Making Culture Count

Constitutions express a political community's history, culture, values, and political convictions. The Constitution for Europe now being written is no different. It cannot create the common bonds that define Europe and hold it together. It can only reflect and be animated by them.

Today, however, the cohesive forces that held Europe together for two generations have lost some (if not all) of their strength. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, peace and liberty are more or less taken for granted. Economic integration has advanced so far that a return to the national rivalries that twice led the continent into suicidal warfare is unthinkable.

The postwar search for affluence, too, has lost much of its allure. In Germany and other member states, economic growth no longer seems certain. Citizens are increasingly wary of the idea of economic and social progress. Public debate instead highlights the need for restricting government activities and reducing social transfers.

Enlargement of the European Union from 15 to 25 members will mean that for decades Europeans will need to live with greater material inequalities. To be sure, lower standards of living having always existed between Europe's east and west. During Europe's Cold War division, that gap widened considerably. With enlargement, those differences can no longer be hidden.