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The European Union as a template.

THE director of Le Monde Diplomatique, Ignacio Ramonet, has written: 'The fast rhythm and deep nature of the geopolitical transformations that have taken place since 1989 impresses, surprises, bewilders... We are still living with the legacy and the shadow, as well as all the opportunities which came after the fall of the authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe, German re-unification, the USSR implosion and the globalisation of the world economy ...after the strategic scenarios and outline, [there is] a new planetary scenario'.

Part of the new world order has meant an imitation of one of the most extraordinary of political and economic experiments, namely what is now called the European Union. It would probably be more correct to call it a new constitutional experiment, since nothing quite like this had happened before. As Roy Jenkins, sometime President of the Commission in the European Community, has said: 'It is something unique. It is not an analogue of the United States'. Calling the European Union a potential 'United States of Europe' is both emotive and misleading, but the real success and survival of this experiment has led to its being used as a template for other economic unions in the world.

The first one which should be considered is the Black Sea Economic Co-operation Pact (BSEC). The five-year-old regional grouping was formally upgraded to international status when eleven members signed a charter in Yalta, Ukraine, on 6 May 1998. These eleven states, namely Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Greece, were seeking to create a market of 350 million people and to develop mutually advantageous co-operation.

There was also a wider goal: 'greater democracy, peace and development'. One can see in this the goals of the Coal and Steel Community which came out of the Treaty of Paris in 1951. Just as this had followed swiftly on the end of the Second World War, so the Black Sea Pact followed the collapse of Communism in Europe in 1989. The real breakthrough for the Black Sea states had occurred in June 1992 when the heads of the eleven countries had met upon the invitation of the Turkish Government in Istanbul. This summit was successfully concluded with the signing of the historic document 'Summit Declaration on Black Sea Economic Co-operation'. Thus it became a symbol for a new regional cooperation model. But certain questions have to be asked. Greece is already a member of the European Union; Turkey had been an Associate Member on and off since 1962; Romania and Bulgaria are applicant states of the European Union. The question has to be asked: how far east can the European Union successfully extend? This very questi on was considered at the Copenhagen summit last month. Under French and German pressure Turkish membership was delayed for a few more years. The Presidency is now held by Greece, as from January 1. Greece is thus in a unique position to see things from two perspectives.

Turkey was told by the European Union in 1987 that its application for full membership was being given a qualified 'No'. It is natural, therefore, that it should consider other options, and one of these is being a bigger player in another economic union, that of the Black Sea states. It is also natural that this union should draw on the example and the experience of the European Union. It is a case of 'If you can't join it, use it as a template'.

It is interesting, too, that in all previous attempts and designs for European Union, Russia and Turkey are always the two states which have to be excluded, or which have to have special consideration, whether they are called Muscovy and the Sublime Porte, or Russia and Turkey. Here, in the Black Sea Pact, Russia and Turkey have become partners in an adjacent organisation.

The Black Sea Economic Co-operation is based on the principles laid down in the Helsinki Final Act, the follow-up Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) documents, and particularly, in the Paris Charter for a new Europe. This binds the Black Sea states closely into the values and principles of the Western European states. Significantly, the Heads of State and Government meeting in Istanbul in 1992 pledged themselves to the promotion of relations with other organizations, including the European Union itself. The role of Greece was emphasised by the inauguration of the Black Sea International Studies Centre in Athens by the Deputy Foreign Minister, Yiannos Kranidiotis.

The BSEC approved a proposal in 1996 that the Centre be housed in Athens. The centre will be an independent body, and Greece will help to support it both on an organizational and financial level, also bringing it closer to the European Union.

On 29 September 1998 it was reported by the Macedonian Press Agency that the organization's Secretary-General, Vassil Baytchev, had said that the academic communities of the member states could play a primary role in co-operation among governments, through the exchange of information, joint programmes, and regional co-operation in research and technology. This is very, similar to the basis of the joint programmes of the European Economic Area, enjoyed by the member states of both the European Union and the European Free Trade Area (with the exception of Switzerland, whose position is subject to adjustment).

