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See North American Free Trade Agreement.


Originally the name for a version of self-determination, namely that a state's boundaries should be decided by the indigenous population, nationalism has acquired unpleasant connotations and now suggests xenophobia or worse (Nazi being derived from National Socialism). Thus there is no satisfactory word to denote the abstract idea of support for the virtues of the democratic sovereign nation (patriotism being defined as loyalty to an individual state). This accident of language goes some way to explaining the mutual incomprehension with which Britons and Germans, in particular, debate their visions of the future of Europe.

National parliaments

The EU story is one of progressive reduction of the influence of national parliaments as legislative powers are transferred to the Commission in Brussels. Hence the 'democratic deficit', for which the Council of Ministers - consisting as it does of elected national politicians - provides scant compensation, since the accountability of ministers to their own parliaments in respect of their Council deliberations rarely goes beyond reporting after the event (with the notable exception of Denmark, which requires its ministers to consult a parliamentary committee before agreeing to significant Council proposals - an example followed to a more limited extent by a few other countries).

National parliaments are an awkward anomaly in EU decision-making. They do not form part of the Community's institutional system. They are mentioned in the treaties only as bodies that are entitled to timely information and permitted to make non-binding 'contributions'. Their residual powers are not, however, trifling. They can ratify or reject Treaty changes, accession treaties and modifications to the Community's financing. They have some scope for manoeuvre in the manner in which they implement Community Directives. Where there are opt-outs, as with the UK and Denmark for EMU, or where policy still rests with individual governments, as it largely does with Justice and Home Affairs and the Common Foreign and Security Policy, national parliaments retain much of their traditional role. A strong parliament can also set broad parameters to the negotiating freedom of its government ministers, although the effectiveness of this means of control is limited by the secrecy of Council proceedings and the increasing use of qualified majority voting.

British ministers are in theory barred from agreeing to any Community legislation until the House of Commons Scrutiny Committee has examined and passed it. In practice, however, such scrutiny is greatly impeded by the unmanageable volume of Community law. The level of debate and the mastery of detail has generally been higher in the Lords than in the Commons, with the Lords European Select Committee distinguishing itself by a series of authoritative reports which have commanded attention throughout the Union. At the time of the Maastricht Treaty, several member states either amended their constitution to reflect the loss of powers or reformed their procedures to give their assemblies greater rights of scrutiny over the actions of their own governments. Nevertheless, in most countries other than the UK and Denmark scrutiny is perfunctory and debate apathetic.

Parliament must ... resign itself to becoming a rubber stamp. Lord Kilmuir, advice to Edward Heath, December 1960

In the early days of the Community, the European Parliament was composed exclusively of national MPs, a state of affairs which came to an end with the advent of directly elected MEPs in 1979. The subsequent proliferation of interparliamentary committees has done little to engage domestically elected representatives in the European legislative process. Thus the source of genuine democratic legitimacy is separated from the decision-making arena - a failing for which various solutions have been suggested, including the creation of a European 'Senate' drawn from national MPs. No such suggestion, however, has found favour within an EU which already has a confusing number of institutions.

National representations

See Permanent representatives.

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)

A model of brevity, the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 contains 14 Articles committing the participants to collective security. Its pivotal clause is Article 5, stating that 'an attack against any signatory in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all', resulting in a concerted response to restore security, including the use of armed force if necessary. In 1948 the Treaty of Brussels had committed the UK, France and the Benelux countries to a mutual defence pact; to these countries the North Atlantic Treaty added the USA, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal. The key to NATO's credibility was the USA, with its conventional forces and its nuclear deterrent, whose involvement was a consequence of its growing appreciation of the Soviet military threat, highlighted by the 1948-9 blockade of Berlin. Greece and Turkey joined in 1952 and West Germany (following the collapse of the proposed European Defence Community) in 1955.

