¿Quién hablará en favor de la Europa ampliada?

La prioridad más importante para la Unión Europea al principio del siglo XXI debe ser el proyecto histórico que se oculta bajo la etiqueta, más bien sosa, de “la ampliación”. El premio es algo que nunca se ha conseguido en la historia europea: la construcción de un orden liberal que abarque todo el continente.

Insistir en ello es ahora más vital –y más difícil—que nunca. Es más difícil porque la opinión pública en algunos países medulares de la Unión, sobre todo Alemania y Francia, y en los principales países solicitantes, como Polonia y la República Checa, se muestra cada vez más escéptica en cuanto al proceso. El éxito electoral de Jörg Haider en Austria ha demostrado la forma tan efectiva en que los políticos populistas pueden explotar el miedo a la apertura al Este. Es probable que ahora la ampliación se convierta en elemento central en las elecciones parlamentarias alemanas y tal vez también en la elección presidencial francesa, a realizarse ambas en el 2002. Y lo que tranquiliza a los electores alemanes y franceses puede enfurecer a los polacos y a los checos. Defender la ampliación es un reto para el liderazgo democrático de toda Europa.

Con su reciente sugerencia de que Alemania debe llevar a cabo un referéndum sobre la ampliación, Günther Verheugen, el Comisionado Europeo, ha formulado la pregunta correcta y dado la respuesta equivocada. La pregunta es: ¿Por qué a lo largo de más de una década, desde la caída del muro de Berlín, los líderes políticos de Europa occidental han tenido un éxito tan escaso para convencer a sus pueblos de que la ampliación de la Unión Europea hacia los países recientemente liberados del centro, este y sureste de Europa es de su propio interés vital y a largo plazo? Y, ¿cómo se puede hacer eso ahora ante tanto retraso?

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