(Interview) Mario Telo (ULB): Europe must play its civil power card

(B2) Mario Telo is president of the Institute of European Studies of the Free University of Brussels (ULB) and one of the best specialists on the subject
institutional. In an interview granted to Europolitics, he analyzes the latest avatars of the Constitution – a foreseeable failure but which can be overcome quickly provided that the
name constitution and to proceed with certain modifications -, of Europe - which is experiencing more of a crisis of digestion of previous advances and must believe more in its potential - and
international relations – where Europe can advocate, on the strength of its own experience, a new multilateralism. A refreshing point of view in a rather gloomy context. (This interview has
was produced in February 2007 and published in Europolitique)

Was the failure of the Constitution predictable?
Yes and widely expected by part international scientific community. For two reasons. Firstly, these 20 years have seen an acceleration, hitherto unknown, of the integration
European both in terms of deepening and widening. Since the Spinelli project in 1984, we had the Single Act in 1986, immediately after the Intergovernmental Conference on the Euro in
1988, the question of political union, in 1989, the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992-93, the launch of the IGC which ended with the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, the Treaty of Nice in 2000 and the five years of
constitutional debate. We must therefore take a little distance from the situation. Going from 10 to 27 Member States, the extension of competences with four Treaties could not but
have an impact on the legitimacy, the perceptivity by the citizens of the European process. A discomfort vis-à-vis a process decided, after all, at the level of an elite, even if it was broad. We
therefore expected such a break. We had come very close to the incident after Maastricht or Nice. Sooner or later it had to break out. Second, there is globalization and its effects
social. In an increasingly globalized world, if the political weight of Europe increases, its weight decreases demographically, economically and commercially – even if it remains the first
commercial partner. This cannot have a consequence because citizens expect increased protection from Europe.

Wouldn't this much-described European crisis be so dangerous?
I don't think it will bring us back to a nation state. First of all, there really isn't a credible alternative. The response offered by the sovereignists has no political basis,
historical, cultural. It cannot be denied that there are national trends. But I do not believe in the scenario of a catastrophic crisis and that the European-anti-European divide becomes a
major split. There is not a general tendency to make hostility to Europe a policy. In fact, we are in the growing pains of a mature political system, substantially
already acquired. What awaits us is a more or less long period of consolidation, which can last 10 years. We must digest the enlargement, finish the deepening. Apart from the Balkans, there
there can be a major enlargement within 10-15 years, and we cannot expect, likewise, a new founding treaty like those of Rome or Maastricht, a treaty which grants new

All the discussion points at the Treaty level seem to revolve around points that have been debated many times? How can we renew this debate?
It's true. The great debate took place at the Convention. It is difficult to do better than a 16-month debate in which national parliaments and member states took part. So it's not
no coincidence that we keep coming back to the same questions. The preparatory work was more important than its conclusion. We can take solutions on the triangle
institutional structure, the sharing of competences, democratic life in the Union. We can think of a single article on Human Rights which refers to the Charter (Editor's note: which allows
to have a smooth legal integration of the Charter). But we can't start from scratch. 18 or even 20 countries said yes, that is also a certain strength. In my opinion, there are two
points to which we can return. First: the word “constitutional”, which has caused confusion, must be deleted. The truth must be said. This text is not, for me, a
Constitution, because there is no European State and it is still an international treaty, concluded between States and which requires ratification by all the Member States (we are not in the
American system where 4 states have never ratified the original Constitution). Second point: a social protocol that gives an important signal. We can also consider a reinforcement of
energy article. But we can't go back to the third chapter. Certainly this chapter can have some interesting achievements. But to do so - as Andrew Duff says - is to open the
Pandora's box means setting out again for three years of negotiations when there is an urgent need to carry out institutional reforms.

You have a blank page to write in front of the 27 Heads of State – free of any contingencies, what do you write?
First of all a preamble worthy of the name. While the preambles of
Treaty of Rome or the Ceca are strong, it is paradoxical that that of the Constitutional Treaty is so poor, when today's Europe is no longer the little functionalist Europe, of six
countries of the Cold War, which could only have common objectives than economic ones, and has an objective responsibility, at world level. In this blank page, I will put, with a little
more ambition, which is behind our international presence; what Europe does without saying it, or does not have the courage to say it. Because the 2nd world power is a civil power,
this is the strength of Europe. It will indeed never be a military power – which declares war for example, it is not capable of doing so philosophically, politically. This inability
institutional is an asset, not a weakness. It changes relationships. Europe thus escapes the classic model of Realpolitik. It does not cause uncertainty with the neighbor who
must rearm to respond to this uncertainty. A vicious circle that can be called the security dilemma. This concept is very new and should be put in the center of the construction
European Union, because it could also make it possible to build a new international system. Consider that the neighborhood policy alone represents 500 million people and that we must add
an Asian, African, American policy.

How do you see the evolution at the international level?
Will it be unipolar (crushed, the EU then becomes a province of the United States), multipolar with 5-6 nuclear states (a good scenario for Russia, China and India, but not for Europe ),
anarchic or fragmented, or based on multilateralisms (a virtuous scenario that suits the EU)? Europe is the most dynamic factor for an alternative world construction to the
classic construction. This scenario of a new multilateralism is already inscribed in its internal multilateral experience. By questioning the classic concept of sovereignty, in the
France-Germany relations at the start – two countries which provoked two world wars – it has the credibility for a gradual overcoming. I am not utopian. I do not believe that Europe
may be an island of peace. It must change the external environment, otherwise it is others who will change Europe. In this world in transition, Europe has a card to play.

Do you see encouraging elements?
Certainly yes. The multilateral approach is stronger today than in 2001, even in the eyes of American opinion. The Iraqi failure makes it possible to
learn. There is already a change between the Bush I and Bush II presidencies. But there are two to consider. We need, first, to get the United States back in this initiative
and seek complementarity. Without them, Europe does not have sufficient force capacity, for example to resolve the question of the Middle East. Then, we have to incorporate China, whose
the growth is tremendous, in the multilateral system. This is the great challenge of the next 20 years. China could emerge in a global (WTO, UN), regional (ASEAN, Korea),
multilateral (APEC and ASEM), a multilateral framework so constraining and involving that Chinese nationalism is tamed.

How do you define this neo-multilateral system?
First, it must be more attentive to human rights and democratic legitimacy. Some organizations, like the WTO, are contested and need to reform. It takes a
possibility of democratic control by parliaments. Secondly, there is the increased role of regional cooperation organizations — African Union, Mercosur, … for reasons both
effectiveness and conflict prevention. Thirdly, we must spread the European practice of shared and self-limited sovereignty, a method that we must export, both at the regional level
than global. We are not the model but an important reference. A kind of pilot project, an innovation lab at the level of global governance. These elements should be found
in a preamble.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).