How a Great Power Falls Apart
Decline Is Invisible From the Inside
From de Gaulle through Mitterrand, France saw its historic task to be one of repairing the damage of Yalta—the division of Europe into Cold War blocs. Moving "beyond Yalta," it was said, would free Eastern Europe from communism and leave Europe as a whole free from domination by the superpower rivalry. That historic geopolitical change has now occurred—unexpectedly, astoundingly, within only a few years. And the healing of Europe’s division has now been guaranteed by the astonishing disappearance of the U.S.S.R. as a state and an empire. French long-term policy has thus been served. Yet hard dilemmas confront the French in the new Europe.
To some, France emerged a big loser among the winning Western powers. Prior to the Cold War’s passing a divided Europe and a divided Germany profited France geopolitically. France’s main postwar foreign policy stage was Western Europe, and its main dilemma was how to maintain a political edge over West Germany’s ever-growing economic influence.
Thus France supposedly had a geopolitical interest in avoiding both German unification and the end of superpower spheres of influence. In a divided Europe, built on a divided Germany, French overall influence was maximized. By extrapolation, the end of divided Europe meant for France above all else German ascension.
The consequence for the French is a rapid evaporation of France’s ability inside the European Community to be the political/diplomatic engineer of the German economic locomotive in pivotal Franco-German relations. Or worse, with the probable expansion of the EC into a larger European Union—centered geographically more in the east and north—the Franco-German relationship will be put under stress, if not completely thrown into question.
In 1989 President François Mitterrand was initially reluctant about encouraging German unification, not as a principle, which he saw as inevitable and right, but as a practical matter—about the pace at which it was coming, the risks West German leaders created by moving so quickly and the nature of the resulting entity. To the French reluctance was added the deeper British reservations of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, not to mention the initial Soviet opposition of President Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. For all three, France, Britain and the Soviet Union, German unification was not on the agenda.
In contrast the Bush administration showed early and broad confidence in the political instincts of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and the American public also demonstrated solid support for unification. This divergence created strains within the EC’S central leadership and within the Franco-German "couple" in particular.
President Mitterrand shocked the Germans, for example, during his talks in Kiev with Gorbachev in early December 1990, from which rumors filtered out that the French leader was hoping to cooperate with the Soviets in slowing the pace of unification. Then Mitterrand, against West German wishes, went ahead with a state visit to a clearly collapsing East Germany on December 20-21, 1990. The Bonn government could only think that Mitterrand, received by the East Germans as the first Western head of state to visit, must be trying to prop up the East German regime. The visit was termed "anachronistic" by West German leaders, who viewed it as an unfriendly act.
Naturally German leaders did not appreciate Mitterrand complicating their own strategies. Yet France, as any Gaullist leader would have said, has a right to its own policy. Nevertheless Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher were in the more delicate position. Mitterrand’s behavior was, at worst, risking some measure of the trust that had been built up in the German-French EC relationship.
It goes without saying that President Mitterrand, along with Prime Minister Thatcher and other EC leaders, was seriously concerned about the political power consequences of German unification in the European equation. In addition Mitterrand wanted to keep the process of unification under control, recognizing the explosive character of the situation. While insisting repeatedly that France was "not afraid" of unification and that the Germans had the right, according to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, to decide their own future, the French president emphasized that it would enhance future relations if Germany’s leaders carried forward the unification process in a spirit of close consultation and even some deference to the allies, bilaterally and in the "two-plus-four" talks involving the two Germanys, Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union.
Kohl and Genscher, for their part, achieved a strict separation between the "external" and "internal" aspects of unification, and a strict limitation (accepted by Washington, Paris and London) of what had to be decided by the Four Powers. The latter included skirting a Soviet suggestion that certain Four Power rights carry over for a transition period after unification.
Once President Mitterrand accepted the German timetable, presaging the most rapid possible unification of the two Germanys, a last point became crucial: to imbed German unification firmly in the Atlantic alliance and in the European integration process. Consequently French policy firmly supported unified Germany’s full membership in NATO. Mitterrand several times deflected suggestions by Gorbachev and Shevardnadze that unified Germany should have a "French status" in NATO—that is, holding full political membership yet remaining outside the integrated military command. Finally, to assuage a French concern that unification might lead German policy eastward and away from plans for EC monetary and political union, Kohl agreed with Mitterrand that German unification and further EC "deepening" must go together. The Germans, in turn, understood well that legitimacy for German unification required deeper EC integration, that German unification and the unification of Europe were two sides of the same coin.