By 27 October 1999, the Black Sea Economic Co-operation Council of foreign ministers were meeting in Thessaloniki to consider four new applications for membership: from Yugoslavia, from the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, from Uzbekistan and from Iran. The net was simply being thrown wider and wider, beyond those states which actually had Black Sea coastlines. Decision was referred to a future meeting, under the Presidency of Moldova, due to a lack of preparation. Ministers said the time was simply not right for a decision. This very point, a lack of time of preparation, is what is going to dog the Danes in their quest to bring to a finale the preparations for the accession of new member states for the European Union in December 2002.

At a Conference in Tbilisi in Georgia on April 13-14, 1999, Alex Rondeli, a spokesman for the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pinpointed another reason why the Black Sea states came together in imitation of the European Union.

'These states should not see themselves as isolated, but as part of a larger group of Black Sea and Eastern States'. Integration in both trade and relations with neighbours was not optional, but obligatory, and 'small countries have little hope without economic co-operation and political stability'.

The Russian State Duma, in a rare moment of unity, ratified the BSEC statutes unanimously in December 1998. To continue the relations that are in the interest of all states, Russia sees the 'BSEC as part of guaranteeing stability not only in the Black Sea itself, but also in the area of international trade and economic ties'.

Alexander Vysotsky, a professor from the Institute of State and Law in Ukraine, urged the members of the BSEC to move towards legal status for the organization. In his opinion, the BSEC as an organ could not enforce agreements between states because there was no legal mechanism built in that would allow member states to compel one or another state to abide by BSEC agreements. To reach the next stage of an organization that has a wider impact on developing regional economies, Vysotsky asserted, 'now is the time for BSEC to establish itself as an international regional organization, in the legal sense'.

In the context of legal frameworks, Vladimir Kotlyar, of the Diplomatic Academy within the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointed out the difficulties in the role of Turkey in the Black Sea straits, and that these could be either international waters or internal waters at Turkey's discretion. Such an issue should be settled.

Ted Jonas, as the only practising American lawyer in Georgia, working within the Georgia Consulting Group, praised the rapid increase in establishing laws affecting business and trade within Georgia. 'The Georgian Parliament [has been] a virtual factory of legislation' since 1996, according to Jonas, establishing a legal framework that creates a better landscape for investors and foreign businesses. However, having put the laws on the books, 'now comes the hard part, to change people's thinking'.

So here are two salient points: one, that what in the European Union is called the acquis communitaire has to be accepted as the basic legal framework of regulations for business, and two, that there has to be a change in the mindset of those who use and administer it.

So what has actually developed from this copying, this using the European Union as a template? Is it actually like the European Union? The answer is: not yet.

The BSEC does not constitute a regional organization in a legal sense since it is not based on an agreement binding under international law. In the Moscow Declaration of October 25, 1996, a number of states expressed their interest in upgrading this basis of the co-operation from a mere political to a legally binding document. Although a statement of the political will to draft this international agreement, which would have to be ratified by all the participating states according to their constitutional provisions, has since been included in several official declarations, it can be expected that it will still be some years yet until such a document is ready for signing. It makes one realise just how far the European Union has come since 1951. Other Unions will find it hard to escalate the process.

An option for other states or international organizations to become involved in BSEC activities without however being fully fledged BSEC states, is to join this co-operation initiative as an observer. Quite a few states such as Egypt, Israel, Italy, Austria, Poland, Slovakia and Tunisia have availed themselves of this possibility.

Interestingly, other countries such as Croatia, Cyprus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jordan, Kazakhstan and Slovenia have applied for observer status but it has not been granted to them as yet since no agreement could be reached. Although representatives of the European Commission and the European Union Presidency often attend the MMFAs [Meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs] the European Union has not applied as such to become an observer with the BSEC.

This brings the question of institutions to the fore. What has the BSEC established in imitation of the European Union?

