Europe's Modest Mission

On May 1, ten new nations joined the European Union, pushing its membership up to 25. Two more countries, Romania and Bulgaria, are in the process of negotiating entry, and another, Turkey, is knocking at the door. But, beyond the celebrations of the most recent enlargement round and preparations for the next one, it is time to ask what effect the enlarged EU will have on world affairs? How should - and will - the other member states of the United Nations view this event?

In order to understand the importance of what is happening, we must begin by ridding ourselves of the curse of our times. We are permanent - if consenting - victims of current events, of what is happening at any particular moment. Television shortens our horizons. No one thinks anymore about the long term.

But it is only in the long term that the European project is really important. It is important for two reasons, one concerning its implications for peace and human rights, the other concerning its impact on commerce and development.

The history of humanity is only around six thousand years old, and yet it includes some ten thousand wars. The European continent played a large part in this historical carnage - much greater, proportionally, than the rest of the world, given the time during which the European continent was in fact populated.