Failure of Leadership Doomed EU Charter

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In some views, France's rejection of the European Constitution is seeded in a dread of change — and a lack of strong leadership in several European Union countries.


The vote in France and the Netherlands last week to turn down a proposed European constitution was a symptom of a greater malady.


NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: The movement for integration has lost its drive for a variety of reasons. The expansion from six members to 25 as the European Union tries to integrate the newly liberated Baltic states and the Balkan states and maybe soon Turkey has diluted some of the original sense of purpose. The economies of the principal states have been slowing down. There is fear of immigration, especially Muslim immigration. No longer does Europe look powerful enough to compete with the United States.

But beyond that, there is one important change since the '50s when I covered the birth of the European and coal, steel community that linked the resources of France and Germany to help avert another European war. What struck me then were the leaders who inspired confidence in the war-ravaged countries. They were Charles de Gaulle of France, Konrad Adenauer of West Germany and Alcide De Gaspari of Italy. It took their leadership to bring Germany back into the civilized community so soon after the war. It took confidence in the economic reforms that they would introduce. The Marshall Plan helped a lot, but the creation of Europe owed a lot to the big three, joined by Benelux, the economic union of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Today a sense of fear runs through Europe, and it's not like America in a Depression when FDR could evoke Americans' energy by telling them that the only thing to fear was fear itself. In Europe today, there are real reasons for fear. The welfare state in France and Germany is turning out to be unsupportable and output per worker is declining.

But most of all, Europeans are losing confidence in their leaders. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic Party has lost an important regional election and may be on its way to losing the next national election. French President Jacques Chirac must consider the vote against the European constitution as a personal rejection. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has little influence in Italy, let alone Europe.

The dream of Adenauer, de Gaulle and De Gaspari has fallen on hard times. This is not the robust united Europe they imagined.

This is Daniel Schorr.

HANSEN: It's 18 minutes past the hour.

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