The body which gives the political impetus and defines the guidelines for future co-operation at BSEC level is, as in the case of the European Union, the meeting of the Heads of State and Government, which takes place on a non-regular basis in different capitals of the BSEC states. This is the equivalent of the European Council of Ministers, which takes place twice a year in those states which have the six-monthly Presidency of the European Union. After the first meeting of BSEC states in Istanbul in 1992, it was another three years until the second meeting, which was held in Bucharest in 1995. A third high-level meeting in Moscow took place in 1996.

The official decision-making body of the BSEC is the Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, which convenes on a regular basis, normally twice a year, and at which every participating state is represented and has one vote. Eight of these meetings had been held between 1992 and 1996. The meetings are chaired by and held in the country which holds the office of chairman, and so the BSEC is a direct copy of the template of the European Union in its Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Even the six months of the Presidency in alphabetical order is what the European Community, and then the European Union, originally did. Unlike the European Union, however, the chairmanship is handed over in May and November, whereas in the former it is in January and July. Turkey, which is such a lynchpin in the organization, has exceptionally held the chairmanship for one year.

The meetings of the ministers are prepared by twenty different standing working groups and expert committees, which can be compared with Co-Reper [the Committee of Permanent Representatives] with the Directorates-General and with the Expert Committees of the European Parliament. The parallel is not exact, but clearly BSEC owes a great deal to the example of the European Union.

It was decided to reform and streamline the subsidiary bodies at a meeting in Istanbul on September 10, 1996.

The BSEC process is supported by a Permanent International Secretariat, located in Istanbul, and the budget for the whole organization relies on contributions from the participating states agreed upon a quota basis by the Foreign Ministers.

So what has BSEC achieved so far? Regarding infrastructure a project to produce a map of roads, railways, ports, and shipping connections in the BSEC region has been accomplished. The first joint Conference of Ministers of Transport of BSEC and the Central European Initiative has taken place in November 1996.

With regard to internal affairs, the Ministers of Internal Affairs of the BSEC states met in Yerevan in October 1996 and for the first time adopted a joint statement expressing their will to strengthen co-operation in areas such as combating organized crime, terrorism, illicit drug dealing and illegal migration. All of these issues now seem deeply topical.

While it clearly serves an important purpose, BSEC 'does not have an overall positive image', is hampered by the economic development and political instability of its participating states, and, perhaps most of all, contains within it states 'where there might exist a national consensus on future membership of the European Union' which undermines its credibility.

Another real reason why it does not appear to have made more progress is the lack of legal status and the failure to develop supra-nationality for its institutions.

There remain some very interesting and positive developments. In February 1993, the speakers of the national parliaments of BSEC states signed an agreement to establish a Parliamentary Assembly which should complement and support the intergovernmental co-operation of the BSEC. Greece did not participate in this initiative to begin with, although it does now; Bulgaria remains an observer.

The Parliamentary Assembly of BSEC (PABSEC) does of course bear comparison with the European Assembly which emerged in 1957 and which remained until direct elections transformed it into the European Parliament in 1979. PABSEC has seventy members, who are all members of the national parliaments, which is what happened to the European Assembly before direct elections. PABSEC has established three permanent committees to cover broadly economic, political and cultural issues. The Committees submit reports and draft recommendations to PABSEC, which is rather like the reports and recommendations sent by the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions to the European Commission. Interestingly, it is the delegations, and not individual parliamentarians, which have one vote each.

Another important development has been the creation of the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank. It is tempting to see a parallel in the European Central Bank, but a nearer parallel would be the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, situated in London. The drafting of the agreement to set up the Bank was signed at Tbilisi in June 1994. The purpose of the Bank, located in Thessaloniki, Greece, is to contribute effectively to the transition process of the member states towards economic prosperity of the region and to finance and promote regional projects, trade activities, investment and development programmes and other banking services for the public and private sectors of the member states. In this it is like the European Investment Bank, so must be considered a hybrid.

Importantly, the bank is financially supported by the European Union. At the request of Greece, the European Commission agreed to allocate 250,000 Ecus to finance the business plan to get the bank fully operating.

