TCS Daily


After Europe

By Michael Cecire - May 1, 2007 12:00 AM

Last August, Nicholas Sarkozy, the then-expected and now current French UMP presidential candidate, laid out his European Union policy on the commentary pages of the London-based Sunday Telegraph. As had been expected, Sarkozy fell short of backing the EU constitution that had been roundly rejected by both his own country and the Netherlands only a year before. In his piece, he instead proposed what he referred to as a 'mini-treaty;' guidelines to govern the transformation of an EU into a more democratically accountable, economically competitive polity. A major theme of his proposal discusses Europe's boundaries, and hard to miss was his position regarding Turkish accession:

"Of all the countries with which the EU should have preferential relations, foremost is Turkey, our neighbour and friend, sharing many of our security concerns and many of our values. These are good reasons for strengthening our ties with Turkey, without going so far as offering full membership."

Even harder to miss was Sarkozy's most recent public soundbite on the issue when he bluntly declared that Turkey "has no place inside the European Union." Sarko, better known for his maverick-style stance on the issues, appears to be solidly in the company of the French majority this time, an opinion that is shared by increasingly many, if not most, leaders of EU member states. Ségolène Royal, Sarkozy's Socialist Party opponent for the presidency, has herself made no firm declarations on the issue other than her support for a referendum on the issue, flashing her populist badge without openly opposing Turkey's accession.

Even if the idea isn't yet quite dead, as of today it seems clear to the policy wonk and casual observer alike that Turkey's bid will eventually be rejected; indeed, even in Turkey where support for accession was once stratospheric, public approval for the ruling AK Party's EU policies have hit new lows.

So where does that leave Turkey? Where does that leave a number of countries around the world, both aspirants - like Turkey, Morocco, and Georgia - and non-aspirants alike? While the European Union has been criticized for many things from its economic policies to its low levels of defense spending, an indubitable fact has been its force for positive change. An empire of inclusion, it provoked rapid and deliberate reforms in countries across Europe, accomplishing economic and political liberalization at a speed and intensity that continues to paint the US State Department green with envy. With the European Union pulling up the drawbridge, it's long past time that an economic community, conceived on a global scale, takes its place to better incentivize economic and political liberalization. If the EU no longer willing or able to do it, perhaps another organization should be created to take its place; perhaps an organization led by the world's top economy: the United States.

Less of a competitor to the European Union, it would be more like a natural extension of its goals and basic ideals, writ global. This 'International Economic League of Democracies' would be characterized by three pillars: free trade, movement of labor, and global liberalization.

Free Trade

Free trade would be the foundation upon which the entire enterprise would rest. Upon entry, all member states would be required to eliminate all trade barriers and open their economies to other member states. This would include free trade as well as the free movement of capital.

Not only would conventional barriers fall, but the promise of new, unified markets may allow the dismantling of obstinate protectionist policies that throttle innovation and encourage inefficiency - including subsidies for agricorps and big business. Moreover, League member states would be given the opportunity in the new economic community to see beyond state-driven, nationalist capitalism.

Movement of Labor

Under the articles of this new economic league, labor laws will be standardized and streamlined so that aspiring migrants could, in the very least, enter other member states with greater ease and efficiency. This doesn't mean open borders; the League will in no way seek to impose restrictions on border security, but will instead stipulate that there are standardized, reasonable avenues for travelers and migrants to take in all member states.

A possible model is the 'visa-lite' program that is being conceived for Eastern European countries by the United States. Under the program, potential visitors could be authorized for clearance ahead of time for certain countries in return for increased flexibility, and possibly an accelerated regime, for countries that do not fall under the 3 percent visa refusal rate. Under the League, this greater flexibility would be standard policy, and 'roadmap' guidelines could be established to put these countries on their way to a free-movement program.

Liberalization

Perhaps the most exciting element of the league would be its influence on developing countries all over the world. Many countries whose EU bids now looks stark because of the current European political climate would have a new option that wouldn't require that they be on a second tier list. And since the League would be open only to proven democracies who show a commitment to economic liberty, other nations who never could even entertain the possibility of EU accession would be offered firm incentives to reform and liberalize their countries - both politically and economically. Eventually, the League would emerge as the premier multilateral force & forum for discourse between the world's democracies.

So who would join the League? As of today, there are a number of countries who would make ideal participants. In our own hemisphere: Canada, Mexico, Chile, and possibly Colombia are a few good applicants. In Asia: Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Mongolia, Australia, New Zealand, and India would all likely take a good, hard look at the possibilities. In Africa: Mali, Morocco, Zambia, and South Africa, to name a few. The Middle East: Israel and perhaps Lebanon. In Europe/Eurasia: Turkey, Georgia, and a few EU countries interested in a more economically-based community than a statist mega-federation. And there are many other countries that, even if they wouldn't be eligible for immediate inclusion, would make fine candidates after a few years of reform. The most attractive element of the program would be its continuous open-door policy to the countries that demonstrate both progressive economic and political policies.

The idea also satisfies concerns generated on both sides of the aisle about current US foreign policy. On one hand, the League would be a powerful free-trade community that actively discriminates its membership measured by a country's level of political/civil freedom. It could serve as a firm foundation upon which further efforts at democratization could be launched, and at a fraction of the cost of the current system of ever-fluctuating, ad-hoc patronage that characterizes current policy. For the left, it is the creation of a strong, predictable, multilateral institution that upholds and would actively promote liberal ideals such as human rights, tolerance, and transparency.

While there are many obstacles to such a plan, if policymakers saw the inherent benefits there could be a great deal of bipartisan support to make it a reality. Many details would have to be ironed out and might generate some controversy: Where should the League headquarters be located? Should current EU members be permitted entry? Would this organization minimize the importance of the Doha Round or G-7? Will it be seen as a US vehicle for hegemony?

Indeed, many questions need answering. Nevertheless the League would be an important step towards keeping liberal democracies empowered throughout the 21st century while offering genuine, tangible incentives to countries all over the world to modernize and democratize. Most importantly, it would keep countries like Turkey or Georgia - who could be rebuffed by the EU - from joining with less desirable company. If we can't keep Europe growing, we should at least keep trying to expand the free world.


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