Europe's Secular Mission

Economics and politics have been uneasy allies in the process of European unification. From the moment Europe's coal and steel industries were merged in an effort to prevent future wars on the Continent, the "European project" has often relied on economic interests to propel itself forward. Now, however, new members mostly join for political and geo-strategic reasons. This change in motivation requires changes in how the Union thinks about itself, changes that go beyond the ideas now circulating at the convention drawing up an EU constitution.

Of course, the economic prosperity that European unification has delivered undoubtedly lures new members, but the EU's attraction extends far beyond pocketbook issues. For the Union is also a huge area ruled by law, some concerning production and commercial exchange, but also others that establish and protect individual rights.

Because of this, the EU's neighbors have felt magnetically attracted to this area of peace and prosperity. The first enlargement, in 1973, brought in Great Britain, Ireland, and Denmark, and was based mostly on economic considerations. But all successive waves of enlargement were motivated mostly, if not exclusively, by political reasons.

Greece provides a good example. After the dictatorship of the colonels, Greece sought international rehabilitation through membership in the European Community, whose imprimatur in turn helped to consolidate the fragile new democratic regime. The modernizing transformation now taking place in Greece owes much to the country's EU membership.