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P o s i t i o n

European Integration beyond September 11

Impetus or blockade for the EU reform process?

Claus Giering - March 2002

There were two rival theses after the terrorist attacks of September 11: Some thought that the EU might be forced to press faster and more intensified for integration in order to address the challenges of international terrorism. Others, however, expected the process of integration to slow down or even that the community method would step back behind intergovernmental processes of coordination.
First of all, both processes could be observed: At the summit of Gent on October 19 as well as at a dramatic dinner at 10 Downing Street, which was planned for a small group of leaders, a more intensified process of coordination among the ´big three´ - Germany, UK, France - in the fight against terrorism seemed to be established. There have already been complaints about the development of a political directoire of the big member states. Yet, parallel to this and within the shortest of time 80 measures to fight terrorism have been adopted within the EU framework. In accordance with the 'Plan of Action' adopted by an extraordinary European Council held in Brussels on September 21, it has set in train a series of measures in those areas where it must and can make an effective contribution: external relations, police and judicial cooperation, air transport, humanitarian aid and economic and financial policy. Central decisions were:

  • assignment to the Council of Justice and Home Affairs for a European arrest warrant and a common definition of terrorism;

  • strengthening of Europol, establishment of a team of security experts;

  • prevention of the funding of terrorism by the adoption of a new directive against money laundering;

  • measures to secure the safety of air transport.

Therefore, the EU has taken action in various policy fields and has shown considerable engagement to adapt itself to the new conditions of international politics after September 11. However, in many cases - for example the tightening of the directive against money laundering or the proposals for a European arrest warrant - these measures have been discussed on the European level for a long time, but could not be realized. In these cases September 11 had a catalytic effect to overcome worries by single member states. The measures named above, however, have only been a start. On top of that the EU intents to develop interior security as part of a wider definition of security.

An area of interior security

The aspect of Justice and home affairs will become an even more important part of European foreign and security policy post September 11. Specific measures have been agreed on in response to the challenge of terrorism. In general the EU intends to realize an area of freedom, security and justice by 2004. The consequences of this are equally far-reaching as in the case of the Common Market. Common guidelines in asylum, visa and migration policies and the establishment of Europol and Eurojust would be sufficient to reach a new step in the process of integration. There are already evolving additional projects like the establishment of a European force for border controls, a further development of Eurojust into a public prosecutors office with specific rights to investigate in member states and the extension of the operative rights of Europol - they all fit into the logic of a common area of interior security.

Similar to the case of CFSP, in the end the distinct pillar containing the remaining aspects of cooperation of police and justice will have to be abolished subsequently. Though, if the EU is about to tackle the trans-border consequences of the freedom of movement in the common market, a full legislative participation of the European Parliament and a democratic scrutiny over executive actions should be guaranteed. It is here that the charter of basic rights will have to play a decisive role. It should protect citizens from interferences by common institutions in their rights. The European Court of Justice should guarantee the required legal security. Given that this field affects citizens directly, special attention should be paid to the separation of duties between member states and the EU. The fight against terrorism may not weaken our basic values and rights. Through this, the democratic and understandable realization of an area of freedom, security and justice will be one task for the convention and the 2004 intergovernmental conference.

The process of reform in the EU

A second important area of the internal development of the EU, which might be affected by the events relating to September 11, is the process to reform the institutions and decision-making processes of the EU. This process goes back to an assignment by the summit of Nice in December 2000. The EU should be enabled to tackle future challenges by providing it with an understandable division of tasks, a democratic division of power and a simplified body of treaties. The Belgian presidency of the Council intended to pave the way for the coming process of reform at the Laeken summit on 14 and 15 December 2001. This agenda, however, has been changed in a dramatic manner. The fight against international terrorism has been the first priority after the attacks of September 11. Belgium, nevertheless, managed to bring the internal reforms of the EU back into focus again. On the basis of proposals made by a small but prominent advisory group the Belgian premier Verhofstadt presented a paper with about 60 questions on the future of Europe in the other European capitals. Backed by Germany and France, who had explicitly expressed their support for a European constitution at their meeting in Nantes on November 23, the draft was approved by all member states.

The 60 questions posed in the Laeken Declaration of the European Council hide an agenda which, given the quarrels at the Nice summit, the various problems of European policy making, and diverging national interests on the future of Europe, can almost be called presumptuous. For the EU intends nothing less than a general revision of its competencies, institutions and Treaties:

  • The distribution and delimitation of competencies between the Member States and the EU is to be reorganized. This can mean intensified integration, in particular in issues of internal and external security, as well as the re-delegation of tasks to the national level.

  • In order to achieve more democracy, transparency and efficiency, the interrelationship among the Union's institutions is to be examined. For that purpose, the currently existing decision-making patterns will be reviewed in principle. In consequence, the direct election of the President of the Commission, a stronger role of the national parliaments, and the abolition of the Presidency´s six-months term of office will have to be discussed.

  • While heading for a Constitution the present Treaties are to be simplified. Core questions deal with the future legal status of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the simplification and reorganization of the Treaties as well as an end to the differentiation between Community and Union.

The Heads of State and Government of the EU Member States have herewith begged the right questions. The most important structural deficits of the Union are to be discussed without any taboo. The answer to these questions will be the establishment of a Political Union as it was aimed at as early as eleven years ago with the 1991 Maastricht Treaty. Yet the single market and economic union were neither then nor with the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty or the 2000 Nice Treaty complemented by corresponding political structures. Once again the chance to achieve Political Union is now offered by the work of the Convention.

These plans for reform, therefore, refer to long-term projects. The effect of September 11 in these areas can only be to create additional pressures to take action and to provide just one more argument for the necessity of efficient and democratically legitimated decision-making procedures. The basic need for reform for an enlarging Union, that wants to be a globally relevant player, has already been pressing before September 11.


After decades of focusing on economic objectives the EU, today, is more and more measured by its performance on basic duties of the state such as the guarantee of interior and exterior security, the realization of personal freedom, general prosperity and appropriate social conditions. The fact that these challenges have been already tackled before September 11 illustrates the magnitude of the ambitious integration projects initiated by the member states and the common institutions over the last few years:

  • introduction of Euro notes and coins by January 1st 2002;

  • start of the Lisbon-Process in March 2000 to develop a modern knowledge-based society, which is intended to make the common market the most competitive and dynamic economic area in the world;

  • conclusion of the first enlargement negotiations by the end of 2002, followed by the entry of new member states;

  • decision to build up a military and civilian capacity to react on crises by 2003;

  • development of an area of freedom, security and law by 2004;

  • continuation of the debate on the future of Europe, which has begun before the Nice summit, and conclusion of the reform of the EU-system by 2004.

All these projects will change the face of Europe lastingly and fundamentally. For the European Union they imply even more political responsibility and they strengthen the claims for working decision-making procedures.

In conclusion, September 11 has contributed to develop most prominently the area of interior security faster than before. The major guidelines for integration, however, have been prepared before September 11 and they have been followed over the last few years consequently. From that point of view, what September 11 meant for the area of interior security and the reform of the political system of the EU can be described as an additional impetus for integration.

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  D o s s i e r

Sechs Monate nach dem Terror
Die Europäische Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik nach dem 11. September

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