Hubert Védrine was a diplomatic adviser and chief of staff to French President François Mitterand, and went on to serve as France's foreign minister in the government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (1997-2002). He is the author of numerous books and articles on foreign policy and globalization, including "History Strikes Back: How Nations, States and Conflicts are Shaping the 21st Century." In a wide-ranging interview, the edited text of which follows, he offered his analysis of the issues and challenges facing the European Union, both at home and abroad, as it enters the post-Lisbon era.
World Politics Review: Let's start with the post-Lisbon period. It might be premature to make a definitive judgment, but for you, does this represent a beginning, or is it a failure, given the initial, perhaps disappointing results of the nominations?
Hubert Védrine: Ever since Nice, the Europeans have exaggerated the importance of the institutional question. There won't be an institutional revolution in Europe. There won't ever be a United States of Europe. So since the beginning, the idea that the European nation-states would disappear into the United States of Europe has always been seductive, exciting, romantic -- and false. Germany and France will never be North and South Dakota. The European elites have expectations that are exaggerated, disproportionate and irrational with regard to the various treaties. And we've spent 10 to 15 years discussing the institutional questions, even though we're not going to fundamentally change the set-up: parliament, commission and council. We changed it a little, but it's not a revolution.
The Europeans lost too much time on all that, and we would have been better off building common policies, which presumes a real political agreement among the important European countries. For example, what's our long-term policy on Russia? Or our policy on energy, or ecology?