A. After a period of introversion and stunned self-disbelief, continental European governments will recover their enthusiasm for pan-European institution-building in 2007. Whether the European public will welcome a return to what voters in two countries had rejected so short a time before is another matter.
B. There are several reasons for Europe’s recovering self-confidence. For years European economies had been lagging dismally behind America (to say nothing of Asia), but in 2006 the large continental economies had one of their best years for a decade, briefly outstripping America in terms of growth. Since politics often reacts to economic change with a lag, 2006’s improvement in economic growth will have its impact in 2007, though the recovery may be ebbing by then.
C. The coming year also marks a particular point in a political cycle so regular that it almost seems to amount to a natural law. Every four or five years, European countries take a large stride towards further integration by signing a new treaty: the Maastricht treaty in 1992, the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, the Treaty of Nice in 2001. And in 2005 they were supposed to ratify a European constitution, laying the ground for yet more integration—until the calm rhythm was rudely shattered by French and Dutch voters. But the political impetus to sign something every four or five years has only been interrupted, not immobilised, by this setback.
D. In 2007 the European Union marks the 50th anniversary of another treaty—the Treaty of Rome, its founding charter. Government leaders have already agreed to celebrate it ceremoniously, restating their commitment to “ever closer union” and the basic ideals of European unity. By itself, and in normal circumstances, the EU’s 50th-birthday greeting to itself would be fairly meaningless, a routine expression of European good fellowship. But it does not take a Machiavelli to spot that once governmennts have signed the declaration (and it seems unlikely anyone would be so uncollegiate as to veto it) they will already be halfway towards committing themselves to a new treaty. All that will be necessary will be to incorporate the 50th-anniversary declaration into a new treaty containing a number of institutional and other reforms extracted from the failed attempt at constitution-building and—hey presto—a new quasi-constitution will be ready.
E. According to the German government—which holds the EU’s agenda-setting presidency during the first half of 2007—there will be a new draft of a slimmed-down constitution ready by the middle of the year, perhaps to put to voters, perhaps not. There would then be a couple of years in which it will be discussed, approved by parliaments and, perhaps, put to voters if that is deemed unavoidable. Then, according to bureaucratic planners in Brussels and Berlin, blithely ignoring the possibility of public rejection, the whole thing will be signed, sealed and a new constitution delivered in 2009-10. Europe will be nicely back on schedule. Its four-to-five-year cycle of integration will have missed only one beat.
F. The resurrection of the European constitution will be made more likely in 2007 because of what is happening in national capitals. The European Union is not really an autonomous organisation. If it functions, it is because the leaders of the big continental countries want it to, reckoning that an active European policy will help them get done what they want to do in their own countries.
G. That did not happen in 2005-06. Defensive, cynical and self-destructive, the leaders of the three largest euro-zone countries—France, Italy and Germany—were stumbling towards their unlamented ends. They saw no reason to pursue any sort of European policy and the EU, as a result, barely functioned. But by the middle of 2007 all three will have gone, and this fact alone will transform the European political landscape.
H.The upshot is that the politics of the three large continental countries, bureaucratic momentum and the economics of recovery will all be aligned to give a push towards integration in 2007. That does not mean the momentum will be irresistible or even popular. The British government, for one, will almost certainly not want to go with the flow, beginning yet another chapter in the long history of confrontation between Britain and the rest of Europe. More important, the voters will want a say. They rejected the constitution in 2005. It would be foolish to assume they will accept it after 2007 just as a result of an artful bit of tinkering.
Notes to the Reading Passage1.
Material development outstripped human development”“物质的发展超过了人类的进步”
The tide is on the ebb.正在退潮。
5. hey presto