IS MAASTRICHT IRRELEVANT?
WITH public opinion soured on the merits of European unity, European Community leaders hope to ``relaunch Europe'' with a special summit tomorrow celebrating ratification of the long-awaited Maastricht Treaty.
``It's important to get the public thinking in terms of Europe again,'' says one Belgian Foreign Ministry official.
But the celebration risks being seen as irrelevant by much of the public it targets, as Europeans worry about record-high unemployment, challenges to their infant-to-elder social-welfare system, and instability on the continent's eastern borders.
``In Germany, at least, people are thinking about their job security, while published opinion is wondering about the future course of Russia, and neither one sees how the EC can have a major impact on those concerns,'' says Josef Janning, deputy director of the research group on Europe at the University of Mainz in Germany. ``People are seeing such issues less in European and more in national terms.''
The Maastricht Treaty, an ambitious blueprint for providing the EC with a monetary union and a common foreign and security policy by the latter part of the decade, was supposed to have been ratified and the process of its implementation begun in January 1992. That the treaty was not fully ratified until this month, when the German constitutional court finally approved it, provides a measure of the public doubt about Maastricht's goals.
In the two-year delay, Maastricht was battered by an initial outright rejection by Danish voters in a referendum, plus rough ratification battles in Britain and France. The European currency crises of October 1992 and this past summer mocked the monetary union goal, while the EC's weak and disjointed response to the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina posed deep questions about the feasibility of a common foreign policy. Operation `restore stature'
Tomorrow's summit, held in Brussels, is a German-French initiative to try to restore both Maastricht's and Europe's public stature. But even in France, where regard for the Community runs high, doubts are strong about what this summit can accomplish.
``No one should expect much of anything concrete out of this summit,'' says Phillipe Moreau-Defarges, an EC specialist at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. ``There's too much division among the EC countries for decisions to be made.''