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Stepwise Integration for Turkey

19 February 2008

Heidelberg political scientist Frank R. Pfetsch on "the new Europe” – A whole catalogue of difficulties and deficits

Things are anything but comatose on the European agenda. The half life for changes to the European integration process since the fall of the Wall and the end of the Iron Curtain is getting shorter all the time. Developments with radical repercussions for the individual EU states and their populations come thick and fast. Thinking in nation-state categories is still with us and the politically desirable and basically unstoppable integration process has only gradually been establishing itself in the awareness of the peoples of Europe. In certain economic areas the essential decisions are no longer taken in the individual capitals but in Brussels. Many matters are becoming increasingly complicated because supra-national, national and regional factors and processes still exist side by side and remain related to one another. Things proclaimed as eternal truths today are upended on the morrow by yet another volte-face. Frequently, guidance in all this confusion can only be found in books like the one recently published by the Heidelberg political scientist Frank R. Pfetsch, who has been intensively preoccupied with these questions for a number of years as one of the incumbents of the 600 Jean Monnet chairs created by the European Union.

"The new Europe” is the term he gives to the complexion of the continent following EU enlargement to the east and the south-east. It also refers by implication to the strains and stresses placed on governability by this expansion. Another sensitive subject falling within the purview of the concept is the extent to which citizens actively identify with the idea of a genuine European community.

Another issue Pfetsch addresses is the extent to which, alongside the economic community from which the Union originated, it will be possible to engineer a "social” Europe. What will the balance look like, in future, between community interests and the demands tabled by the nation states and their regional and local sub-entities? How can the tensions be equably reduced between executive power and the participation of the European Parliament? Pfetsch attempts to find satisfactory answers to these and other questions, or at least to clearly define the problems involved if such answers are not readily forthcoming.

He begins with a description of the position of Europe in an economically interlinked and globalised world. In his account of the situation within Europe he enlarges on the historical notions of what a European order should look like, moving on from there to discuss the political system, the economic and social regulations and — in considerable depth — the outstandingly significant cultural factor, including the formation of a specifically European identity. Other aspects the author enlarges on are federalism and the governability of the EU.

With a host of historical and topical examples Pfetsch describes the central issues involved in ongoing European integration, a process still a long way from completion. Even less predictable is the final political form it will take. He lists the present difficulties and deficits beleaguering the EU since the last round of enlargement in the 1990s — democratisation shortfalls, too much bureaucracy, cumbersome decision-making procedures frequently ending in uneasy compromise, lack of transparency in the political and administrative system, absence of European awareness.

Another of these hitherto unsolved problems is the question of Turkish accession. Here the author makes no bones about his conviction that it would weaken the formation of a European identity. Accordingly, Pfetsch advocates stepwise integration for Turkey. It is hard to see why he considers national referenda on the European Constitution "anti-democratic” merely because of the absence of precise knowledge about a highly complex process. Though Pfetsch refers to himself as a "convinced European”, the conclusion he comes to is: "There are still … many imponderables.” Particularly for interested laypersons the refreshingly jargon-free book is an edifying read.
Arno Mohr
© Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung

The book: Frank R. Pfetsch: "Das neue Europa”. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2007. 216 pp. € 21.90

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