The Eastern Enlargement of
the European Union
In May 1948 the Congress of Europe at The Hague affirmed the aim of ‘union or federation’ for all European democracies.1 Winston Churchill, after observing that the eastern part of Europe was disappearing behind an Iron Curtain, had already said in September 1947 that ‘we must build a kind of United States of Europe’, adding that ‘the first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany … France and Germany must take the lead together’. But he did not envisage British participation in it: ‘Britain and the British Commonwealth’ were, like the United States of America, to be ‘the friends and sponsors’ of the new Europe.2 With remarkable prescience, he prefigured a pattern that was to endure for four decades: French and German leadership in the uniting of Western Europe, with the Central and East Europeans locked into the Soviet system. Britain, with the importance of the Commonwealth fading and unsure of its place in the world, was however to be neither a generous sponsor nor, following its accession, a constructive member of the European Community.
This was the background against which from 1989 onwards the Central and East Europeans won the freedom to choose democracy and, with it, to realize the vision of the Hague Congress by seeking to join the European Union. It is easy enough to agree that their membership of a well-functioning Union will contribute to the security and prosperity of Europe as a whole. But it is not so easy to secure consensus on the great changes required to bring this about. On the eastern side, there is the transformation from the Soviet system to the market economy and pluralist democracy. For the Union, there is the upsetting of vested interests through reform of the agricultural policy and the structural funds; there
1 W. Lipgens and W. Loth (eds.), Documents on the History of European Integration, vol. 4, Transnational Organizations of Political Parties and Pressure Groups in the Struggle for European Union, 1945–1950 (Berlin and New York, 1991), 346.
2 W. Lipgens and W. Loth (eds.), Documents on the History of European Integration, vol. 3, The Struggle for European Union by Political Parties and Pressure Groups in Western European Countries 1945–1950 (Berlin and New York, 1988), 662–6.