As proof that Kohl and Mitterrand, after a period of friction, were again on the same wavelength, they introduced in April 1990 a joint French-German initiative to revive momentum toward EC political union. There were two purposes: to complement the economic side of the integration process, that is, the 1992 single-market project and the plan for European Monetary Union; and to give practical assurances that German unification was not derailing European integration. It was this proposal, stimulated at the time by tensions over German unification, which turned into the Political Union Treaty initialed at Maastricht last December.
This kind of linkage had already been part and parcel of German policy. Kohl and Genscher consistently emphasized that German unification had to be "embedded" in European unification and that NATO, including a unified German membership and continued American military presence in Europe, was a "vital" requirement not only for American but also for German policy. Kohl, for example, emphasized repeatedly in the course of 1990 that neutrality, as Gorbachev and Shevardnadze were then suggesting, was not a price he would pay for German unification. Genscher remarked to Germany’s EC partners that if they were worried about growing German power, their best strategy was not to isolate Germany into some sonderweg that the Germans did not want anyway, but rather to tie up Germany in a deepened, thickened and more federalized European Community, which the Germans would happily accept because it had been their proposal all along. Unification would not change Germany’s EC and Western policies. And both Kohl and Genscher often repeated the powerful slogan that German leaders wanted a "European Germany," not a "German Europe."
Kohl’s overall view, as summarized by his former foreign policy adviser, Horst Teltschik, was that all "thoughts of neutrality, demilitarization and alliance or bloc-disaffiliation he described as ‘old thinking.’ Kohl founded his position in the experience of German history, that peace, stability and security in Europe had always been guaranteed when Germany—the country in the middle of Europe—had lived with all its neighbors in firm ties, with contractual equality and mutually beneficial exchanges."
As early as January 1988, in view of the cracks in Eastern Europe, Kohl had proposed a joint Franco-German Ostpolitik to the French. Mitterrand held back, since the Germans would doubtless be the leading force and because a vigorous Franco-German Ostpolitik would cost the French excessively. As an alternative Mitterrand preferred to keep France’s freedom of maneuver, even for a second-level and mainly diplomatic presence, in Eastern Europe.
One result of this French attempt to play a significant diplomatic role—without the economic and political means to be convincing—was the disastrous Prague conference on the proposed European confederation. There Czechoslovak President Václav Havel and Mitterrand apparently quarrelled bitterly. Havel was furious at Mitterrand’s determined resistance to moving quickly to admit the former communist central European countries into Western institutions, especially NATO and the EC. Mitterrand instead offered the vague waiting room of his "confederation" idea, including a long association status (later Mitterrand spoke of "tens and tens of years") before east European economies would meet EC standards. This was an approach reminiscent of Mitterrand’s go-slow recommendation on German unification, and may explain why many commentators, rightly according to the evidence, thought French policy was lagging during this period when others were forcing the pace.
Elsewhere in central and eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union a similar policy could be found. There was French support for all of the prodemocracy revolutions of course, but there was also French concern about changes that would be destabilizing or simply too rapid.
In general Mitterrand’s foreign policy, though it has moved case by case, has supported the maintenance of existing states over secession movements. In the most important instance, that of policy vis-à-vis the crumbling Soviet Union, this meant support right up to the end for Gorbachev and the retention of some kind of "center" against the breakup of the U.S.S.R. led by Boris Yeltsin. During the attempted putsch of August, Mitterrand had even pushed his preference for continuity to the point of a huge diplomatic blunder—an uncharacteristic error of precipitous reaction, of appearing to assume right away that the long-dreaded coup against Gorbachev was successful. On television Mitterrand called the perpetrators "the new leaders" of the Soviet Union and read from a letter he had received from one of them, Gennadi Yaneyev, to the effect that reform would continue, as if to reassure French opinion that the worst had not happened and that France had a special diplomatic status (since the coup leaders were explaining themselves to the French leader). This was surely misjudgment masquerading as serenity.
In the Yugoslav civil war Mitterrand’s policy was to prefer integrity of the Yugoslav federation and negotiation among the republics. This contrasted sharply with the German push for immediate recognition of self-declared Slovenian and Croatian independence. Some observers argued, plausibly but unconvincingly, that the operative factor was in some fuzzy historical sense the traditional French bias toward "centralism." Another argument was that French policy was dictated by an old Quai d’Orsay preference for Serbia and anti-German coalition maneuvering, dating from World Wars I and II.
