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The United States of Europe

October 25th, 2002

My column in Thursday’s Fin argued that the future of the world is going to be determined in Europe and not in the fight between America and Iraq. Key points:
“like the embryonic United States of the early 19th century, Europe has both a doctrine of ‘manifest destiny’ and a well-established procedure for expansion. Since the original European Coal and Steel community was established in 1951, with the aim of preventing a recurrence of War between France and Germany, the core of the European vision has been one of a world governed by laws rather than naked force. ”
“European social democracy, and not American free-market capitalism, has ended up as the winner of the Cold War. By 2004, the European Union will have borders with Russia and will incorporate most of Eastern Europe. Under the EU Social Charter, all entrants are committed to a social-democratic system.”
“In the light of recent history, the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area must be seen as the precursor to a Greater Europe encompassing the entire classical world. ”
“The success or failure of Europe in integrating Muslim countries, beginning with Turkey, will do more to determine future relations between Islam and the West than any military expedition. ”

Things didn’t look too good earlier in the year, as a string of social democrat governments lost office, mostly to coalitions of the ‘official’ conservative parties and far-right parties opposed to both immigration and European expansion. But now the right-far right coalitions are collapsing and expansion is going ahead at full pace.

A lot of pundits thought that the (expensive and silly) Common Agricultural Policy would prove a fundamental obstacle. But the French have very sensibly agreed to share the subsidies with new entrants, leaving the total cost fixed until 2006, with a commitment to reform thereafter. The NYT headlined this: A Fight Over Farms Ends, Opening Way to Wider Europe. This kind of messy compromise may not be inspiring, but it’s characteristic of the democratic political systems that have repeatedly outlasted and defeated more impressive-looking regimes with imperial aspirations.

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