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Belgian leader proposes 'United States of Europe'

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://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
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2005
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      http://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
      federal Europe.

      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."

      Federalist architecture
      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.

      Two Europes
      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
      speed."

      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
      Europaen construction.

      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
      federalist camp."

      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.
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