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It's now or never...

Posted by Richard Sunday, March 20, 2005

Jean-Claude Juncker, whose tiny little countrette is currently holder of the EU presidency, is a worried man. An arch-Europhile, who claims to have been "in this European business for 20 years," he fears that the "project" is running onto the sand.

In an interview with the International Herald Tribune, to be published tomorrow, he observes that the willingness of the "European public" to compromise national interests in the name of the "European Union project" – yes, he does call it the "project" - is fundamentally weaker than in past decades.

His great concern now is that this lack of enthusiasm may threaten the pace of future integration.

"People in all our countries are far more interested in seeing their own governments prevailing in Brussels rather than having the government coming back to London, Paris, Berlin or wherever, saying we had to do it because otherwise the EU would be blocked," Juncker wails. "Europe has stopped being an argument by itself."

Faced with this resurgence of national sentiment, however, his remedy is to push harder and faster. He notes that the current generation of European leaders is the first without direct experience of World War II.

Therefore, he says, it "has a responsibility to forge ahead with closer European ties - most crucially, the adoption of the proposed new constitutional treaty - because future generations which are more distant from the war will not do it."

Unless they do that, he warns, the generation after us will not be able to prevent the EU being "split back into its national components with all the dangers entailed." Thus, the next 18 months will be an "exciting and dangerous period" for the EU, with 11 countries due to hold their EU referendums.

So there you are then – another reason for voting for the EU constitution – 'cos if you don't, no one else in the future will. It's now or never, folks.