Wednesday 15th November 2000
If this isn't a superstate in the making, then what is?
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
THE baton has been passed. The Western European Union shut
up shop this week after half a century of yeoman service,
agreeing to transfer its 40-man military staff to the
European Union, along with its satellite centre and
By 2003, the EU will have a rapid reaction force comprising
up to 80,000 men - 240,000 men with rotation - backed by 300
aircraft and a naval force, to be deployed for up to a year
anywhere in the world, including war zones. The force has an
embryonic military staff headquarters in Brussels - chaired
by a British major general - which will become the European
Military Staff next year. It is all moving with "lightning
speed", says the EU's defence secretary-in-waiting, Javier
Solana. For better or for worse, it certainly is.
This may not be prima facie evidence of an emerging
"European superstate", but it is evidence of something that
goes far beyond the collective security of sovereign states.
And, of course, the same push for integration is taking
place on every front. Look at the legislative agenda this
week at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
MEPs are voting for a European Police College tasked with
"developing a European approach in the field of
crime-fighting, border surveillance, protecting internal
security and maintaining law and order". They will also be
voting for a judicial co-operation unit, Eurojust, "composed
of prosecutors, or magistrates, to reinforce the fight
against serious organised crime", and separately for a set
of measures to create a "genuine European Area of Justice"
that will lead to "the emergence of a European criminal
law". In other words, a typical week in Strasbourg.
I am not saying that these are necessarily bad ideas, but
something big is happening here, and it is happening fast.
Proposals on the table for next month's Nice Treaty summit
include a European Public Prosecutor to combat fraud against
the EU budget, creating an EU criminal jurisdiction for the
first time. Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, has vowed to
"oppose" it - EU code for saying that he will not actually
veto it: indeed, that he will, in fact, "accept" it if
Britain ends up isolated.
Europol, the EU's emergent FBI, is being given powers to
investigate money-laundering stemming from all forms of
crime. This sounds routine. It is not. It provides the EU
with the equivalent of the US federal mail fraud clause, the
instrument used by Washington to assert federal jurisdiction
over state crimes. Once the Europol Convention comes into
full force, Europol officers will be able to initiate probes
and take part in field operations against suspected
criminals in Kent, or indeed against xenophobes in Kent,
since the Europol mandate covers "xenophobia".
Is Euro-sceptic dissent xenophobic? I ask the question only
half in jest, because the EU institutions have a habit of
outdoing parody. The Advocate General of the European Court
of Justice issued an opinion on October 19 - Case C-274/99
P - arguing that political criticism of the EU can be akin
to blasphemy, and can therefore be restricted. He denies it.
Read the case for yourself - in Spanish or French; English
is not provided. He misuses a blasphemy case, Wingrove v
United Kingdom, as a building block in arguing for
repressive powers to limit free speech.
No matter that this violates the European Convention on
Human Rights, which prevents governing bodies from
restricting criticism to protect their reputation. This is
the same court that will rule on the new Charter of
Fundamental Rights, accepted by Tony Blair in Biarritz. The
Government's assurance that the Charter will have no more
legal force than "the Beano" is contradicted by everybody
involved, including the European Commission, the European
Parliament and the French EU presidency.
As for the Government's claim that the Bill of Rights is
intended only to rein in the EU institutions, and will have
no effect on Britain: it is a shameless lie. Mr Blair can
hardly be surprised at the combative tone of the
Euro-sceptic press if he is willing to use public officials
to propagate strategic falsehoods about the most important
European issue of the day.
The Commission is said to be weaker now than at any time for
decades. You could have fooled me. Over the past six months,
the social affairs directorate, a junior department in the
EC hierarchy, has pushed through a directive banning bias on
the grounds of sexual orientation, religion or belief, age
and disability, and another one banning racial
Both shift the burden of evidence in civil litigation,
compelling British employers to prove their innocence. The
Government could have vetoed this. Keith Vaz, the minister
for Europe, told me that it would in fact veto the race
directive. But Labour succumbed, signing away the principle
of presumption of innocence in a stuffy room full of bored,
yawning, half-informed EU ministers.
The Commission tells me that these directives are only
starters. More ambitious plans - banning single-sex clubs -
will have to wait until after the Nice Treaty, which, in its
current draft, abolishes the national veto over the social
provisions in Article 13. The draft also eliminates the veto
over direct taxation where it relates to the functioning of
the single market, social security and environment. In
fairness, the Commission is surely correct in saying that
decision-making will be impossible in an enlarged Union of
25 or 30 states unless majority voting becomes the norm, but
that is the nub of the EU problem: one step always demands
And the euro is the biggest step of all. Joschka Fischer,
the German foreign minister, put it most honestly when he
called the euro a "quantum leap" towards federalism,
creating a "federal bank" that imposes an inexorable
"federal logic" on all the participants. Already, the French
are calling for a single economic "authority" to compensate
for the incoherence of a currency that lacks a state to back
it. The French are right. Either such a state will be
created, or the currency will fail, and with it the European
Union. The die has been cast already.