Education has played a big part in healing Europe's divisions. Four decades ago, Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer approved the creation of new textbooks that children in both countries would use to help heal the century-long Franco-German antagonism.
Today's challenges call for such a dynamic use of educational policy. With the May accession of the ten central, eastern, and southern European candidate states, the European Union will be more politically, economically, and socially diverse than ever. This entails new opportunities, no doubt, but also new risks. Because an enlarged Union will become a reality in just two months, it is imperative to develop concepts for cultural understanding that contribute to the successful integration of the new members.
Some values, long espoused by the Union, should be relatively easy to convey. A decade ago, with the Maastricht Treaty, EU members agreed to respect the history, culture, and traditions of all of their constituent peoples. The draft constitution that recently failed to gain acceptance in the first round of negotiations not only promises to respect cultural heritage; it obliges the Union actively to protect, maintain, and develop the wealth of Europe's cultural and linguistic diversity.