- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

As 2005 approaches, the world sees much more than a passing political season. Pivotal elections and ongoing strategic shifts announce a historic time, whose significance will define the coming decades.

Fifteen years ago, we saw a wall of division breached and an empire dissolved. The end of the Cold War led to expansion of freedom in Central and Eastern Europe. The outcome was not preordained. Freedom won because of the leadership of statesmen on both sides of the Atlantic.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union have added new members. Both organizations will continue evolving, by enlarging and adapting to the demands of the 21st century. Both are essential for the consolidation of a Europe whole, free and at peace.

Six decades ago, visionary leaders in Europe and America began constructing new institutions out of the devastation of World War II. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund born at Bretton Woods turned 60 this year. The United Nations will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year. For some, this might be the age of retirement. But today, it is the appropriate time not to retire but to refocus — to revise missions and reshape vital institutions to meet new challenges.

Two institutions with shared roots in postwar Europe have adapted dramatically to the 21st century environment: NATO and the EU. Formed 55 years ago to face a clear and present military danger in Europe, NATO today leads a stabilization mission halfway across the world in Afghanistan. The EU, soon to have 27 members with the accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, has a new constitution, a new commission and a new parliament after its enlargement earlier this year.

Significant challenges remain for Europe and America. The fight against terror is in its early stages. Like the Cold War, this struggle will take years, involve risks and see battles in many different theaters. We must continue military actions against terrorists and their allies in Afghanistan and Iraq. But we must also address the root cause of terrorism — lack of political and economic development that breeds frustration and hatred. Promoting freedom is indispensable to the antiterror war, and the long-term path to security will be found through liberty.

There is unfinished business in the Western Balkans. There has been great progress in bringing peace. The challenge now is to foster lasting stability, freedom and economic growth in all parts of the region. Full incorporation of Serbia Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina in the integration of NATO and the EU will be necessary for the Balkan peace to become permanent.

Beyond the Western Balkans, NATO and the EU face new challenges in formulating and carrying out a common strategy toward the Black Sea region. In his landmark 2001 Warsaw speech, President Bush spoke of providing the opportunity for Europe’s new democracies from the Baltic to the Black Sea “the same chance to join the institutions of Europe as Europe’s old democracies have.”

This historic vision has not yet been fully realized. This opportunity should not halt at the Black Sea’s western edge on the Romanian coast. The Black Sea is a European sea. Its cultural heritage — like the rest of Europe — derives from ancient Greece and Rome. The values and developments that inspire its new leaders are the same that shaped other key moments in European history.

The same ideals of freedom and liberty that inspired Central Europe now motivate the democrats around the Black Sea. Today, the challenge is to build a better future through the same democratic opportunities afforded the rest of Europe.

Just as NATO and the EU adapted to the dramatic changes in Central Europe after the end of the Cold War, they must now evolve to harness the potential of the Black Sea. NATO’s June summit in Istanbul took an important first step toward charting a Black Sea strategy. Highlighting the region’s importance, NATO signaled its readiness to contribute to Black Sea security and stability. With three allies on its western and southern shores, the Black Sea must be seen as a central NATO interest.

The region is critical for NATO success in Afghanistan and for the U.S.-led multinational coalition in Iraq. The European Union has also taken positive initial steps by including the three Caucasus countries in its New Neighborhood Policy.

With these challenges ahead, decisions in 2005 could shape the future for the next generation. Romanians look forward to the European visit of President Bush fresh from his new electoral mandate. We anticipate initiatives as well from the new European Commission in Brussels.

It will take hard work on both sides to meet the new challenges and more than high-level official visits to Brussels and Washington, important as these are. More informal events, public diplomacy, increased contacts between American and European experts, scholars and journalists are necessary. Together, they need to better understand how much September 11, 2001, changed the United States and the challenges now faced by Europe through enlargement, a common currency, the new constitution and, above all the new sense of a shared identity.

Sixty years ago, Europe and America came together to heal the wounds of war and to preserve a freedom under siege. Like the other new democracies of Europe, Romania experienced the scars left by a brutal dictatorial regime. We do not take anything for granted — especially something as precious as the values of liberty. But we are optimistic. History has shown how much Europe and America can achieve in pursuit of common purpose. Completion of a Europe whole and free in the 21st century’s first decade is within our grasp and must be our goal.

Adrian Nastase is prime minister of Romania.

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