In a long interview with Spiegel, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble confirms the mechanisms which have been used to promote European political integration. His explanations are taut, to the point and remarkably candid.
Initially, he is asked whether it was it a mistake to introduce the euro, to which Schäuble says "no". Monetary union, he says, "was the logical consequence of the advancing economic integration of Europe", although he concedes that political union was also needed at the time. But, the man says, "it wasn't possible":
Germany would have been prepared to relinquish powers to Brussels, because it was only through Europe that we received a new chance after World War II. But other countries had trouble with the concept, because of special traditions, for example, or because they had only recently regained their national autonomy after the fall of the Iron Curtain. As such, we faced a fundamental question: Do we introduce the euro without having the necessary political union, and do we assume that the euro will bring us closer together, or do we abandon the idea?
Then asked whether, in that situation he preferred to take the risk, Schäuble says:
If we had always said we would only take steps toward integration if they would immediately work 100 percent, we would never have advanced by so much as a meter. That's why we wanted to introduce the euro first and then quickly make the decisions needed for a political union. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker was right when he said, at the time, that the euro would prove to be the father of future European developments.
Europe, Schäuble adds, "has always worked on the basis of two principles: What isn't possible at first will happen over time, and what doesn't work will be corrected over time. That's why perfect solutions take so long in Europe. And that's why we are now improving the architecture of the monetary union".
To this, Spiegel comments that it almost sounds as if he "had longed for the crisis" so that he "could finally correct the birth defects of the euro".
Schäuble does not deny this, merely stating: "it isn't quite that bad". But, he adds: "the more people see what's at stake, the more they are willing to draw the right consequences". And those consequences are: "We need more and not less Europe".
Later, he then says: "I would much prefer that we did not have so many crises, and particularly not such severe ones. But every crisis also includes the opportunity to recognise what is necessary. That's what led to the fiscal pact, in which 25 EU countries pledged to improve their fiscal discipline. And that's also how the new Europe will come about".
That, then, is the template for integration, straight from the horse's mouth. The "colleagues" go with what they can get, and then pick up the rest later. This is the Monnet method writ large, the process of engrenage, facilitated by the beneficial crises that arise as a result of the process.
The current situation is not a mistake, and the dream, contrary to Randall's assertion, has not turned into a nightmare (yet).
It is worth recalling that, in 2009, with the ratification ink on the Lisbon treaty not yet dry, Gordon Brown was saying that there should be no more institutional changes in the EU for at least a decade. Now, a mere three years down the line, the "colleagues" are on the verge of opening the book on another treaty, the magnitude of which could easily match Maastricht.
If they pull it off, the "colleagues" will have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. At the EU "summit" at the end of this week, says Schäuble, the heads of four European institutions plan to present concrete proposals for greater integration.
We'll see what happens after that, he purrs. And indeed we will. The game is very far from over.