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Germany

Fischer Reverses on "Superstate" Speech

It has been a weight around the German Foreign Minister's neck for the past four years. In an article this weekend, Joschka Fischer denied pursuing a "two-speed" European "superstate" and agreed the idea was out-dated.

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Joschka Fischer hopes that his views on the future of Europe are clearer now.

Germany's Joschka Fischer finally completed an official u-turn on a statement he made back in 2000 which sparked fears of a two-speed Europe and one that has dogged the foreign minister ever since.

In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung newspaper on Saturday, Fischer said that he no longer believed a core of "Europhile" states should forge a federal Europe, reversing views that have followed him for nearly four years.

In a keynote speech given at the Humboldt University in Berlin in 2000, Fischer told the audience that he saw closer cooperation leading to a European constitution and eventually a European federal state. He said at the time that a small core group of countries -- with France and Germany in the vanguard -- could lead the way to the founding of a European Federation, Fischer had said.

Speech caused eurosceptic anxiety

Fischer's speech sent shockwaves through eurosceptics all over the continent prompting Britain's opposition Conservative Party to use his words as evidence that most politicians in Europe wanted a full political union and European "superstate," something a large number of its members were afraid of. Britain's governing Labour Party also treated the statements with caution, fearing a behind-the-scenes creation of an unwanted "two-speed" Europe.

Now the foreign minister believes that global terrorism, brought to the fore of the international agenda by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, has created the need for a large, integrated Europe capable of tackling such worldwide problems alongside the United States, Russia, China and India.

"Visions of a small Europe simply no longer work," Fischer said in the interview. When asked if the idea of a core Europe was outdated, Fischer answered: "Yes, I think so." He added that he no longer believed that the idea of a core Europe would be feasible even in the long term.

Integration in favor of a small Europe

Fischer went on the record after spending most of his career since the Humboldt speech denying the accusation that he wanted a European "superstate." He told the Berliner Zeitung, "I would hold the Humboldt speech differently in parts today. I'm more convinced than ever that Europe needs more integration and stronger institutions. But I no longer share visions of a small Europe."

"The concept of a European avant garde can be useful temporarily in certain circumstances. But only within the firm framework of a European constitution."

Hopes and determination for constitution

Fischer also told the paper that he remained convinced that a European constitution was vital to the strengthening of the EU and hoped the draft constitution, which he called "excellent, flexible and dynamic," would be accepted this year after last year's failure to reach a compromise.

A December summit aimed at signing-off on the constitution collapsed in acrimony when Spain and Poland refused to give up the so-called qualified majority voting system in the 2000 Nice Treaty which gave them power disproportionate to their population.

Fischer maintained his and his country's position on voting rights by saying that Germany would not accept a watering down of the draft constitution's so-called double majority system of voting whereby decisions would pass if backed by a majority of member states representing 60 percent of the population.

"We are firmly convinced: It's better to have no constitution rather than a bad one. A watering down in this core area would lead to a bad constitution," said Fischer.

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