Text Browser Navigation Bar: Main Site Navigation and Search | Current Page Navigation | Current Page Content

U.S. Army War College >> Strategic Studies Institute >> Publications >> Can Europe Survive Maastricht? >> Summary

Login to "My SSI" Contact About SSI Cart: 0 items

Can Europe Survive Maastricht?

Authored by Dr. Douglas Stuart. | February 1994

Share | |   Print   Email


With the end of the cold war, virtually all of the institutions and assumptions associated with that era have come under scrutiny except the West European experiment in regional integration. Left unanswered, or even seriously discussed, when the Berlin Wall came down, were two questions raised by Alastair Buchan in 1974: "If West European union was a product of the cold war, will the one survive the demise of the other?" and "What role should the European Community play on a wider stage. . .?"

The nations of Western Europe chose to disregard these difficult questions because they had invested too much time and too many resources in European Community (EC) integration to risk derailing the whole experiment with an identity crisis. EC "completion" would provide its own answers over time. Furthermore, by 1990 it would have required considerable statesmanship to stop the EC train which had acquired an institutional life of its own (with over 19,000 EC employees).

There was, however, another reason why the nations of Western Europe continued to focus their attention and their energies on regional integration at the end of the cold war. It made it easier for them to defer consideration of unpleasant and controversial issues on the periphery of "little Europe." For the end of the cold war had created more problems than it had solved for the nations of Western Europe, and there was a natural enough inclination to wish them away.

The Treaty on European Union, which was negotiated at an EC summit in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht during the period December 9-11, 1991, became the focal point of the post-cold war campaign of EC completion. The Maastricht Treaty has been widely heralded as the most important development in EC history since the Treaty of Rome, even though few European citizens outside of Brussels have even a vague sense of its contents. But if the specifics of the Maastricht Treaty are obscure, its purpose, as reflected in its priorities, is clear. Maastricht is first and foremost an economic document, designed to consolidate and expand upon the progress which had been made during the cold war toward the creation of a fully integrated West European economic system.

This monograph argues that the post-cold war campaign for EC completion has diverted Western attention from two more important and immediate concerns: the eastward and southward extension of the West European "zone of peace" and the articulation and defense of common West European values and interests in the world community. Specifically, it will be argued that the Maastricht Treaty has actually made it harder for the nations of Western Europe to develop programs of economic and cultural reconciliation with the governments of Central Europe and the southern Mediterranean at a strategic moment in European history. This monograph will also argue that the "civilian" values which have become an integral part of the EC's identify have undermined the efforts of West European governments to play a positive role during the Persian Gulf conflict and the crisis in Yugoslavia.The report will close with some recommendations for developing a more cooperative relationship between Washington and the governments of Western Europe, as a basis for both pan-European and trans-Mediterranean security.


The present Community is but a fragment of Europe. If we fail to bring the democratic countries of Eastern and Central Europe into our Community, we risk recreating division in Europe. . .1
John Major, British Prime Minister

On November 1, 1993, citizens of the 12 nations of the European Community (EC) officially became citizens of the European Union (EU). This was the day when the much-battered and maligned Maastricht Treaty on European Union came into force. Initial plans had called for a high visibility media event to celebrate the occasion. But even the most ardent supporters of the Maastricht experiment understood that celebrations would have been ridiculous. Indeed, the best thing that the proponents of "European construction" could say about the final ratification of the Maastricht Treaty was that it put an end to a long and enervating process which had diverted West European attention from other pressing issues.

Or did it? Representatives of the European Union are already hard at work laying the foundation for the 1996 Maastricht review conference, renegotiating the so-called "Schengen Agreements" for passport-free travel within the EU and pushing forward with plans for salvaging some form of European Monetary Union (EMU) . The self-confidence and sense of identity of West European governments and publics have been shaken to their core by the events of the last three years, but the Eurocracy marches onward--toward what?

This monograph will consider some aspects of the Maastricht experiment from the point of view of their effects upon the current and future security of Europe. My arguments will be built around a simple thesis: The Maastricht Treaty was a dangerously misguided initiative at a critical moment in Europe's history. As of this writing there is no way of knowing if the damage done by the "Maastricht detour" is remediable. But it is clear that strong and visionary leadership will be required if the nations of Western Europe are to effect a change of course. It is also clear that such a dramatic change of direction will require the active and assertive participation of the United States.