The latest important developments have occurred in April and June 2002. Greece has lived up to its role as the state which has the potential to span that which has been achieved in the European Union and that which might be achieved in the BSEC.

In April 2002 Greece announced its intention to organize a summit meeting of the Eurozone member states and the BSEC in the first half of 2003, when it will have the Presidency of the European Union.

The object is a rapprochement between the E.U. and the Black Sea states. The announcement was made at the opening of a one-day conference in Thessaloniki by the Black Sea Commerce and Development Bank which coincided with its annual general assembly meeting. The goal is the economic reconstruction of the region and the strengthening of inter-border co-operation, and the announcement seems a real step forward.

This has been followed, on June 25,2002, by a summit meeting of all eleven states of the BSEC in Istanbul to mark the tenth anniversary of the group's foundation. Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the Turkish President, said 'If today we see a relatively peaceful and stable environment taking hold in the Balkans and the Caucasus, the role of BSEC ... should not be underestimated'. He stressed that BSEC has emerged from a regional economic initiative to an international economic organization.

Later the leaders signed a joint declaration pledging to extend co-operation in economic, security and cultural areas. The states promised to set up a joint fund for regional development projects, and to work in close co-operation with the European Union.

Another associated development has been the Black Sea Naval Co-operation Task Group [Blackseafor] which was signed on April 2, 2001. The goals here are search and rescue operations for humanitarian needs, clearing sea mines, joint action for the protection of the Black Sea environment and organizing goodwill visits amongst Black Sea countries. But it is the actual structure which immediately signals interest, for decisions will be taken by consensus of the members, and the presidency will be rotated following the countries' names in alphabetical order.

On the other side of the Mediterranean, where the landlinks are as close to the European Union as they are on the Bosphorus, the Maghreb States of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia set up the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) in 1989. However, despite several injections of life, in many ways it has remained stillborn.

It had been set up in Marrakesh in 1989 by Algeria, Libya, Mauretania, Morocco and Tunisia but failed to develop into a fully-fledged regional grouping, mainly due to differences between Morocco and Algeria. On the eleventh anniversary, in 2000, King Mohammed VI of Morocco and the Presidents of Tunisia and Algeria exchanged messages. The king said that the Maghreban Union is a historic fatality and a geo-strategic need, in view of our shared will to take up the challenges thrown at the Maghreban region in an international environment marked by an accelerated globalization'.

Interestingly, one of the reasons for the setting up of the Maghreban Union was the disenchantment felt by the previous King of Morocco, Hassan II, with the Organization of African Unity [OAU] which had been set up in the wake of departing imperialism in 1963. King Hassan applied twice to join the European Union instead.

Now the OAU has been dissolved, and replaced by the launch of the African Union (AU) in Durban, South Africa, on July 8, 2002.

Originally conceived by Colonel Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, the AU aims to preside over the creation of a pan-African parliament, a central bank, a court of justice and a peace and security council. The object is to foster prosperity through social, economic and regional integration across Africa.

But is this simply another bureaucracy? There are two hopeful signs. The AU is expected to adopt the New Partnership for Africa's Development [Nepad], the ambitious plan to revive Africa's economy that was endorsed by leaders of the G8 meeting in Canada in June 2002.

Secondly, the founding Constitutive Act of the AU states that governments that come to power by undemocratic means will be suspended and subject to sanctions. Under the Act, the AU has powers to intervene in the internal affairs of member states to deal with 'war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity'. Unfortunately the inaugural meeting was hi-jacked by Colonel Gaddafi, claiming simply that African land was only for Africans, and sidelining President Mbeki of South Africa who, more moderately, looks for Western aid and perhaps using Western organizations as a template.

This may in itself represent a coda of the situation where opposing forces pull in different directions. But it seems conclusive that unless supra-national institutions and the equivalent of an acquis communitaire are adopted, with an inbuilt dynamic, which are the real substrata of the European Union, all imitations may be destined for a short life.

Michael L. Nash is a Law Lecturer at City College Norwich.
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Author:Nash, Michael L.
Publication:Contemporary Review
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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