French policy was not this kind of woolly anachronism, but rather a calculation that in the long run the principle of national self-determination must be given limits before it becomes self-destructive. It did not make sense, in terms of peace and development, to encourage the emergence of a whole host of economically unviable, politically and militarily threatened states. It is a strategy of geopolitical prudence to limit civil wars and prop up stability inside the east European powder keg. The French approach might be mistaken, but rather than nostalgic it is at least forward-looking to the new dangers of the post-Cold War era.
Immediately after Maastricht in December 1991, however, two events suddenly signaled a new German assertiveness, the one a monetary decision, the other a German alleingang on the Yugoslav imbroglio.
First, the Bundesbank abruptly raised German interest rates to their highest level in 30 years. The German central bank, by law independent from government influence, acted for domestic economic reasons (German inflation, at 4-5 percent, was double the French rate at the time, reflecting both higher than expected costs of unification and union wage demands), but of course all partners in the European Monetary System (EMS) were immediately and sharply affected. The "deutsche mark zone"—including governments inside and outside the system’s "snake" of currency ranges—followed the German interest-rate lead immediately. The Bank of France also raised interest rates, reluctantly, following the German initiative for the second time in a few months; whereas French policy for a year had been to break free of the need to emulate Bundesbank policy—to create, through low inflation, a "strong franc" no longer a deutsche-mark zone currency.
The French and other governments were critical of the Bundesbank’s nationalist unilateralism, while defenders of the German measure argued that outsiders failed to appreciate how dangerous German inflation had become. In any case those EC governments that planned to relax monetary and fiscal policy to pull their respective economies out of recession were put under unwelcome pressure by the unilateral German decision and then whipsawed between the German move upward and the Federal Reserve’s lowering of the U.S. discount rate to 3.5 percent, the lowest level in decades.
Second, Chancellor Kohl, concerned about looking weak at home, decided his government could now—after Maastricht—afford to take a strong, even if unpopular, lead to do something to stop the bloody fighting in Yugoslavia. Foreign Minister Genscher, in a divisive EC Council of Foreign Ministers debate, forced diplomatic recognition of Croatia and Slovenia on several recalcitrant EC allies, among them France, and in the process rebuffed American and U.N. preferences for a prior ceasefire and, if necessary, deployment of a peacekeeping force. The strong-arm tactics of German diplomacy, threatening its EC partners with a go-it-alone decision, amounted to an unprecedented postwar German policy sortie. Then Germany shortcircuited the Council of Ministers’ compromise resolution (which had a January 15 deadline for recognition if the EC’S conditions had been met) in order to announce recognition by Christmas, as Chancellor Kohl had earlier promised the Croats and Slovenes. Germany thus stood by its initial position that the EC had not been very effective and that recognition would pressure the Serbs, perhaps stopping the killing earlier. The German diplomatic fig leaf was to separate recognition from its actual implementation, which was put off to the agreed January 15 date. No one was fooled, but reactions were mixed, with many observers, including some Americans who had been critical of Germany in the past, commending Germany’s decisiveness and new leadership role. Der Spiegel, the leading German newsweekly, pointed out: "It was the first time since 1949 that Bonn has taken a unilateral action in foreign policy."
Did this mean that a "Fourth Reich" was in the making? Not likely, if one is talking literally about some sort of authoritarian-minded German zone in Europe, run from Berlin with an accumulation of suspicious, damaging ambitions. But if one means a Germany with time working in its favor and that is growing stronger, then, as a high German official sympathetic to foreign worries told me, "the Fourth Reich is coming unless others, first of all France and the United States, do something about it." The right strategy for this new version of containment, indeed suggested by the Germans themselves, must be to thrice bind German strength: into the European Community, the Atlantic alliance and the all-European Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) frameworks. An "ordinary" Germany will be strong, and should be. But Germany need not be hegemonic. The German and French leaders have been remarkably united and effective at the origin of most important initiatives in EC forward movement. Old worries about Germany have not entirely dissipated, but no one can believe that forty years of Federal Republic history have not created a modern Western political culture, including as in France and elsewhere, a too-often apolitical or apathetic youth, or that all the sturdy safeguards in the new German system are about to spring loose.