An appropriate starting date for this study is 1985, the year that Mikhail Gorbachev became the youngest Soviet leader since Stalin, setting in motion the chain of events which were to transform international relations. It is relevant to my argument that according to the EC's own polls only 12 percent of the West European public believed in 1985 that there was a likelihood of war in the next 10 years, while 78 percent saw little or no likelihood.2 Dispite the expressions of concern by West European policymakers and intellectuals about Ronald Reagan's approach to foreign policy, West Europeans were fundamentally satisfied with their security situation in the mid-1980s.

Nor was security the only benefit that West Europeans derived from the cold war. On the economic front as well, West Europeans had never had it so good (problems of "Eurosclerosis" notwithstanding). The constraints imposed by the U.S.-Soviet competition had created an artificial hothouse environment in Western Europe which had facilitated the growth of the separate West European economies, despite the burdens imposed by their ambitious social welfare systems. The special circumstances of the cold war also encouraged progress toward economic integration within the EC. It was always good domestic politics to rail against American hegemony, of course, but such criticisms had become ritualistic over time, and in any event most West Europeans understood (even if they were not prepared to admit it) that Washington was the most benign of hegemons. Indeed, the trans-Atlantic relationship at times resembled nothing so much as the "reverse tribute system" of the 15th century Ming empire, which paid subordinate states more than it charged them in return for their public expressions of allegiance.

Washington's allies also were able to pursue relatively independent foreign policies, particularly after the late 1960s, within limits imposed by such formidable barriers as the Berlin Wall and Henry Kissinger. This was, in fact, a fairly wide field of play, as illustrated by the dramatic initiatives of European statesmen like Adenauer, de Gaulle and Brandt.3

By 1990, however, the conditions which had favored Western Europe for over four decades had begun to disappear. The world was going through one of those rare periods that Charles de Gaulle once described as a "great reshuffling of the cards," and West European governments understood that they needed to act quickly and decisively in response to these dramatic changes. They chose to concentrate their energies and attention on the long-cherished goal of "completion" of the European Community. The Treaty on European Union, which was negotiated at an EC summit in the southernDutch city of Maastricht during the period December 9-11, 1991, became the focal point of this campaign.

The Maastricht Treaty has been widely heralded as the most important development in EC history since the Treaty of Rome, but few European citizens outside of Brussels have even a vague sense of its contents. Stanley Hoffmann contends that this is not due to the ignorance or apathy of the West European public:

One of the reasons why the majority of Danes and almost half of the French said no to the Maastricht treaty in 1992 was that the text was nearly incomprehensible. Drafted after the heads of stateand government had left Maastricht, it was written by and for lawyers and bureaucrats and required legal experts to explain it.

The more clarification was provided, the more it became apparent that with the extension of the Community's competence came a vast tangle of procedures--cases in which decisions can be taken by a two-thirds majority, cases requiring unanimity, cases in which a two-thirds majority can decide because of a unanimous decision to allow it to do so--creating an almost impenetrable maze.4

Although the specifics of the Maastricht Treaty are obscure, its purpose, as reflected in its priorities, is clear. Maastricht is first and foremost an economic document, designed to consolidate and expand upon the progress which had been made during the cold war toward the creation of a fully integrated West European economic system. Much of the groundwork had already been laid for the West European Single Market by the time that the Maastricht Summit was convened. Between 1950 and 1991 intra-EC trade had grown from 32.9 to 59.6 percent of all trade by EC countries and the Community was moving steadily forward toward its goal of eliminating all barriers to the free movement of goods, services, capital and people.5 The treaty focused upon the logical next step in this process--full economic and monetary union, including agreements for a common EU currency and an EU central bank. Full economic and monetary integration was interpreted by most West European leaders as the overwhelming priority for EU governments and the precondition for any subsequent "widening" of the European Union to include any of the newly independent states of East or Central Europe.6

Economic considerations were also at the core of the other key elements of the Maastricht compromise; institutional, political and social reforms designed to facilitate intra-EU cooperation and standardize practices among EU countries. Arguably the most controversial aspect of this package of reforms was the "Protocol on Social Policy" (and its appended Agreement) which builds upon earlier efforts to establish a comprehensive set of workers' rights and protections. Specifically, the "Social Protocol" commits signatories to "the promotion of employment, improved living and working conditions, proper social protection, dialogue between management and labor, the development of human resources with a view toward lasting high employment and the combatting of exclusion."7 Because of the open-ended and intrusive nature of the Social Protocol, Great Britain chose to "opt out" of this portion of the treaty, and is unlikely to change its policy in the foreseeable future.

