Lord William Wallace: "We will view Moldova much more clearly when Romania joins the EU"

Posted: 13 Sep 2006

EXCLUSIVE Lord William Wallace: "We will view Moldova much more clearly when Romania joins and we'll see it as an extension of the Romanian issue."

Interviewed by Iulian Fruntasu for www.europa.md

www.europa.md: Lord Wallace, you are one of the most well-known scholars of European Studies around the world – where this interest for Europe came from in the first place?

William Wallace: I discovered that I was a European when I was a graduate student in the United States where I spent a summer at the University of Michigan which is absolutely in the middle of nowhere. I discovered that the Europeans and Americans have different approaches to a wide range of problems. I then married Helen who graduated the European College at Bruges. As UK approached joining the European Union, there were very few people who followed what was happening inside the EU, so we both began to work, to teach and then also to publish on the EU. So, we’ve been around since before Britain joined the EU.

www.europa.md: Let’s talk about the European Union – how you will define it now? Lost its sense of purpose? Recovering from the Constitutional blow by the French and the Dutch? Where we are now basically? How you will describe Europe as of today?

William Wallace: There are several things. Certainly the old European project, that was a French-led project, has now collapsed and that is why France, in particular, is in crisis. The French-led project was for the Western Europe, a project in which Germany played a supportive role, by and large, following the French lead, and the other countries came along. That has clearly now gone with the Germany’s unification – a unified Germany has to look East and North, as well as South and West, with Britain and the Nordic countries firmly established inside the EU. The second question is that Western Europe has not get fully adjusted to the transformation of the EU by bringing in Poland and other Visegrad countries, and the Baltic states, and in time, Romania, Bulgaria, and the rest of South-Eastern Europe. And that just makes for a different European Union. The Convention spent too much time on discussing institutions, not enough time discussing policy priorities. The egos of some of its key members were concerned to defend the existing acquis of policies rather than to ask what we need to do now. And really, what we need to do now is a different package of policies to overcome the existing crisis.

www.europa.md: So, the crisis was in a way expected since the accession of new member states to a French-led Europe was bound to change the balance at that time…

William Wallace: I think it was growing even before then. You have to remember that the President Chirac, for instance, was a minister in the French Government in the 1960-ies, when many of the original bargains were struck. Indeed, he was a little bit later a French minister for agriculture. So, he finds himself in a position to defend the old package of policies in which the Germans and then the British paid to support the agriculture, while others benefited from it. And that now clearly is not entirely defensible. There are other issues and the economic crisis is also there, that you have a single currency and without the parallel coordination of economic policies which you need to solve real political problems, most of all within France, Italy but to some extent also within Germany over economic and employment law reform. So, when you have the euro zone, where the three biggest and central countries – France, Germany, and Italy have real domestic problems over economic reform, then you really have problems.

www.europa.md : You’ve mentioned earlier the accession of 10 new EU Member-States. Do you think that the absorption capacity is a problem in this regard or it is rather used as an argument to prevent, or rather undermine a further enlargement? Where do you place this argument about the absorption capacity?

William Wallace: There are two aspects of it. Part of the motivation of the Convention was that institutions that work very well with a limited number of members will cease to work as the numbers will rise. If each Head of Government from 27 Member-States wishes to speak for 10 minutes at the beginning of European Council meeting, then clearly the European Council will not work. When we had the European Council with 9 or 12 members, you could manage that. So, that’s one part of the problem. But there is a fundamental question – that you do need public consent to enlarge. The enlargement to the East was carried through by the Governments in the EU of 15 Member-States, without really explaining to their electorate what the rationale was. The fact that there were referendum defeats in France and the Netherlands means that we are bound by its results further. As the EU gets larger, so it gets more diverse, so it becomes harder to explain to the Europeans why it is that countries which didn’t exist 2 years ago, Montenegro, for example, or Macedonia, which you had to look upon the map, should become a Member-State of EU and have its own Commissioner, and so on and so forth. So, there is quite a lot of explanations, particularly on what was happening in terms of the EU evolution with regard to the Western Balkans and that’s necessarily a slow process but there is also the question of immigration and movement of labor – it is estimated that we have in Britain and Ireland at the present moment probably between 3 and 4 million people from the Eastern Europe – from Poland, and the Baltic States most of all, but some others from Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic.

www.europa.md: But this movement of labor is to the benefit of British economy…

William Wallace: Yes, it’s right on the whole. But I was listening to the radio this morning which said that those graduates with a degree in nursing this year from British universities will find hard to get jobs and I suspect part of the reason is that we have had this influx of extremely bright, hard-working young Poles, Lithuanians, Estonians, whatever, so, one has to recognize these things are not entirely easy and that the enlargement fatigue therefore has some points to make. One then could say: What about Turkey and Ukraine? One has to talk about Turkey and Ukraine together. Ukraine with 55 million people, huge country, theoretically, if we take Ukraine – we go a very long way East. Turkey, with over a 70 million people and a population that is still rising and that has a small urban population and fairly large rural, poor population, then of course we have problems and we have to be honest with the Turks and say that taking Turkey in is far more difficult than taking in Macedonia, Albania or Bosnia.

www.europa.md: Or Moldova….

