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If this isn't a superstate in the making, then what is?
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph, 2000-11-15

The baton has been passed. The Western European Union shut up shop this week after half a century of yeoman service, agreeing to transfer its 40-man military staff to the European Union, along with its satellite centre and strategic institute.

By 2003, the EU will have a rapid reaction force comprising up to 80,000 men - 240,000 men with rotation - backed by 300 aircraft and a naval force, to be deployed for up to a year anywhere in the world, including war zones. The force has an embryonic military staff headquarters in Brussels - chaired by a British major general - which will become the European Military Staff next year. It is all moving with "lightning speed", says the EU's defence secretary-in-waiting, Javier Solana. For better or for worse, it certainly is.

This may not be prima facie evidence of an emerging "European superstate", but it is evidence of something that goes far beyond the collective security of sovereign states. And, of course, the same push for integration is taking place on every front. Look at the legislative agenda this week at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

MEPs are voting for a European Police College tasked with "developing a European approach in the field of crime-fighting, border surveillance, protecting internal security and maintaining law and order". They will also be voting for a judicial co-operation unit, Eurojust, "composed of prosecutors, or magistrates, to reinforce the fight against serious organised crime", and separately for a set of measures to create a "genuine European Area of Justice" that will lead to "the emergence of a European criminal law". In other words, a typical week in Strasbourg.

I am not saying that these are necessarily bad ideas, but something big is happening here, and it is happening fast. Proposals on the table for next month's Nice Treaty summit include a European Public Prosecutor to combat fraud against the EU budget, creating an EU criminal jurisdiction for the first time. Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, has vowed to "oppose" it - EU code for saying that he will not actually veto it: indeed, that he will, in fact, "accept" it if Britain ends up isolated.

Europol, the EU's emergent FBI, is being given powers to investigate money-laundering stemming from all forms of crime. This sounds routine. It is not. It provides the EU with the equivalent of the US federal mail fraud clause, the instrument used by Washington to assert federal jurisdiction over state crimes. Once the Europol Convention comes into full force, Europol officers will be able to initiate probes and take part in field operations against suspected criminals in Kent, or indeed against xenophobes in Kent, since the Europol mandate covers "xenophobia".

Is Euro-sceptic dissent xenophobic? I ask the question only half in jest, because the EU institutions have a habit of outdoing parody. The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice issued an opinion on October 19 - Case C-274/99 P - arguing that political criticism of the EU can be akin to blasphemy, and can therefore be restricted. He denies it. Read the case for yourself - in Spanish or French; English is not provided. He misuses a blasphemy case, Wingrove v United Kingdom, as a building block in arguing for repressive powers to limit free speech.

No matter that this violates the European Convention on Human Rights, which prevents governing bodies from restricting criticism to protect their reputation. This is the same court that will rule on the new Charter of Fundamental Rights, accepted by Tony Blair in Biarritz. The Government's assurance that the Charter will have no more legal force than "the Beano" is contradicted by everybody involved, including the European Commission, the European Parliament and the French EU presidency.

As for the Government's claim that the Bill of Rights is intended only to rein in the EU institutions, and will have no effect on Britain: it is a shameless lie. Mr Blair can hardly be surprised at the combative tone of the Euro-sceptic press if he is willing to use public officials to propagate strategic falsehoods about the most important European issue of the day.

The Commission is said to be weaker now than at any time for decades. You could have fooled me. Over the past six months, the social affairs directorate, a junior department in the EC hierarchy, has pushed through a directive banning bias on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion or belief, age and disability, and another one banning racial discrimination.

Both shift the burden of evidence in civil litigation, compelling British employers to prove their innocence. The Government could have vetoed this. Keith Vaz, the minister for Europe, told me that it would in fact veto the race directive. But Labour succumbed, signing away the principle of presumption of innocence in a stuffy room full of bored, yawning, half-informed EU ministers.

The Commission tells me that these directives are only starters. More ambitious plans - banning single-sex clubs - will have to wait until after the Nice Treaty, which, in its current draft, abolishes the national veto over the social provisions in Article 13. The draft also eliminates the veto over direct taxation where it relates to the functioning of the single market, social security and environment. In fairness, the Commission is surely correct in saying that decision-making will be impossible in an enlarged Union of 25 or 30 states unless majority voting becomes the norm, but that is the nub of the EU problem: one step always demands the next.

And the euro is the biggest step of all. Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, put it most honestly when he called the euro a "quantum leap" towards federalism, creating a "federal bank" that imposes an inexorable "federal logic" on all the participants. Already, the French are calling for a single economic "authority" to compensate for the incoherence of a currency that lacks a state to back it. The French are right. Either such a state will be created, or the currency will fail, and with it the European Union. The die has been cast already.

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