NATO's defence capability was one of the determining factors in maintaining peace during the Cold War, placing the USA at the heart of European security. With its North Atlantic Council of foreign ministers, its regional commands, its Defence and Nuclear Planning Committees and its Military Committee composed of national chiefs of staff, all supported by research teams, sophisticated surveillance and regular military exercises, NATO constituted a formidable machine. France, irritated by American predominance, withdrew from the integrated command in 1966, as did Spain within years of joining in 1982, but despite these hitches and constant undermining by 'peace' groups and communist fronts, a united policy was maintained in the face of Soviet repression and belligerence. The 1980s were a crucial period, when NATO situated missiles with nuclear warheads on European soil, often against violent leftist protests. As the arms race escalated, the Soviet economy was brought to the point of disintegration. In 1989, the USSR's satellite dictatorships fell like dominoes, followed in 1991 by the Soviet regime itself, ushering in the modern era.

For over 40 years NATO's field of operations had been limited both geographically and by reference to the alliance's defensive character. With the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 a new rationale was needed, and NATO's first shots fired in anger came in 1994 while supporting an international peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. The polarities of the Cold War had possessed the merit of simplicity; now a web of conflicting interests and legal questions surrounded the application of military force in a case of internal aggression in the former Yugoslavia, which lay outside the NATO area (defined as the territory of the signatories). It was eventually under the aegis of the United Nations that NATO forces carried out air strikes against Serb positions; and since the conclusion of the US-brokered peace accord in December 1995, NATO has organised its invigilation. In 1999, NATO again took an out-of-area initiative, this time without UN backing, when it controversially bombed infrastructure targets in Yugoslavia and military targets in Kosovo to halt Serb oppression of the Kosovar Albanians.

No sooner had Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary rid themselves of their communist regimes than they moved to cement their integration into Western civilisation, announcing their candidature for the EU and NATO. This caused friction with Russia, impinging on its traditional sphere of influence and raising an old spectre of encirclement.

In 1991 NATO issued a 'Declaration of Peace and Co-operation', simultaneously announcing a 30% force reduction and the formation of a 'North Atlantic Co-operation Council' (NACC). The idea was to begin a friendly dialogue with the former Soviet bloc, with the twin aims of underpinning democracy in Central Europe but reassuring Russia of NATO's good intentions. In its Partnership for Peace programme, launched in 1994, NATO went on to give a form of associate status to some 37 countries from Albania to Kazakhstan, encouraging joint exercises, democratic control of the military and a commitment to humanitarian missions. In 1997 the 'Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council' was formed to assume the political role of the NACC and the military role of the Partnership for Peace, with the active involvement of Russia as a co-signatory. The resultant improved atmosphere paved the way for Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary to join NATO in 1999.

Other countries, too, wished to join, but there were severe doubts over the wisdom of further enlargement. It was vital not to dilute the credibility of Article 5 (the Baltic states, for example, being isolated from the main ground forces, would be impossible to defend in an emergency). Moreover, every extension of the Atlantic Alliance entailed costly improvements to bring the military infrastructure of the new entrants up to NATO standards. US willingness to meet the bulk of these expenses was no longer assured. European defence budgets, too, were being cut regularly. The communist threat might have disappeared, but in the face of an over-supply of well armed dictators in the Middle East and elsewhere, the post Cold War 'peace dividend' looked to have been prematurely spent.

At times the tensions within the NATO alliance were almost as concerning as the external challenges. The growing assertiveness of the EU prompted French-led calls for a more independent European security role. Washington agreed that Europe should share more of the cost burden, but was adamant that to avoid duplication and confusion the EU's emergent military arm, the WEU, should operate within the NATO framework. After all, although European defence spending was 60% that of the USA, it was America's capacity to project power at a distance which alone permitted European detachments to be effective (in the 1991 Gulf War France's airborne effectiveness had been crippled through incompatibility with NATO systems, while in the Kosovo war, on the very borders of the EU, US forces undertook some 90% of the air strikes). France, by contrast, seemed to see the WEU's ultimate role in terms of rivalry to NATO. A compromise was worked out in the form of 'Combined Joint Task Forces', which would rely on US NATO-assigned logistics to support WEU action in cases where the alliance as a whole did not wish to be involved in the front line. But it was an uneasy compromise. An awkward situation would arise if the WEU were to embark on some venture which clashed with US foreign policy. Turkey's membership of NATO and its resentment of the EU would be another complicating factor.

