CEAC Commentary

December 30, 2019 

Issue of the EU Regional Integration As Seen

in the Discrepancy Between Germany and France

By UDAGAWA Keisuke

Progress has finally been made in “Brexit.” Having postponed its due date of October 31, UK had the general election on December 12. Then, I simply wonder what action the British royal family would take amid the confusion of the domestic politics in UK.

But first, we have to talk about the European Union (EU). The main actor of the Brexit is the UK, but it is not only UK’s issue. The lack of leadership of the “exitee” EU is unrefutable. While many blame UK of the Brexit, rather than the EU, we shall not close our eyes on EU’s “failed policy” as a part of the cause. UK’s one of big dissatisfaction was the structural issue: the EU leadership is largely held by the Continent, namely Germany and France, where decision making on permissions take place. So the business infrastructure are centralized to Germany or France. Thanks to Schengen Agreement that made the EU borderless, talents are drawn to Germany or France. It is similar within Japan, where the gap between Tokyo and the rest of the suburban cities is growing. While many things and people head to Germany and France, the rest of the countries face “depopulation” and “suburbanization by wealth extortion.” UK reacted quickly to the situation, that is, the Brexit.

Until now, France and Germany could cooperate within EU thanks to UK as a buffer zone. However, after BREXIT had come to take shape, there has been dissonance between the two leading countries. French President Emmanuel Macron made an assertion on his interview with a British paper on Nov. 7 regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the critical situation in Turkey and Syria, that the United States turning its back on Europe is “brain dead,” therefore the Europe must possess autonomous military capability. German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted to this as saying “that is extreme. The NATO is and will be the cornerstone of the European security.” In principle, the EU was to counter in unity the US-Soviet Cold War. The European integration therefore went through the process of, regardless of the forms, import of resource, then economic cooperation, step by step.

The EU seems to have forgotten this principle, however, and rather busy with internal competition on leadership that is affecting the progress on the regional integration. It is not too much to call it a “world communism revolution,” if just to observe the phenomenon of “states uniting beyond the nation-state framework.” So the challenge has been not being able to clearly characterize the institution they are willing to achieve, which is a supra-state but not based on communism or socialism.

Among some topics, the security is one of them as it made the news this time. If it is a supra-national existence, only the “EU Force” will exist within its area. Police will take care of those who disturbs the order within the EU, not the military. Meanwhile, a German for instance, joins the EU Force and risk their life in the mission to save endangering, for example, Hungary or Spain. Or a German EU Force officer will face a situation to fight against Germans when deployed in/to Germany.

The soldiers would not likely have to face such a unique situation with the supra-national force, if to not integrate the forces of member states, but keep the status quo military-by-country form. This is not the only topic in military affairs, but is a direct example and a major topic the EU must consider, whether to possess the military force by countries, or to integrate them, in this case. Therefore, the significance of the news this time was that the different takes on military affairs among European states surfaced thorough the NATO’s being. While France called NATO a “brain dead” by worrying the current state, Germany called it a “cornerstone of the security” based on different perspective. The news was about the NATO, but essentially it was story that could create a stir in the regional integration of the EU.

The EU has an ideological issue of whether it is a “state in union, or union state” in the first place, and there is no sufficient consensus. They are paying for the “unfinished business” now. Such dissonance is surfacing in the EU activities, and how would EU try to manage it? What Britain, Germany or France would do in reaction? The circumstance and the level of the regional integration in Asia may be different from the Europe, but if Japan can learn the essence of this issue correctly, it would be a good lesson in envisioning the future of Asia.

(This is an English translation of the article written by UDAGAWA Keisuke, Writer/Journalist, which originally appeared on the e-forum “Hyakka-Somei (Hundred Ducks in Full Voice)” of CEAC on November 26, 2019.)