The European Union at 50
Byline: Beth Day Romulo
ON the last weekend in March, the European Union celebrated its March 25th fiftieth anniversary with two full days of fireworks, street parties, exhibits, and speeches in Berlin. Following the six-month rotation policy, Germany currently holds the presidency of the Union which it will relinquish to Portugal in July. Meanwhile Chancellor Angela Merkel will still head the EU when it holds its summit meeting in June, a time when she hopes to push through a revived EU constitution which was rejected by France and the Netherlands in 2005, and bring up the subject of an EU Army, separate from NATO. The political picture will be different then. France will have a new president and British Prime Minister Tony Blair well have stepped down. That means those two combative members, Blair and Chirac, will not be present, which may, or may not, help Chancellor Merkel's agenda. The one thing Blair and Chirac did agree upon was on the importance of a European defense policy, which provided the basis for Chancellor Merkel's proposal of an EU Army.
When the EU was founded by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, there were six members, with the limited objective of uniting Europe to prevent wars - which had shattered their countries and economies during of the previous 50 years - and promote prosperity.
Today there are 27 members, and the EU is a work in progress with reforms needed to jumpstart the sluggish economy, cut down on red tape and simplify the decision making process. And at some point in time it must resolve the problem of membership for Turkey, which was accepted as eligible in 1963, but has yet to be admitted as a member.
But, problem aside, the EU has transformed Europe. When members signed the Berlin Declaration on their 50th birthday, they were celebrating a half century of peace, freedom, wealth and democracy.
In addition to averting further wars, the Europeans have aided member countries to rise economically by providing both material resources and a model of democratic tradition. …