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The EU's New Agenda for a Political Europe

VIENNA/BUCHAREST: One month after the European Summit at Cologne the historic contours of that meeting are becoming visible. The Cologne summit marked a watershed not just because of a new policy declaration on security and defence. Rather, it seems to me, this was a summit which may prefigure the transformation of the whole of the European Union's agenda, in terms which are explicitly strategic and political.

In their "Declaration on Strengthening the Common European Policy on Security and Defence", EU governments announced the setting up of new permanent security institutions in Brussels, including a Political-Military Committee of civil servants and a Military Committee of staff officers. Moreover, they appeared ready to turn words into actions, with the launching of a Stability Pact for the Balkan countries, as a first step towards admitting them to membership of the European Union.

With the proposed Balkan Stability Pact, the governments have at last come close to defining the future outer limits of the European Union, to include not just the 10 countries of Central and Eastern Europe, but also eventually the countries of the west Balkans. This is a deeply significant event, for at least four reasons.

First, the perspective of membership is being held out to the Balkan countries, not for economic reasons or because they have asked for it, but because it appears to be politically and strategically essential for the stability of Europe as a whole. This is the first time, indeed, that the initiative for enlargement has come from the European Union rather than as a request from a candidate country.