Sweden's Euro Backlash

Which Europe After Sweden?

We have to come to terms with the fact that it is impossible to mediate between the proponents of a European federation and the supporters of a European union of states. The decisive battle that the supporters of European unity will have to take up will be hard. It will deal with many issues, but mainly with the so-called strengthened cooperation—the possibility that some countries will be allowed to move faster than others on sensitive issues such as defense, security, and foreign policy.

For these reasons, I had hoped that Sweden’s support for the “yes” vote would not last after the wave of emotion triggered by the killing of [Swedish Foreign Minister] Anna Lindh had subsided. A “yes” vote would have been a false, deceitful, and misleading result.

Knowing the pride of Scandinavians in their diversity, their rich welfare state, their contribution to Third World aid (Scandinavians are world leaders in giving aid to Third World countries and allot 2 percent of their gross domestic product to the cause), their civic sense, and their sense of solidarity and equality (Scandinavians lead other countries with an equality index of 3.5, that is to say, the richest 20 percent of the population earns only 3.5 times what the poorest 20 percent of the population earns), a victory for the “yes” vote would have had two disadvantages. First, it would not have represented the sentiment of the majority of Swedes, and, second, it would have deluded the supporters of Europe by giving them the false impression that a European federation and a European union of states can coexist.

When British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw very innocently states that “a European constitution can be modified only with regard to the reduction of the supranational powers of the European Union,” and when [the president of the European Commission] Romano Prodi fights his lonely battle to eliminate the unanimous vote that could one day paralyze Europe, because “to think that Malta or Cyprus could block a decision made by 500 million citizens is pure folly,” we maintain our hope in the survival of the ideal Europe dreamed of by its founding fathers.

This is the hope that, once again—just as it happened for the euro—pushes the more homogeneous countries to move faster than others. This is made possible by the notion of “strengthened cooperation” that was provided in the Treaty of Nice and that, hopefully, will become a cornerstone of the European constitution as well.

The debate within the E.U. should focus on “strengthening  cooperation” rather than on an unlikely mediation among Britain, the Scandinavian countries, and the new Eastern European members on one side, and the Franco-German axis, on the other—the hard core of the founding countries—among which we hope to see also the Italy of President [Carlo Azeglio] Ciampi, a great, longtime supporter of Europe.

If this were to happen, European leaders would be able to make difficult choices—“yes” or “no” to Europe or on a common foreign and security policy. Ten years ago, very fervent supporters of Europeanism, such as [Italy’s former Foreign Minister] Renato Ruggero and [the former President of the European Commission] Jacques Delors, were speaking of  “a Europe of different structures” and “a Europe of different speeds.” They pointed to the fact that only by allowing certain countries to experiment with more advanced solutions—as far as currency, security, defense, social, and fiscal policies were concerned—could Europe become more dynamic and gradually involve others. We hope that those supporting a united Europe—who make up the majority, as all the polls and surveys demonstrated—will be able to transform the former dwarflike Europe into a continent with a weight comparable to that of America and Japan, while exporting its very own democratic values, solidarities, and liberties throughout the world. We hope those steps will also uncover a contradiction: that those countries that accuse Europe of being an unreliable political dwarf are the same countries that reject a more important and reliable Europe.