Nevertheless there are legitimate concerns about the rise of German political power. France in particular must play a significant role in balancing Germany and what will be an unavoidable tendency toward the establishment of a German sphere of influence in the complex framework of the new European arena. For example, Genscher has mounted a campaign for EC ties and association agreements with the new republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States. This is all the more important for France in that "Europe," meaning both the EC and Europe writ large, is France’s stage, where France can act "in the front rank" and, through the Franco-German couple and other multiplier coalitions, maintain a world role through the coming European Union.
Or is Mitterrand’s policy narrowly nationalist, a kind of Florentine calculation of his own—that is, France’s—power interest? Mitterrand, for all his habits and moments of pettiness, is undoubtedly a statesman. He summarized his broad view, extemporaneously, in his 1990 Bastille Day interview on French television:
I would like to tell you what my plan, my grand project, is. It is to turn the whole of Europe into one space, ... a single and vast market and, at the same time, constant and structural links established among all the European countries. This is why I have talked about a confederation. ... I would like the Community of the 12 to strive for its own economic, monetary and political entity. ... I would like to see a strong nucleus capable of making political decisions collectively. This is the Community. Within the Community and Europe, I would like to see France—we are working at it, and it is not easy—become a model of economic development and social cohesion. That is my plan.
This is genuine Mitterrand, a long-term view—vague yet plausible—of the concentric circles of French policy for Europe: the Community within the confederation and, though not mentioned specifically, the Franco-German axis at the center.
The problem is that this conception remains the French frame of reference even though conditions have meantime changed radically in Europe—even though it is clear to everyone, including the French, that new EC members are likely to emerge fairly quickly. The Germans, by contrast, without wanting to damage close relations with their French partners, are already reasoning in terms of a larger community.
Was Maastricht a success for French policy? Like every government, the French won their specific rounds, including even a few against the Germans. France led the fight against extensive powers for the European parliament and against awarding the unified Germans 18 new parliamentary seats. The Germans made concessions to everyone and, though it may not have "won" any single big point at Maastricht, Germany emerged strengthened overall in that German unification was legitimized and Germany’s new strength was cloaked in integration.
The two central Maastricht advances for the French were the agreement on monetary union and the beginnings of a European security and defense policy. Both involved remarkable French and German concessions on national sovereignty. By accepting a single European currency, by 1999 at the latest, Germany sacrificed the deutsche mark on the altar of Europeanism. In agreeing with the Germans prior to Maastricht to an integrated military command for a French-German military entity pledged to the Western European Union (WEU), France’s Gaullist obsession with maintaining a strictly national defense was also sacrificed. At Maastricht the reference to an eventual European military force seemed to concern conventional defense only. But in January President Mitterrand volunteered, in an obviously premeditated declaration, that France’s nuclear force itself would inevitably become part of the debate about a European defense. The trade amounted to German abandonment of monetary sovereignty for French abandonment of military sovereignty. This Franco-German understanding was the keystone of the entire Maastricht accord, a vision of full political union to complete a vision of full economic and monetary union.
France’s primary gain was EC commitment to monetary union. Paris achieved two historically stunning goals: adoption of a single European currency and creation of a European central bank. The European Currency Unit is to replace national currencies sometime between 1997 and 1999, while the EuroFed will take form within a transition structure, a so-called European Monetary Institute, during the second phase of monetary union beginning in 1994.
Paradoxically, the French want monetary union as their chance to regain some control over their own monetary policy. In the European Monetary System, in place since 1979, French interest rates have been obliged by financial markets to follow Bundesbank decisions on German rates. With a single currency, however, the French will have a voice in "pooled sovereignty" EuroFed decisions on interest rates, reached by an international board of directors. The French wanted this so much that in the final Maastricht negotiation President Mitterrand himself proposed a mechanism to make the launching of a single currency automatic in 1999 if it is not decided in 1997. Apart from an unlikely British opt-out, the number of countries to join will depend on their meeting a certain number of so-called convergence criteria (low inflation rates, interest rates, budget-deficit and public-debt levels). At the present moment, with Germany suffering the burdens of unification, France would meet the criteria but Germany would not!
