The Berlin Declaration, the much-talked about ambitious statement to commemorate the Rome Treaty will be a litmus test for not only the German Presidency under the able leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel but also other European institutions. Today’s Europe is a citizens’ Europe, as was evident when the “non” to the European Constitutional Treaty by the French people was followed three days later by the Dutch “nee” consolidating the idea that democracy is alive and kicking in Europe.

Interesting to note that initially the notion of churning out a European constitution by the old “wise men” of Europe and the talk of a “United States of Europe” did not stir any kind of anti-EU feelings in the countries which are supposed to be the driving forces behind the European integration process. Europeans have been striving for a united Europe but it is clear they believe in “unity in diversity” and want to keep the democratic principles underlying the unification process.

The Treaty of Rome (1957) declared a common European market as a European objective with the aim of increasing economic prosperity and contributing to “an ever-closer union among peoples of Europe.” Later, the Single European Act (1986) and the Treaty on European Union (1992) introduced the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and laid the foundations for the single currency which was given the name Euro by the European Council in Madrid in December 1995.

From the time the Maastricht Treaty launched Europe on the road to a unified currency, till the colourful bank notes with their landscapes and monuments finally came into peoples’ pockets, there was always a school of thought coming out with overly overt and oracular statements about the doomsday of Euro.

With the successful launch of Euro, cheerful acceptance of the common currency by millions of Europeans and now the settling down of Euro on the international markets did prove all these negate predictions were nothing but an otiose exercise.

And then came another historic moment as 10 new member states (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia , Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) joined the European Union at a European summit on June 20-21, 2003 at Athens, Greece.

The founding fathers of the concept had not acknowledged explicitly but the ultimate purpose of a unified currency was to move Europe towards a long-run goal of political union and EMU has proven a potent political symbol of uniting a continent ravaged by sanguinary schisms over the centuries. The present day politicians got overenthusiastic and the result is for all to see.

Moreover, transparency and authenticity of the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has been nose-diving for quite some years. When the Santer Commission resigned en masse instead of facing the music in the European Parliament, the Prodi Commission took over declaring to bring transparency and root out corruption and nepotism.

But, at the end of its term, the Prodi Commission never could look into the eyes of the European citizens and declare a successful end to the campaign to bring some sort of transparency in the modus operandi of the Commission. Instead, the Prodi Commission left behind terms like “Eurostat scandal,” “Athens International Airport … where did millions go?” and “How safe are Whistleblowers?”

Then came the Barroso Commission, which got dogged down from the start with fallout from statements from its members even before they took office, was aptly grilled by the European Parliament. After the inauspicious beginning, the Commission had to readjust, replace and reshuffle its members to get the nod from the Parliament which happens to be the only democratically-elected European institution.

Without foresight and with arrogance, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso bragged about not bowing down to public pressure and kept defending the Union’s determination to liberalise Europe’s services sector, thus slashing the French support for the European constitution from more than 60 percent until mid-March of the year to a negative verdict at the end of May.

The “non” campaigners fanned the fears of the French workers that they could be competing for domestic jobs with “new” member state citizens. Adding fuel to the fire was the media coverage of a small French company’s decision to lay off nine of its workers but saying they could keep their jobs if they worked for the firm’s subsidiary in Romania, at 110 Euro a month, or one-tenth of their French salaries.

On the other hand, the Dutch used the referendum to protest what they view as Euro-triggered inflation and the Netherlands’ status as a key contributor to the EU budget. The vote was seen in the Netherlands not only as a rejection of a European “superstate,” but also as a protest against discussions over Turkish membership in the union.

One of the six founding members of the European Union, the Netherlands had always been seen as staunchly in favour of the Union but the increasing Muslim population and the murder of a famous filmmaker for his views on the treatment of Muslim women in Islamic society made the Dutch reject the treaty by 62 to 38 percent following that of the French, who voted against the EU constitution by a margin of 55 to 45 percent.

While Turkey can sit back and mull its own future, there is no doubt that Europeans will continue to integrate with the Western Balkans if they can keep on track with economic reforms, refining of social structures and strengthening of democratic institutions.

Europe needs depth in integration and not a superficial opaque powerhouse “superstate” based in the cloudy environs of Brussels. The architects of Berlin Declaration and the new “wise men and women” contemplating the launch of refined Constitution Treaty will do well to observe the warning signs that Europe must listen to its Vox Populi.