Who Will Speak For The Larger Europe?

The top priority for the European Union at the beginning of the twenty first century must be the historic project concealed beneath the rather boring label of ‘enlargement’. The prize is something that has never been achieved in European history: the building of a liberal order that embraces the whole continent.

To press on with this is now more vital than ever - and more difficult. It is more difficult because public opinion in core countries of the Union, especially Germany and France, and in leading applicant countries, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, is increasingly sceptical about the process. The electoral success of Jörg Haider in Austria has shown how effectively populist politicians can exploit fears of opening to the east. Enlargement now seems likely to be a contentious issue in the German parliamentary elections, and perhaps also the French presidential election, both due in 2002. And what placates German and French voters may enrage Polish and Czech ones. Making the case for enlargement is a challenge to democratic leadership in the whole of Europe.

With his recent suggestion that Germany should have a referendum on enlargement, Günter Verheugen, the responsible European Commissioner, has posed the right question and given the wrong answer. The question is: Why, over more than a decade since the fall of the Berlin Wall, have the political leaders of western Europe made so little serious effect to convince their peoples that extending the European Union to the newly liberated states of central, south-eastern and eastern Europe is in those peoples’ own vital, long-term interest? And how, belatedly, can that now be done?

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in

  1. Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

    The Summit of Climate Hopes

    Presidents, prime ministers, and policymakers gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit. But with no senior US representative attending, is the 2015 Paris climate agreement still viable?

  2. Trump greets his supporters The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

    • In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. 

    • Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.
  3. Agents are bidding on at the auction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Man Who Didn’t Save the World

    A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," for which he spent $450.3 million. Had he given the money to the poor, as the subject of the painting instructed another rich man, he could have restored eyesight to nine million people, or enabled 13 million families to grow 50% more food.

  4.  An inside view of the 'AknRobotics' Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Two Myths About Automation

    While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

  5. A student shows a combo pictures of three dictators, Austrian born Hitler, Castro and Stalin with Viktor Orban Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

    The Hungarian Government’s Failed Campaign of Lies

    The Hungarian government has released the results of its "national consultation" on what it calls the "Soros Plan" to flood the country with Muslim migrants and refugees. But no such plan exists, only a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to help a corrupt administration deflect attention from its failure to fulfill Hungarians’ aspirations.

  6. Project Syndicate

    DEBATE: Should the Eurozone Impose Fiscal Union?

    French President Emmanuel Macron wants European leaders to appoint a eurozone finance minister as a way to ensure the single currency's long-term viability. But would it work, and, more fundamentally, is it necessary?

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now