As it celebrates its 50th anniversary, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso talked about what the EU has achieved and why it should be confident about accomplishing more in the future.
Jose Manuel Barroso says the EU is a source of inspiration for global politics
DW: The European Union is 50 years old. It started as a union of six members and now it is a proud union of 27 member states. Looking back, what are the main points of success for the European Union?
Barroso: First of all the European Union was in fact a great success because of peace. The original idea of the founding fathers was to make peace the rule and to make a war completely impossible. We should never forget that the European Union came after World War II and stood for the reconciliation of Europe.
Barroso said each generation has to decide how many members the EU can withstand
Not only have we achieved peace, but we have expanded from six founding member states to 27 countries, almost 500 million people. This is the greatest success ever if you look at international politics. The union based on the freewill of countries that have decided to join their powers, keeping their independence but at the same time creating a new entity. These countries are united around the values of freedom and solidarity. I believe we should be proud of it and look to the future with confidence.
In addition to the birthday party, the EU is also having a bit of a midlife crisis, after the French and Dutch rejection of the constitutional treaty. It looks like the European Union is on a dead end street. Is there any way out?
There have been some difficulties. But I will not agree with those who believe that Europe is in a crisis. Look at the situation and compare it to the situation some years ago. Europe was divided -- Berlin itself was divided. Now Berlin is the symbol not only of reunified Germany but of a reunified Europe. What better place could we have to mark this anniversary?
Europe is doing better now. Our economy two years ago was not as good as it is now. We still have some unemployment, but it's at the lowest figure in 10 years. We have investment going on, our growth is already picking up, so I really believe we should not overrate these problems. Of course, we have difficulty and it's a serious difficultly. The fact that two member states could not ratify the constitutional treaty, but we are able, I hope, to solve this issue. We are expecting this declaration and this moment of commemoration to create momentum so that everybody agrees to give their contribution to a solution
France and Holland both rejected the constitutional treaty
Apparently the union of 27 is working a little bit slow. How urgently does it need a constitution or a constitutional treaty?
We need it as soon as possible. Precisely because we are 27 countries and some more may become members. We need the constitutional treaty for three reasons: to have a more efficient decision making procedure, to have a more democratic legitimacy and more transparency in how the institutions work with the member states, and also to have more coherence in external affairs.
Is there a chance the constitution will be ratified?
I think there is a chance, and we are very much supporting the German presidency. The German presidency is putting all of its commitment there. I hope now that with the Declaration of Berlin we can create good momentum so that by the end of the German presidency all the member states can agree on a so-called roadmap for the solution; and if possible not only the roadmap but also the framework for the solution.
It looks like the people are tired of the European Union. Is it necessary to have a little bit less Europe?
I think the people are not tired of the European Union. I think our duty, those of us who have some responsibility, is precisely to explain that Europe is part of the solution. We need European dimension to tackle the big challenges of globalization. I really believe that we should hold the line and have the courage to explain to our citizens why we need this enlarged Europe in the age of globalization because even the biggest member states alone cannot respond to all those problems.
Climate protection and energy and are areas where Europe needs to do more
When you ask me if we need more or less Europe: it depends. Do you need more regulation and bureaucracy from Brussels? No, I want less. Less bureaucracy, less unnecessary regulation. But if you ask if we need more Europe in the area of energy? Then yes, we need more action at the European level. More Europe tackling the challenges of illegal migration? Yes, we need more Europe. You have to be pragmatic.
What I believe, and it is obvious, is that in the face of the global challenges -- be it energy, climate change, international terrorism, more competition coming from other parts of the world -- we need a stronger Europe, a more coherent Europe.
Is the European Union a model for the rest of the world? In the Middle East, for example?
I can tell you that in many areas of the world, they look at us with great admiration because they ask: How could you do it? After all those wars. Some of the worst wars happened here in Europe, and now countries with great history, with different languages -- we have 21 languages in the European Union -- countries like Germany and France and Spain and Italy and Britain and also smaller countries like mine, Portugal, or even smaller like Luxembourg. They ask, how can you, respecting your diversity, at the same time be together in peace and in freedom? It's a great success. It's the source of inspiration for the AESAN countries. It is a source of inspiration for some integration going on, unfortunately not with the same success we have, in Latin America. It can be a model for reconciliation in the Middle East, hopefully.
Is it your hope that this century be a European century?
Yes. I think that Europe should not be afraid of this century. On the contrary, we are a great success of globalization. When you put together in a multilateral approach, we are showing that we are already prepared for this world where everybody is in contact with everybody. I think Europe is not condemned to a kind of fall. On the contrary, we have the resources to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Alexander Kudascheff interviewed Jose Manuel Barroso (sms)