Why should 260 million Americans be asked to defend 350 million rich Europeans from 140 million impoverished Russians? Pat Buchanan, US Republican political polemicist

Around the turn of the century, Franco-American relations were distinctly strained. A French proposal to resume closer NATO links was made conditional on the surrender of NATO's Southern Command to a French officer - a condition that the USA found too presumptuous to accept. Prime Minister Tony Blair added to Washington's alarm late in 1999 when a joint Anglo-French statement referred to 'autonomous' European forces (that is, the Eurocorps), to which Britain would make an increased logistical contribution. The UK had been by far the most reliable US ally and reassurances were rushed out that London still regarded NATO as the linchpin of Western defence, but a fresh uncertainty had been created.

As NATO passed its 50th anniversary, its world had changed. In place of a single enemy the new danger was of brushfire wars, ethnic conflict and deranged but well-funded dictators with access to chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Most of the potential flashpoints were 'out of area' and likely to need a speedy response - the speed applying as much to political decisions as to military logistics. Against this background the EU was increasingly determined to show itself as a unified political force, but barely more capable than before of concerted or decisive action, as the Bosnian fiasco, and before it the 1991 Gulf War, had cruelly demonstrated. For the former Warsaw Pact countries, heartened by President Clinton's promise to keep 100,000 American troops in Europe, NATO remained an emblem of security. Others were troubled by the morality and legality of operations not backed by a UN mandate. Was it acceptable to infringe the sovereignty of an oppressive régime, and, if so, within what limits? To itself, and to the EU, one of the greatest alliances in history had become a source as much of questions as of answers. (See also Common Foreign and Security Policy and WEU.)

'Near abroad'

Former Soviet states with Russian populations, over which Russia harbours ambitions of influence, if not hegemony.


A flawed theory of integration, which owes its importance to the fact that it reflected the thinking of Jean Monnet, the EU's founding father. The idea is that economic integration leads automatically to further integration, through creating vested interests in the process. Political integration supposedly follows, as new supranational 'actors' (bureaucrats, regulators and the like) appear who not only favour centralised control from self-interest but are in a position to bring it about. This chain of developments, known as 'spillover', finally acclimatises public opinion to integration, thereby giving it 'legitimacy'. Distasteful to democrats, neofunctionalism has influenced many Europeanists, including Jacques Delors.

The Netherlands

The EU's sixth largest state and a founder member of Benelux, NATO, the ECSC and the EEC, The Netherlands is mildly federalist but has concentrated mainly on its own affairs, content to take something of a back seat in the conduct of the Community. It has supplied only one president of the Commission, the former agricultural commissioner, Sicco Mansholt, the architect of the CAP, who took over briefly in 1972 on Franco Malfatti's resignation. None of the EU's principal institutions are located in The Netherlands.

Known for its egalitarianism and the trading acumen of its business community, The Netherlands is well attuned to the social consciousness and employer-union consultative methods of the EU. Since the mid-1980s its economy has become the envy of its neighbour, Germany, as successive centrist coalition governments have restored the health of state finances and reduced unemployment, achievements mainly attributable to a pared-down welfare state, wage moderation, part-time jobs (a remarkable 38% of all employment), early retirement and increased disability leave. The currency was in effective union with the D-Mark for some years and was one of the first wave participants in the single currency. The guilder's apparent stability does, however, disguise a depreciation in real terms over the last 15 years as a result of falling inflation-adjusted wages, doubtless an important factor in the country's above-average growth rate. In international affairs, to the extent that any pattern other than pragmatism can be discerned, the Dutch tend to favour free trade and an Atlanticist approach to defence.


