TALLINN - Toomas Hendrik Ilves, vice chairman of European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, opined last week that there was a threat of a "core Europe" emergence within the European Union if the bloc's Constitutional Treaty remains stalled. A new core based on the common currency could more easily achieve political consensus than the divided 25-member EU, set to expand to 27 nations soon, Ilves wrote in the Eesti Paevaleht. Presently, the euro is the official currency of 12 EU member countries.
"The core is perceived as an efficiently functioning Europe with a harmonized taxation and social policy. The skeptical Brits, refractory Danes, budget-conservative Swedes and new member states with their altogether different troubles would remain on the outside," Ilves said.
In his words, joining such a core would be unacceptable to Estonia if the country's present economic and sociopolitical course 's for instance, parties' general reluctance to harmonize the taxation policy 's remained unchanged.
"If the 'United States of Europe' based on the eurozone started carrying out a submissive Russian policy and disregarding the realistic Nordic and East European countries, a nightmare could loom up," said Ilves, who is a leading presidential contender in Estonia.
He noted that, as long as German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set on salvaging the Constitutional Treaty, the EU is not threatened by the emergence of a so-called 'United States of Europe.'
"Merkel has already put forward the idea of a 'basic treaty for Europe' that might dispel fears that the concept of the constitution goes too far. But it is unreasonable to hope the inner paralysis of the EU will be tolerated long and nothing will be done," he wrote. "The first political summit of the eurozone countries has already been called for next spring. The hope that countries not part of the eurozone could in some way veto the core's political discussions is deceptive."
The lawmaker sees two paths for Estonia to follow: either to speedily join the eurozone or show initiative regarding the Constitutional Treaty. Adopting the euro does not depend solely on Estonia, he went on to explain, as the inflation presently accompanying strong economic growth does not allow the country to meet the Maastricht criteria.
As for resolving the crisis over the Constitutional Treaty, Estonia has no guarantees of the outcome, but this nevertheless provides a chance, Ilves said.
"This calls for considerably more public attention in the media, among state institutions and citizens alike. But just as a grown-up's world does not consist of black-and-white choices and pleasant things, so is the way with mature states. Such a mature, grown-up Estonia is what we actually wanted," he said.