Tue, Feb 13, 2001 - Page 8 News List

'Integration' the key to Strait woes

By David Huang 黃偉峰

Ever since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) set the key note for cross-strait political integration in his New Year's Eve speech, various formats for integration have been posited in the media -- commonwealth, confederation, federation, community, concord treaty. Once again, these possible political frameworks have become hot topics.

Some people expect an emulation of the EU's functional integration as a way to circumvent Beijing's "one China" principle. They expect a path from the "small three links" and "three links" leading to free trade zones, common markets, economic and monetary union and finally political alliance. But on the other hand, some believe using the integration dictum to evade the "one China" principle amounts to putting the cart before the horse. They believe Taiwan should first insist on "`one China,' with each side making its own interpretation" and then enter into negotiations on unification. Both of the above-mentioned remarks are based on the foundation of "integration," but neither side has an adequate understanding of "integration."

During a symposium at Academia Sinica's Institute of European and American Studies last June, I pointed out that "integration" is a process, not a final status. European integration therefore, is an ongoing process, not a static phenomenon. Also, the EU is a political entity "in formation," even though it already has institutions such as the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice. Because the EU's member states coordinate with each other on many policy matters -- or delegate EU institutions to handle the matters on their behalf -- some believe the EU already has the characteristics of a quasi-federal state. Such a rash characterization of the EU on the basis of its current status overlooks the fact that "European integration" is a process and that the nature of the EU is still changing. Precisely because "integration" is a process, the final status of integration is uncertain. We cannot therefore predict for sure that the end result of European integration will be a federation.

That said, the "direction" of political integration is certain. Such a sure sense of direction was already visible in the commentaries by Jean Monnet and Robert Schumann, the fathers of European integration who believed that only by moving toward political integration could Europe avoid another war. The final outcome of the political integration was not a pressing question, however. Therefore, Monnet suggested cooperation in the coal and steel industries as a starter, leading step by step to sectoral integration. Political integration would then follow when the economic circumstances were ripe. We call this model "functional integration."

But do the two sides of the Taiwan Strait enjoy the same conditions that existed at the beginning of European integration? The answer is no. No major sovereignty disputes existed between member states during the initial phase of European integration. In contrast, the two sides of the Strait still deny each other's sovereignty. In other words, functional integration is not a tool for resolving sovereignty disputes. Rather, mutual recognition of sovereignty is a prerequisite for functional integration. Given their sovereignty dispute, the two sides of the Strait will find it difficult to initiate functional integration. But that does not mean the concept of political integration is totally inapplicable.

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