William Wallace: Or even Moldova...yes.

www.europa.md: So, you don’t expect that after taking Croatia in somewhere in 2009-2010 further enlargement will occur?

William Wallace: I hope we’ll stick to our promise to take in all the remaining countries of the Western Balkans because they have nowhere else to go and if you ask me do I prefer a poverty-stricken weak state in Macedonia, and in Serbia, and in Albania outside the EU with criminal networks operating inside the EU, or would I prefer to let them in, support the economic and social-political transformation, then clearly the latter is better – they have nowhere else to go. This of course also means that you also have to change the way the EU works because the number of small states coming in is rapidly increasing and the situation in which Germany, the richest country and the largest country, has one Judge, one Commissioner, and Malta and Slovenia, and Montenegro also have one is clearly idiotic. So, there will be increased tensions between the large and the rich states and between the small and poor states which we have to manage.

www.europa.md: About the neighborhood. You know that within the ENP there are different action plans signed, there is one signed with Moldova as well. The question regarding Moldova, but also Ukraine, is what document will follow next – will it be some sort of Enhanced Neighborhood Agreement or a new Action Plan, or the EU will find something different? It doesn’t seem that Moldova, or Ukraine, for that matter, will sign after the Action Plans, the Association and Stabilization Agreements, as the elites hope…

William Wallace: What we’ve seen with Ukraine is a little bit as we’ve seen with Turkey – we have an elite that is determined to join the EU and NATO and a public that is rather more suspicious. We have great difficulties with Romania and Bulgaria; frankly, there are many of us who are not convinced that Romania and Bulgaria yet have the capability to fulfill the obligations of a Member-State. There are still levels of corruption in their administrations which are higher that we really would like to tackle. For Ukraine and Turkey, I don’t think that public as a whole yet willing to swallow all of the obligations of the EU membership. The debate in Turkey certainly is in terms of status: “Europe cannot deny us!” And in terms of benefits: “We join the EU – you give us lots of money!” That’s not sufficient to debate one’s future in Europe. www.europa.md: If we speak about Turkey, the rejection of Turkey one way or another would rather undermine its secular state… William Wallace: Well, this is the whole question of the ENP – is there an alternative to be in completely or out completely, and whatever the final answer is, we have to address this question in the context of Ukraine, and perhaps then of Belarus, the question whether Moldova becomes a full member or an associate we have to leave open for the present moment, then the question of South Caucasus countries... And there are countries like Morocco which are extremely close to the EU, deeply dependent on the EU, there are great deal more Moroccans or of Moroccan descent living and working in the EU than are from Moldova – so, there are large questions about the ENP. What we have yet not succeeded in doing is finding an association package which would satisfy neighbors who are, of course, very closely associated with the EU, but may not want in their own interest to swallow everything the EU is about.

www.europa.md: You mean everything but a political union?

William Wallace: Yes. It is also a question what is the EU actually about? It wants to have capacity for a Common Foreign Policy, do you want it to have sufficient clarity on internal agreement in judicial and police cooperation, and single market and its enforcement? We are really having quite substantial problems in how far common policies are implemented and enforced in the Member-States. This would spread further as we have a real problem with Romania and Bulgaria coming in. Association would enable the partners not to have to swallow absolutely every aspect of the EU which is a lot more convenient in the last 20 years than it was before the Single European Act in 1975.

www.europa.md: I see the way the argument goes. But don’t you think that at the end of the day the EU should rise up to the challenge and perhaps move eastwards, becoming more federal along the way – wouldn’t that clear up many problems you talk about?

William Wallace: Enlargement and integration are not easy to reconcile. As you enlarge you also need some tighter common policies to cope with a more diverse and bigger Union. But you also have more different national debates and national public to cope with. Look what is happening in Poland. It insisted a lot on coming into the EU, we had to accept Poland on its own terms – it’s a large country, it’s a powerful country. Now they are in, you have a right-wing Government in Warsaw saying: “We don’t like a lot of things the EU is about; we don’t like this invasion on Polish sovereignty”. Incidentally, I think, if Turkey were to join, the backlash after that in terms of Turkish nationalism and ”who are you to tell us what to do” would be even more severe than we currently have in Poland.

www.europa.md: But before Turkey joins, the EU could streamline its institutions. Maybe the Commission could be strengthened as well. Maybe national governments could relinquish some of their national powers. For instance, I would assume that any important referendum, like the Constitutional one, is to take place simultaneously in all Member-States with the biding majority result for all of EU Member-States. These developments would unite Europe.