Neutrality, although carefully defined by the 1907 Hague Convention, has proved a conveniently elastic concept in the context of the EU. Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland are all neutral countries, some by constitution, others by tradition. Yet after the Cold War each felt able to apply for membership of the EU and none was rejected by the Commission or by the other member states, despite the Maastricht Treaty's vision of a Common Foreign and Security Policy 'including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence'. Ireland, too, had pretensions to neutrality (like the others it was not a NATO member), but had joined the Community in 1973. Although subtle minds are currently at work redefining neutrality, it is evident that the status is in reality incompatible with the EU's desire to assert itself more in the military sphere. (See also WEU.)

Noël, Emile (1922-96)

As Secretary-general of the Commission from 1958 to 1987, Emile Noël was the Community's senior administrator and adviser for nearly 30 years, serving under six presidents from Walter Hallstein to Roy Jenkins.

Non-compulsory expenditure

That part of Community spending that does not derive from Treaty commitments.


An unofficial discussion paper tabled (usually by a member state) on a controversial issue.

Nordic Council

The Nordic Council is a body of parliamentarians from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden which meets twice a year to review and co-ordinate policy on matters of common interest. Unlike Benelux, the Nordic Council is a loose arrangement with no tangible economic arrangements, these being subsumed within EFTA and the EEA. It does, however, have a passport-free zone which is in negotiations with the EU over the Schengen Agreement.

Despite their many shared characteristics (including egalitarianism, a Lutheran ethic and a positive attitude to the welfare state), the Nordic bloc countries have parted company over the European dimension of their military, political and economic affairs. Denmark, Iceland and Norway are in NATO, whereas Finland and Sweden are neutral; and no Scandinavian country is a full member of the WEU, the embryonic European defence force. Iceland and Norway are outside the EU, whereas Denmark and Sweden are in, but at the Eurosceptic end of the spectrum (neither joined the first wave of participants in the single currency). Finland alone has adopted the euro.

The reasons for these differences are historical. Having a 750-mile border with Russia, Finland attaches great importance to aligning itself with its West European neighbours. Sweden has benefited from remaining independent of alliances for nearly 200 years. And Denmark, Iceland and Norway are essentially Atlanticist in outlook.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

Signed by the USA and Canada in 1988 and by Mexico in 1992, NAFTA inaugurated a free trade area that is currently larger, both in population and in GDP, than the EU. Negotiations have also been opened with Chile. NAFTA carries no implications of political integration or obligatory harmonisation of products, markets, tax and social legislation. It could therefore be an attractive partner to European countries, especially the UK, were it not for the fact that EU member states are barred by their accession treaties from entering into independent trade negotiations. A wider free trade area, incorporating NAFTA and the EU, would be a logical development, and has been canvassed, but has so far fallen foul of French resentment of US 'hegemony' and resistance to any dilution of Europeanism.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation



A founder member of NATO, EFTA and the EEA, Norway has twice applied successfully for membership of the Community and twice (in 1972 and in 1994) narrowly rejected its own Accession Treaty in bitterly contested referendums that pitted a sceptical rural community against the pro-EC urban élites. Both rejections were fuelled by a strong grass-roots sense of independence, allied to a legitimate concern over the Common Fisheries Policy and some suspicion of the sophisticated mores and political horse-trading of more southerly European capitals.

In the light of the conventional wisdom that exclusion from the Community spells painful economic isolation, it is ironic that Norway, despite high social spending, shares with Switzerland the distinction of being the wealthiest country in Europe (other than tiny Luxembourg). This is, however, mainly because of cheap hydroelectric power and the country's North Sea oil resources, which have enabled it to extinguish its external debt and to establish a fund (forecast at $60 billion in 2001) for future obligations, including pensions.

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