The treaty is much less ambitious in its plans for a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) for the European Union. Once again, the relevant sections of the treaty build upon earlier initiatives, in particular the Single European Act of 1987, by formally committing the EU "to assert its identity on the international scene, in particular through the implementation of a common foreign and security policy...". Henceforth, the European Council will meet at least twice each year to formulate general guidelines for joint action in the foreign and security affairs of the member countries. These guidelines will then be addressed by the EU Council of Ministers in their regular meetings. For its part, the Council of Ministers is charged with attempting to reach a common position "on any matters of foreign and security policy of general interest. . ." It is important to note, however, that foreign and security affairs are still explicitly treated by the Maastricht Treaty as intergovernmental issues. Decisions are still unequivocally in the hands of the sovereign governments, and the whole process of CFSP is treated by the Maastricht Treaty as a distinct "pillar" of European Union which is still beyond the legal authority of both the EU Commission and the European Parliament. The treaty does allow for a system of qualified majority voting (QMV) on foreign and security matters, but only if all governments have agreed by consensus to permit it. Thus, for all intents and purposes the principle of unanimity is unaffected by the treaty.

The form and content of CFSP is also far from clear, as explained in an analysis of the treaty prepared for the UK House of Commons:

Due to the need to reach consensus, the CFSP treaty articles are extremely flexible and open to varying interpretations. Thus, for example, the notion that the EC has a common defense identity and could even have a common defence policy has been stated, but no timetable has been set for their implementation.8

The sections of the Maastricht Treaty which deal with defense matters are, in fact, among the most ambivalent and conditional portions of the document. Several commentators have stressed the significance of Article J.4 (2) of the treaty, which establishes the Western European Union (WEU) as the future defense arm of the EU. It is not clear at this point, however, that the formal association of the WEU with the process of CFSP will make much of a difference in the campaign for the creation of a true European defense identity. Indeed, Jacques Delors, President of the EU Commission and a fervent supporter of a more independent foreign and security identity for Europe, expressed concern during the talks leading up to Maastricht that this approach diverted attention from the substance of CFSP and toward institutional matters.9 Furthermore, the future of the WEU is unclear due to its legal association with both the EU and NATO, as reflected in the wording of the treaty which describes it as both ". . .the defense component of the European Union and the means to strengthen the European pillar of the Atlantic Alliance." As I will have occasion to discuss further on, the WEU, NATO and the EU are currently engaged in a difficult process of making operational sense out of this unwieldy institutionalarrangement.

The Maastricht Treaty thus satisfies only the second of Napoleon's two requirements for a good constitution ("short and vague"). But the complex and open-ended nature of the document is not as much of a problem for Europe as the implicit message that it has sent to West European publics. Neither the treaty itself, nor the politics which have surrounded it, have ever made clear what this new stage in European integration was supposed to accomplish, other than economies of scale in production and increased trade between EU countries. What, in the world, was the new European Union for?

Confusion about ends and means notwithstanding, the campaign for EU completion has remained the centerpiece of West European politics since the collapse of the Berlin Wall and in November 1993 the campaign achieved one of its interim goals with the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. This preoccupation-- indeed, obsession--with building the European Union is understandable in light of the history of the European integration movement since World War II. This campaign reflects a confusion of West European priorities and a misreading of the realities of the post-cold war situation on the Continent. West European fascination with the EU experiment has diverted attention from two more important and immediate concerns: eastward and southward extension of the West European "zone of peace" and the articulation and defense of common West European values and interests in the world community.

