for a "European social and economic
government", which should set minimum and maximum
standards for, for example, greater flexibility in
labour markets, pension age and workers' protection.
The European Union - a term which the Belgian
politician keeps using next to "United States of
Europe" - should have an autonomous budget financed
from taxes like VAT, which it should use to boost
spending on research and development.
The EU should further have its own president, foreign
minister, army and prosecutor.
Mr Verhofstadt calls a federal EU "the only option."
"Clearly, it makes no sense to keep each other in a
strangle hold and keep squabbling over the way we want
to go, while other continents surpass us at high
Like all federalist thinkers, Mr Verhofstadt finds
himself faced with the dilemma that not all EU states
are that keen to participate in a federalist project.
Again reverting to older ideas, Mr Verhofstadt
proposes a two-speed Europe as a way out of the
dilemma, with a core of integrationist states,
surrounded by a circle of states that favour a looser
The nucleus, with the prestigious "United States of
Europe" title, could consist of the 12 EU states that
have adopted the euro, but should be open to further
expansion of states comprising the looser, outer
circle of the "Organisation of European States" - a
term that appears to have been borrowed from
eurosceptic Czech president Vaclac Klaus.
Inspiration from US history
Mr Verhofstadt points to the fact that in the history
of the United States of America, not all states
immediately adopted the federalist constitution
drafted in 1787, but today, "it is clear...that the
choice for the federal model was the right one."
The Belgian premier acknowledges that recent EU
history points to a development contrary to
federalism, writing that "some countries have
relatively recently detached themselves from the
But as in the US case, in the longer term "the
direction indicated by history is nevertheless crystal
clear", he writes.
Concluding the book, Mr Verhofstadt says he is
confident Europeans would "by an overwhelming
majority" approve his federal Europe in a Europe-wide referendum.