William Wallace: We do not have a single European public, we do not have a single debate, we do not have a single media…

www.europa.md: But there are parties in the European Parliament that are freely elected…

William Wallace: These are loose federations of national parties in the European Parliament. And all of them are extremely loose federations. Last month I was in the European Parliament and I spoke to three people I know well – one British, one Polish, one Finnish – all belonging to the same party group – European People’s Party. And I came away thinking: What on earth these people, with very different views of the world, are doing together? All of them are conservatives but with totally different definitions of conservatism. So, streamlining of the EU is something that can only do within limits, so long as politics and therefore legitimacy remains basically national.

www.europa.md: However, if politics would move into a wider framework, then I suppose Europe will start thinking and acting as one single polity. For instance, if we model the European electoral process using the national one, then the winner in European elections should have the responsibility to form the Commission. Then the Parliament would have real powers and we would move away from the current inter-Governmental EU…

William Wallace: It might be easier to do that in a smaller EU. If you do ask me what I know about liberal parties in Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, I have to say I have limited knowledge. I happened to know some Hungarians because I used to teach in Budapest, at the Central European University, so I’ve got to know some of these people but no one from Romania or Bulgaria… And if I, a political junkie, have some difficulty in thinking through who are the people naturally find the easiest to talk to, then what about the most of other people? With no sense of a common European approach, trying to put together a common platform for any of the group in the European parliament is extremely difficult. So, to say that whichever party group emerges in the European parliament should nominate the President which then would form a strong executive, maybe is stretching legitimacy a little far. What we need much more, is more constructive leadership from the leaders of the largest states. If you look back at the European integration 20-30 years ago, you had German Chancellors, French Presidents, even Mrs. Thatcher had this, talking about what Europe ought to do next, like a Single Market for instance. Margaret Thatcher famously said we need a Single Market and that helped pushing the entire program.

www.europa.md: So, Europe lacks a project now?

William Wallace: Europe lacks any significant leaders who are attempting to define what a common European agenda should be. Mrs. Merkel comes closest to this, as compared to her predecessor; she is prepared to talk more than just German national interests. The crisis in France, until the President Chirac goes, means that no one in France can talk about anything except what’s happening in France, unfortunately. One of the major tragedies of Tony Blair’s Prime-Minister tenure is that he hasn’t been able to address what the broader European agenda should be except to promote the Lisbon Agenda for economic reform which was greeted with horror in France, Italy, and Germany partly because it was entirely misunderstood.

www.europa.md: By the way, what about the Lisbon Agenda – obviously, the targets are not met but didn’t it give some sort of incentives for the European governments to think more in terms of making the EU more competitive?

William Wallace: The Lisbon Agenda overall has failed. But it has helped to push a few things into the right direction. The impossibility of maintaining the pension regime became obvious – even the Italians began to sort their pension regime out. It has got the question of employment law on the agenda – the Germans have taken some steps to change their employment law, the French political system is completely blocked on this – that is part of the political crisis in France, so, on the question of universities and high technology there are some quite useful things going on through the Bologna process which is beginning to focus on closer cooperation among the European universities. So, some bits of the Lisbon Agenda have made progress, even though overall, of course, it will be a utter disappointment.

www.europa.md: If we speak about the Common Foreign and Security Policy, you would see that at least in our part of the world the EU is having some degree of success because for instance in Moldova an EUBAM was deployed along the Moldovan-Ukrainian border, a special representative was appointed by the European Council who participates to the negotiations on the status of the eastern part of Moldova. There are also missions in the Middle East and elsewhere. So, it seems something is going on in this regard and I think it is a success.

William Wallace:That’s absolutely right. This is one part of the problem – in assessing what is happening inside the EU – it always looks that it is in crisis but under the surface things moved forward. Certainly, on the Common Foreign and Security Policy and on Defense Policy, quite astonishing progress has been made in the last 10 years. Not enough, indeed. I think that the attitude of EU towards the “frozen conflicts” could be a great deal more active. We don’t have a clear policy towards the Southern Caucasus. The Americans, by and large, play the leading role, we don’t have a clear policy towards the OSCE – I would like the EU to be much more active in dissuading the Russians from blocking further development of the OSCE. But on Iran and a number of other areas we are beginning to see an effective European cooperation. And on Defense Policy some progress has been made towards being able to send very rapidly deployable battle groups to assist UN in operating in Africa and elsewhere. Take internal security. This cooperation consolidate rapidly – that has developed over the last 15 years from a point where policing was almost entirely domestic issue and it could take you 6 to 9 months or longer to extradite somebody who committed a crime in your country from the other European country where he fled. So, there is real progress. It’s just that the central questions – where are we going, what are the institutions we want, are ones that the political leaders find easier to avoid and the publics don’t want to listen to.

www.europa.md: You have mentioned Russia earlier and you know very well the developments in its bilateral relationships with Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia. Russia is becoming more autocratic under Mr. Putin as its President and this has a negative impact over its neighbors because of a more visible military, commercial and energy tools employed by Moscow to undermine the independence of these countries. Do you think the EU could mediate these uneasy relationships?

