Expansion Equals Stability

MUNICH: As turbulence mounts to Europe’s East and America’s West, the only region in the world that still retains a high degree of stability is the only one linking the members of the two chief structures of Western cooperation, Nato and the European Union. If stability is not to stop there, it is necessary for both organizations to rethink their policy for admitting new members, and fast.

Formally, it is true, both the EU and the Nato have long been committed to opening their doors to the new democracies of Eastern and South Eastern Europe that were born after the Soviet glacier receded. Every communique from Brussels says that "the door is open". Somehow, however, a deep ditch is located just in front of the door which makes it difficult for newcomers to get in.

Yes, a few lucky ones have made it through ditch and door. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic will soon take their seat at the Nato Council. But instead of preparing for the accession of others to follow them, the prevailing view among Nato governments, not least in the United States, is now to widen the ditch in front of the entrance door, not to fill it. The preference clearly is that the first new members should, for the time being at least, also be the last.

In the EU, too, scepticism about enlargement has been deepening for some time. If EU member states once seemed to grasp the strategic advantage of strengthening their own stability by extending it to the countries to their East eager to join they now have second thoughts. Will enlargement not threaten their well being by opening them to cheap competition and labor? Will it not deprive in particular the Southern member states of the subsidies so generously handed out by the EU’s structural fund? Will it not demand more financial sacrifices from the countries of Western Europe at a time when unemployment is high and the turbulence on international markets is likely to bite into exports?