The French also scored points in the adoption of a modest beginning of social policy legislation, including Community-wide labor laws. A controversial British veto on putting this in the EMU treaty, however, forced the other 11 governments to make a special outside agreement on social policy. The French argument, ideologically inspired by social democracy but also by recognition that labor must benefit from integration, was that economic and political union should not go forward without providing a "social," or worker-oriented dimension to "Europe." At Maastricht the decision was made to adopt a joint foreign and security policy, beyond the informal European political cooperation forum that has existed for years. But, mainly at British insistence, the move from unanimity to qualified majority voting—which would be the key to a pooling of sovereignty in foreign and security policy—was limited to implementation. Another proviso was added on specifying that the council must decide by unanimous vote which foreign policy actions should be decided by majority vote.
On defense the Maastricht summit followed up agreements of the important November 1991 NATO summit. There the Bush administration finally agreed, after some rigorous debate, that it would not object to elevating the nine-nation WEU to a formal connection with the European Community, meaning that such a move would not be taken as anti-NATO. The British, who had earlier echoed American concerns about the WEU’S becoming a European caucus within NATO, now signed on to the principle of an eventual European defense.
Yet the commitment to have a common defense policy, with EC decisions executed by the WEU, does not yet provide for a European military force. France and Germany, on the other hand, have been cooperating for several years (with ups and downs) to produce a Franco-German military force, and as early as 1988 Chancellor Kohl himself endorsed the idea of an eventual "European army." An initial 5,000-man binational brigade has struggled for several years to work out its numerous problems, even though the mixing of nationalities there occurs at the lowest levels, that is, at those easiest to work out. Overall, multinational fighting forces seem likely to be political crowd-pleasers more than effective fighting units, whereas an integrated WEU command and standardization policies (in coordination with NATO) would be of clear military efficiency.
Just prior to Maastricht in another Franco-German joint initiative, Mitterrand and Kohl announced that the brigade would be expanded to a corps-sized element, open as the Maastricht treaty specifies to any WEU member. If the corps is ultimately attached, as planned, to the WEU as its military force, French troops would be permanently placed for the first time under an integrated, nonnational command. Thus the post-Gaullist French are willing to do for a European force what they refuse to do for NATO. Or, to put it another way, the French have signaled their willingness to pool military sovereignty with a European force, as part of a larger pooling of aspects of sovereignty in the European Union.
In any case there is little necessary contradiction between NATO and the EC-WEU, or at least little need to choose for at least several years, and no European government, the French very much included, wants to see the U.S. military presence removed. Defense Minister Pierre Joxe has even announced that the French, without rejoining NATO’S integrated command, are going to increase their participation in NATO’S military affairs by attending the meetings of the Military Committee and the Defense Planning Committee. This French step forward—a quid pro quo for the American acceptance of a WEU attached to the EC—indicates that everyone’s goal is to create compatible NATO/WEU structures.
Yet the new European security problems are anything but solved. NATO, even if it remains the overall background European guarantee, is not the answer to the real post-Cold War security problems in Europe. It is at best a limited solution because of "out of area" constraints but even more because American administrations will not want to get involved in land wars, especially civil wars, on the European continent. The point of a WEU military contingent would be to implement any European Union defense policy decisions, in particular to have a force that could act in Europe outside the NATO area (remembering that NATO is a defensive alliance that reacts only to attack on a member state). But what exactly would have been the mission, one that could have been accepted politically, of an EC military force in the Yugoslav civil war?
In any event a much higher and sustained degree of European political union will be necessary before a military force to defend it, or to intervene elsewhere, would be possible or justified. For the meantime it is worth pointing out that European states are certainly not without military recourse in the unlikely event of border defense or a need for intervention.
Beyond this, the question of a European defense leads sooner or later to a discussion of pooling nuclear deterrence, hitherto a Gaullist taboo. On January 10, 1992, at a national forum on the results of Maastricht, President Mitterrand surprised French opinion by hinting that the doctrine and strategy of force de frappe could be ripe for revision: "The beginnings of a common defense raise problems that have not yet been resolved and which will have to be resolved. I am thinking in particular of nuclear weapons." He said of the British and French forces that "they have a clear doctrine for their national defense. Is it possible to imagine a European doctrine? That question will very quickly become one of the major issues in the construction of a European defense." In principle the answer is that France’s nuclear umbrella could indeed be raised over the entire Community, in a kind of European extended deterrence, one that would keep control in French hands. A great reexamination of the French defense consensus will thus apparently take place. Its content may surprise some who thought the only answer about France is that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Mitterrand believes that his greatest legacy will be the making of "Europe." As he has said, "France is our home, Europe is our destiny." In the shadow of de Gaulle’s legacy, this is statesmanship. Yet in France EC integration is not yet a trigger of great political mobilization. This may change in the next year, as the Maastricht treaties come up for parliamentary ratification, but moreso over the next decade.