William Wallace: First of all, we would need a common policy towards Russia, we don’t have one. Under Schroeder, the German Government was pursuing a deeply personal and bilateral policy towards Russia. Schroeder and Putin were well together, Putin, of course, speaks fluent German and Schroeder thought he had a clear understanding of Putin. Chirac and Berlusconi also preferred to pursue personal relations with Putin, rather than assessing where Europe’s wider interests were. We don’t know what the new Italian Government would do with its foreign policy, in France we are stuck again – France has no foreign policy at the present moment because of the deep political crisis the country is in. The Poles and the Baltic States want a much tougher policy towards Russia. So we are left without a coherent policy regarding Russia – that’s one of the biggest weaknesses inside the EU at the present moment. Also, it makes more difficult therefore to have a coherent policy towards Ukraine. There is an additional complication that the Americans have their own, not always entirely coherent policy themselves towards Ukraine, the South Caucasus, and Russia.

www.europa.md: If you recall the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, it was Poland and Lithuania the first ones to support the Orange Coalition, while the oldest Member-States were sort of hesitant to step in and this shows what you’ve said earlier about the lack of a coherent foreign policy towards the region.

William Wallace: This is part of the problem of a more diverse Europe. If you are the Spanish Government you are much more interested about what is happening in Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, and the real problems of desperate refugees, trying to get in on their boats than on what is happening on Belarusian-Lithuanian border. If you are Lithuania or Poland, you think that the future of Kaliningrad is really rather important. If you would stop to ask the members of Spanish and Portuguese Parliaments about the Kaliningrad problem, most of them would not know what you are talking about.

www.europa.md: Well, they should have learned geography at school – it only shows once more the necessity of Bologna process...

William Wallace: Ha-ha, yes, but you take my point. Even to know the boundaries of Moldova, let alone why Transnistria is called Transnistria, takes certain amount of expertise. I guess, if I would ask you about the problems of Spanish Sahara and the Polisario Front, you might not know about that too much either. But it is much more important to Spain.

www.europa.md: Well, as a matter of fact, I know something about Western Sahara, guerilla resistance, and I like a lot the music Tuaregs play, but never mind. How the EU views Moldova: as a South-Eastern country or East-European one?

William Wallace: An honest answer would be to say that most of the Western Europe doesn’t view Moldova at all and although on some occasions you meet Moldovans who come here, many of whom to work very hard, therefore, I assume there must be a substantial number of emigration. We will view Moldova much more clearly when Romania joins EU and we will see it as an extension of the Romanian issue. Most people in the EU have not yet really quite understood that when Romania and Bulgaria join, the EU will become a Black Sea European Union and the whole set of thorny issues will begin to arise. The Greeks are trying to tell us that it’s all part of the way one has to adjust. However, accidentally I heard a Spanish Minister about 5 years ago saying that its going to be complicated to the EU when the Baltic States join because the EU for the first time will have a common border with Russia and we had to point out that since Finland joined EU we started to have a common border with Russia but from the perspective of Madrid Finland is a very long way away. It shows the diversity I talked about earlier and the difficulty to strike a common policy. As for Moldova, it is not at the moment on the top of our agenda – it does come part in a complex of problems: what do we do about Ukraine, what on earth do we do about Belarus, what do we do about other “frozen conflicts”? And I have to say to you the Georgians are much more active in Western Europe than the Moldovans are. I’ve seen Saakashvili, I’ve seen the Speaker of Georgian Parliament, the Deputy Prime-Minister, one of the leading opposition politicians – all passing through the Palace of Westminster within the last 4 months. I don’t see Moldovan politicians doing the same and it’s very important to go around and remind people that you are there, that your problems still exist. It is more of a common knowledge that the Russians are blocking the export of Georgian wine than of Moldovan wine. Moldova needs to do more to make sure we don’t forget it. Develop and keep contacts. Do it with presentable political leaders who are articulate in English, French and German. You have to make us hear your case: “We are here, you cannot ignore us!” And to explain what the problems are. If the EU is having a policy towards Moldova, it has to have a policy towards Russia, then we have to put the treatment of Moldovan issue together with our treatment of the Western CIS – this is all the way from Kaliningrad to Abkhazia, Georgia.

www.europa.md: Thank you for your time and interesting answers, Lord Wallace.

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