Magazine article National Forum

Forcing the Integration of Europe

Magazine article National Forum

Forcing the Integration of Europe

Article excerpt

The disintegration of Eastern Europe is accelerating the integration movement in Western Europe. With the evaporation of Soviet control over the former satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe, the internal integrity of these countries is increasingly coming into question. Demands for sovereignty from ethnic groups that represent only parts of states are being increasingly articulated and backed by the force of arms. The sheer will of these groups and the undeniable moral justification of their nationalistic sentiments are powerful and encouraging to those who applaud the notion of democratic, free-market ideals. But it does call into question the stability of Europe.

The history of Europe in the twentieth century is hardly lost on the Europeans; they understand well the potential consequences of instability in Eastern Europe. The names, for example, of Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, little more than difficult entries on map quizzes for American students, resound with dread for Europeans, who know of the implications of unbridled nationalism. There is also the memory of Germany, the memory of the manner in which Germany forced an order on turbulent situations, and the memory of the way in which Germany attempted to extend that order well beyond its own boundaries.

Of course, it is part of the postwar curse for the Germans that they themselves understand all too well the nature of past events, and especially their reactions to them, that led to such disastrous results for Europe. It is also their curse not to have yet been able to seriously convince the rest of Europe that they do understand and reject that part of their character that allowed this to happen.

In this setting European integration becomes a way to thwart both the negative consequences of strong nationalistic movements, especially in Eastern Europe, and the perception that a reunified Germany will be tempted to assert order on the scene in an undemocratic fashion, even if it is in reality most unlikely to do so.

European Integration. The European Community (EC) was established first, and has been most successful, as an economic institution. Its forerunner, the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951, successfully brought these industries into joint decision-making and stability among the original six members of France, Germany, Italy, and the Benelux states. The same states forged the European Economic Community of 1958 into a successful customs union, accompanied by a good deal of free flow of labor and capital, as well as common policy-making on agriculture, industrial competition, and relations with less-developed countries. After difficult times in the late 1960s, there followed the promise of greater cohesion, accompanied by the entry of the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Ireland (in 1973), Greece (in 1981), and Spain and Portugal (in 1986).

A symbol of the progress toward greater cohesion was the European Monetary System (EMS) of 1979, which was designed to establish a "zone of monetary stability" in Europe. A better symbol, however, was the single internal market, an inclusive set of steps that would dissolve many of the remaining barriers among the twelve member states by the end of the target year; this symbol was also chosen as the name for the movement. Most recently, and when it was clear that the single market would work, pressure for further economic integration was brought to bear in the form of setting the stages leading to a common currency. This economic and monetary union (EMU) would provide the world with tangible evidence, with the common currency known as the ECU, that "Europe" was serious business.

As such, the EC has provided an economic model for other groups of states that feel they may similarly benefit from such a free flow of goods, services, capital, and labor. These groups include various combinations now searching for common interests in East Asia, in the Americas, and even among the republics of the Soviet Union. …

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