Who will lead the new Europe? The answer thus far is Germany. Over the longer term that may change. It may be that neither Germany nor France will do so; both will have leading roles, in different ways and in a shifting pattern of coalitions and problems.
Is the Franco-German alliance likely to survive? No doubt.
It is not surprising that there have been tensions and misunderstandings between the two, but rather what is surprising is that overall French-German cooperation has held up so well. The fact remains that each country is the other’s most important partner. Even if the United States remains Germany’s key security ally, and even if the geopolitical center of the European Community moves eastward, building the French-German relationship is, as one high German official put it, the most important task for each country’s diplomacy in the period ahead. Broadly speaking, the two countries together embody most of the contrasting characteristics of the other EC countries: North/South, industrial/agricultural, Protestant/Catholic and so forth. So where France and Germany can agree, others can usually accept. France, or le fait français, to use a Gaullist term, has been in a way the point of reference in the Community for Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece and, to some extent, even Belgium. And in an enlarged Community, countries such as Sweden and Norway, and especially Poland, would see France as a natural ally in dealings with Germany and le fait allemand for historical reasons not yet out of mind.
French leadership, given German unification and the new German assertiveness, obviously is not likely to be stronger in the next few years than it has been in the Mitterrand period generally. Rather, the question is whether it can continue as strong as before.
So much depends on the president. Mitterrand, at 75 and in the third year of his second seven-year term, is in effect a lame duck. Moreover his modus operandi has always been to prefer the waiting game, to play for the longer term, to let others agitate themselves and defeat rivals, leaving himself to pick up the pieces and to close out adversaries. And he has been more successful than many observers are willing to admit. Now, however, Mitterrand no longer has so much time, but he has a knack for turning situations around. Indeed he has announced that he will this year propose several constitutional reforms, one of them concerning the length of the presidential term. If the term is shortened, to five or six years, he may (though he would not be constitutionally obliged) choose the noble exit and resign—bringing on an earlier transition. Moreover his Socialist Party is lagging in the polls, and the 1993 parliamentary elections seem at this point likely to produce either a conservative majority or some heterogeneous realignment, perhaps involving a large ecologist group, which would make strong government unlikely. Mitterrand surely would not relish ending his tenure with another French political "cohabitation," which either gives over most of the president’s powers to the prime minister or at least reduces the president’s freedom to maneuver.
Is France for all that a "loser" in the end of the Cold War? France is not so much a loser as one who pays a price in Europe’s evolution "beyond Yalta." There are also gains and opportunities for France arising from European integration.
The French dilemma in power terms is not zero-sum but that of finding the best, or least bad, alternative. For geopolitical reasons—relative industrial might, relative population weight and dynamism—the strength of la France seule was always in danger, even in a divided Europe. The French search for influence, rank and grandeur was increasingly perceived as an obvious mismatch between the goal and French means. De Gaulle was French grandeur and rank. With time it becomes less and less imperative to measure French presidents against the General.
On the other hand, France in the new Europe may well continue to be "only" the second-ranking power. But France in the new Europe will be relatively stronger and more prosperous than it would have been over the long term in the old Europe.
European integration has often been underestimated. Today it is easy to be overenthusiastic, to jump to conclusions in the wake of Maastricht.
What has been built in the EC, plus the new plans, constitutes a partial transformation of sovereignty, of the European nation-state in the modern age. What is required in understanding international relations is a readiness to rethink the geopolitical unity of national power. Sovereignty can be broken into parts, parts of sovereignty can be pooled.
The future of the nation-state needs to be debated again. Nationalism did not defeat European integration but merely stalled it. European integration is not destroying states but comforting them. European nations will not disappear even if European integration goes deeper. The nation-state as an entity can be broken apart, and both parts of the term can evolve independently. Nations, or peoples, will persist even as they change through modernization and immigration. States will adapt to survive—some of their functions reassumed at the international level, some at regional and local levels.
Europe seems once again a leading edge of political development. Even if an integrated European Union were to become merely a new, larger geopolitical player, its internal structure would reveal one possible evolution of the international system.