To implement a federation, Europe has to `move forward courageously.' Business as usual will not do. Full political integration cannot be achieved through the Monnet method of integration, an incremental process with no blueprint of the final state. This method worked well with few Member States and a focus on economic integration. It is of `limited use for the political integration and democratisation of Europe.' According to Fischer, the method is in a crisis that cannot be solved according to the method's own logic.4
Fischer is well aware that his plan for reorganising power in Europe is will be contested. Implementing the reforms involves huge challenges, procedural as well as substantive, and some will view the plan as utterly unworkable. Fischer is also aware that he is up against strong institutional traditions. The European political order has, for a long time, been constituted on the principles of state sovereignty and national self-determination. Europe, as he says, is a continent `full of different peoples, cultures, languages and histories.' The region is torn between competing visions of possible political communities and forms of governance. There is deep divergence of opinion over the proper role of the European Union vis-à-vis the nation-state and the proper role of politics vis-à-vis the economy and society. Currently, many call the integration project into question, finding it irrelevant or even dangerous.
So, the balancing of unity and diversity is problematic. Moving towards a federation may drive European states apart, rather than closer together. There may be a loss of European identity and internal coherence. Yet, the EU acquis should not be jeopardised, the Union not divided, and the bonds holding the EU together should not be damaged. To whit:
It would be historically absurd and utterly stupid if Europe, at the very time when it is at long last reunited, were to be divided once again.
Fischer's answer is a stepwise political development. First, co-operation would be enhanced between those willing and able to co-operate more closely, as in the Economic and Monetary Union and Schengen. Second, a centre of gravity would be established, around a European framework treaty-the core of the federation's `constitution'. On this basis, the federation would develop its own institutions and establish a government through which the EU could speak with one voice on as many issues as possible. Furthermore, there would be a strong parliament and a directly elected president. An avant-garde of member states would, from the start, comprise all the elements of the future federation. Third, there would be a completion of the political integration into a European federation.
The unanswered questions, in Fischer's view, are: within the next decade, will a majority of the Member States take the leap into full integration and agree on a European constitution? If this does not happen, will an avant-garde emerge? When will this happen? Who will be involved? Will the core emerge within, or outside, the framework provided by the treaties?
The completion of European integration will depend upon the alliance between France and Germany, in Fischer's view. No country will be forced to participate at a level of integration that it does not want to. Yet, the reluctant countries will not be allowed to prevent others from further integration outside the treaties. The hope is that the avant-garde will work as `a magnet of integration open to all,' like the EC and the EU have done historically. To make the federal scheme workable, the states, with their national institutions, traditions and identities, have to be involved in the process of change. The nation-states `will retain a much larger role than the Länder have in Germany.' Furthermore, sub-national units, such as the German Länder, will not accept their competencies being weakened as a result of further political integration in Europe.5
4 As emphasized by Wallace, the EU uses a variety of methods of policy-making, H. Wallace (2000).
5 Agence Europe No 7726 Saturday 27 May 2000: `German Länder repeat to Prodi that ratification of revised treaty will be difficult if their powers are not preserved'.