I recently came across a video from 2004 about the then impending enlargement of the EU, and I wanted to share some quick thoughts. Even though the video is fairly short, I picked up on three main ideas: the role of historical memory, the importance of the meaning of words, and the future of Europe.
For Eastern European countries, overcoming the “legacies of the past” (as the narrator put it) was crucial for membership in the EU. They had to adopt political and economic systems very different from those under communist rule- democracy and capitalism. The impact of communist rule was also evident when Lech Walesa mentioned, “the stronger countries shouldn’t just force the weaker ones to step back.” Not only does that statement apply to the way the Soviet Union approached its satellites in Eastern Europe, but it could also be seen as foreshadowing and the way the recipients of bailout funds perceive the Eurozone crisis.
As for the meaning of words, I could not help but notice the word choice of Romano Prodi and Javier Solana during their respective discussions of the enlargement. Prodi talked about the “unification” of Europe, whereas Solana discussed the “reunification” of Europe (italics mine). Those two words, while similar in meaning, have very different connotations. Unification implies that Europe was not united before the communist takeover of Eastern Europe after the Second World War; however, reunification leads one to believe that Europe was somehow united before that time. Historically speaking, I would use the term “unification,” since nationalism, imperialism, and militarism divided Europe and led to the era of two world wars. Historians have made a similar argument concerning Germany after the fall of the Wall- should it be the “unification” of Germany, or the “reunification”?
The future of Europe was also a central point of discussion during the video. The narrator pointed out that with the enlargement, the EU was becoming the largest market in the world. Again, I see this as foreshadowing, given the importance of transatlantic trade and the current negotiations over TTIP. Additionally, both Prodi and Solana brought up the question of Europe’s borders and the frontier of Europe. If Iceland and the other Balkan states eventually become members of the EU, and Turkey’s accession process continues to drag on, can there be any further talk of enlargement? Where does the EU go from there?
Finally, if you are interested in the Eastern Enlargement, you might want to check out Europe Undivided: Democracy, Leverage, and Integration after Communism, by Milada Anna Vachudova. I read it a few years back for a class I took about the EU and it still remains one of my favorite books about the above topics.
Thanks for reading.