The Kosovo war should force the European Union to rethink its future. As the new commission chaired by Romano Prodi takes over it should seize the opportunity to move the EU from an inward looking institution consumed with an economic agenda to an all-European political project.
"The return to Europe" was a central motto of the peaceful revolution in Central Europe ten years ago. The reunification of Europe was to overcome the legacy of Yalta and ensure peace, security, democracy and development. While the idea of a "return" expressed an idealised vision of the Europe of values and common heritage, its concrete expression was the desire to join the process of European integration successfully developed in the Western part of the continent.
The West, however, was ill prepared to face the revolutionary challenge from the East. Western Europe's attitude towards its eastern neighbours remained ambiguous. On the one hand, the EU has always claimed to support the 'unification of Europe'. This translated into series of positive initiatives towards the aspiring newcomers: the PHARE programme, the EBRD, the association agreements leading to a slow but steady strengthening of the EU's ties with candidate countries.
Yet the identity of integrated western Europe was the product of the horrors of the second world war and of the divisions and fears of the cold war period. This distinct genealogy contributed to the fact that after 1989 the real priorities of the Union was not the rapid reunification of Europe but rather deepening integration of its western half, and protecting itself from possible destabilizing effects of radical geopolitical changes. The Maastricht agreement and the launch of euro were landmarks of that process.