Louis R. Golino is a freelance writer.
The largest enlargement of the European Union in its history, which formally took place on May 1, is an important geopolitical development that should be of considerable interest to Americans, specialists on Europe say.
Ten countries joined the 15 existing European Union member-states to form an economic, political, and military bloc with a combined population of 450 million people and an economy that produces one- quarter of the world's annual output.
The new members include eight Central European countries--the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia--plus Malta and the southern Greek-Cypriot part of Cyprus. Their inclusion is widely expected to help shape the future character of the European Union, how it governs itself, and the world role it pursues. It is also seen as an affirmation of their European identity and of their break with a communist past.
To qualify for membership, these countries had to enact thousands of pages of EU laws, treaties, and regulations over the past decade. Their accession to the European Union, experts say, is a historic achievement not just for themselves and Europe, but also for the United States. That is because a unified European continent is a long-standing goal of American policy pursued by every U.S. administration since that of President Harry S. Truman.
In addition, most of the new members are close allies of the United States. For example, Poland, the new EU member-state with the largest population and economy, currently supports the U.S. mission in Iraq by commanding a multinational division deployed to the …