Defenders of the EU experiment will be quick to observe that both of these goals are incorporated in the long-term plans for European Union as articulated in the Maastricht Treaty. There are five responses to this argument. First and foremost, the treaty does not accord a high enough priority to the aforementioned issues of outreach and comprehensive security. Second, events have been moving too quickly, and the Continent simply cannot afford the expenditure of time and energy which West Europeans have invested in Maastricht. The dramas associated with Maastricht ratification have already diverted too much attention away from the rapidly disintegrating situations just beyond the EU's borders. Third, in a few cases, the exclusionary politics of EU construction have actually exacerbated these dangerous situations. The tense relationship between the EU and Turkey is one important example. Fourth, ratification of Maastricht notwithstanding, the new circumstances of the post-cold war era make it virtually impossible for the nations of Western Europe to ever achieve the level of integration which would be required to speak with one voice on issues of foreign and defense affairs.And as the ongoing Bosnian crisis illustrates, anything less than full European Union consensus means paralysis. Fifth, conditions were already in place at the time of the Maastricht summit which permitted EU governments to consult and, where possible, coordinate their actions in support of shared liberal values and common interests. But the priority accorded to EU construction has undermined the process of flexible and ad hoc security cooperation in Western Europe.

To put the matter bluntly, the governments of Western Europe have been fiddling with the EU while the Eurasian Continent is beginning to burn. They are doing so partly out of inertia-- because the process of EU construction was already far along by the time the cold war ended. But preoccupation with the EU is also attributable to self-delusion and abdication of responsibility, reflecting a struthious West European desire to remain isolated from the problems of the world.

For the foreseeable future, the construction of a reliable and effective Continental order must take precedence over the further consolidation of the European Union. This order must be based upon the preservation and advancement of six liberal values: the sponsorship of democracy, the growth of free markets, civilian control of the military, protection of individual and minority rights, peaceful resolution of disputes where possible and effective security cooperation where necessary. The nations of Western Europe are uniquely qualified to take the lead in this campaign for the construction of a new "Liberal Union" on the Eurasian continent.10 They are also indispensable for its success. As a first step in the reorientation of their foreign policies, West European governments will have to follow Prime Minister John Major's advice to "raise their eyes" beyond the European Union.


1. John Major, "Raise Your Eyes, There is a Land Beyond," The Economist, September 25, 1993, p. 29.

3. Three excellent sources for students interested in the policies and priorities of these men are: Wolfram Hanrieder, Germany, America, Europe, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989; Bernard Ledwidge, de Gaulle et les Americains, France: Flammarion, 1984; and Timothy Garton Ash, In Europe's Name, New York: Random House, 1993.

4. Stanley Hoffmann, "Goodbye to a United Europe?," The New York Review of Books, May 27, 1993, p. 29.

5. See the analysis by James B. Steinberg, "An Ever Closer Union," RAND Document R-4177-A, Santa Monica, CA: 1993, in particular pp. 68-74.

6. It is true, of course, that since July 1990, negotiations had been underway with the nations of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) to form a "European Economic Area" as a possible step toward full integration of EFTA members (Austria, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Liechtenstein) into the European Community. But negotiations with these economically and politically secure governments do little to advance the cause of economic modernization and democratization in Eastern and Central Europe, and may even undermine the prospects for EU accession by the former Warsaw Pact states if negotiations with the EFTA governments are used by West European governments as a way forestalling talks with Eastern and Central Europe.

7. Quoted in "The Maastricht Debate: Social Charter, Chapter or Protocol?," United Kingdom House of Commons Library, Research Paper 93/28, March 9, 1993, p. 4.

8. See the analysis of CFSP in "The Maastricht Debate: The Common Foreign and Security Policy," United Kingdom House of Commons Library, Research Paper #93/27, March 9, 1993.

9. Cited in James B. Steinberg, "An Ever Closer Union," Rand Research Monograph #R-4177-A, Santa Monica, CA, 1993, p. 52.

10. The concept of a liberal union in Western Europe is discussed by Kalevi Holsti in "The Post-Cold War Settlement in Comparative Perspective," in D. Stuart and S. Szabo, eds., Discord and Collaboration In a New Europe: Essays in Honor of Arnold Wolfers, Washington: Johns Hopkins Foreign Policy Institute, 1994, forthcoming.