We, the People of a United Europe...

PRAGUE - Ten years ago when our continent was divided, its largest part under Soviet rule, the western half had a clear task: preserve democratic values on European soil. Now, the Cold War is part of history, and everything seems more complicated and less heroic.

True, the 1990s saw important progress toward European unification. During this postcommunist time, the European communities were transformed into the European Union, with many members sharing a common currency. All this is significant, but I cannot rid myself of the idea that this is a train ride begun in a different time and context, rolling on out of momentum, not out of a new energy or spirit. Perhaps this is why the EU often appears as merely a matter of technique and bureaucracy, a body where the only factors that matter are the economic consequences of integration upon narrow groups.

Europe, however, has always been a single political entity, no matter how varied internally. Its history is the history of attempts to find a suitable structure for Europe's unity and diversity. The dynamic, ever-changing European order - enlightened or dark - has, until now, always been founded on power: the strong impose an order which suits them.

After the Iron Curtain fell Europe faced an event unique in its long history: a chance to create a truly just order, one mirroring the will of all nations, communities, and individuals, one founded not on violence, but on equality.