Future of the EU

French voters rejected the EU constitution and the Netherlands is expected to do the same Wednesday. Charles Kupchan, director of European Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, explains what lies ahead for the EU and how these developments affect U.S.-European relations.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Americans who are planning a trip to Europe this summer may have reason to say `Vive la France.' The value of the euro dropped this week after French voters rejected a European constitution. That may mean that American dollars go further in Europe. And to explain more about why all this matters, or if it does, we've invited in Charles Kupchan. He's director of European Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Welcome.

Mr. CHARLES KUPCHAN (Council on Foreign Relations): Glad to join you.

INSKEEP: So why are these votes in Europe so significant that they could actually alter the value of currencies?

Mr. KUPCHAN: The financial community is looking at the American economy, looking at the European economy, and betting which is going to do better. And given that there may be political instability in Europe, the euro has been falling.

INSKEEP: So what does this relatively long European constitution propose to do?

Mr. KUPCHAN: There are two main changes that are critical for Europe. One is to revamp the voting system. So the first thing it does is rejigger things so that it can actually take timely and efficient decisions.

INSKEEP: Even though 25 countries are supposed to working together, which could be terribly inefficient.

Mr. KUPCHAN: Very difficult. They're countries that, on the one hand, have just come out of communism, but on the other, have been liberal democracies for decades.

The other big change is a single foreign minister for Europe and a president of the European Council, which is the main decision-making body. And this is meant to give Europe a greater weight on the global stage, more coherence when it comes to geopolitical action and, ultimately, down the road, give Europe the ability to project military power in a way that it cannot at this point.

INSKEEP: Americans have sometimes found all of this a little threatening, and it seems that some supporters of the European constitution want this to serve as a counterweight to the United States.

Mr. KUPCHAN: Until the last three or four years, there was a consensus in this country that's--what is good for Europe is what is good for America. The war in Iraq and the riff that opened up between the United States and, particularly, the Franco-German coalition, has made many Americans ask `Do we want a Europe that is so unified that when push comes to shove we can't pull away the Brits or the Italians or the Poles?' That concern has to some extent diminished. President Bush went to Brussels in February and he said, `We support European unity.' And I think that in--on balance, a stronger Europe is in America's interests because this country is looking for help in Iraq, in Iran, in the Middle East peace process. What's the best place to look for that help? Europe.

INSKEEP: Charles Kupchan, of the Council of Foreign Relations, thanks very much.

Mr. KUPCHAN: My pleasure.

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