- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2002

LONDON Change can hurtle from the sky like as a hijacked plane bearing down on a high-rise, altering the world in the course of a single day.
But sometimes it happens more slowly, without the horrifying television footage and loss of life.
So it is with Europe. Experts see no calamity on the horizon. But profound change is on the way change that will affect how European countries relate to each other, how Europe sees its place in the world and how the continent relates to the United States.
The major change will be the integration of more countries into the European Union, a confederation that supporters hope will be able to act in politics and economics as a unit.
Most countries in Europe are the size of American states. By creating a sort of United States of Europe, proponents of integration hope to give the continent greater power in global markets and enough heft to provide a counterweight to the United States in world affairs.
If the most ambitious hopes are realized, the common description of the United States as the world's sole superpower would fade into history.
But the idea for European union arose at first not from a longing glance at the world stage but from an inward look at the continent's history. Europe, the birthplace of two of the 20th century's greatest cataclysms, World Wars I and II, has learned its lesson, experts say.
"The fundamental core of the decision to create 'Europe' was a strategic decision," said Franco Pavoncello, a political scientist at John Cabot University in Rome. "What really moved the forefathers of 'Europe' was the realization that without the relinquishing of violence, this continent was basically doomed."
Violence in the Balkans, particularly Macedonia, could still pose a problem, experts say. But they expect Europe's major challenge during the next decade to be not the containment of war but the management of integration.
That integration got a major boost this year with the introduction Jan. 1 of a common currency, the euro, in 12 of the 15 members of the European Union. Changing the currencies seemed a huge challenge, but it came off virtually without a hitch.
"All of a sudden, I think that the Europeans are discovering that this was a much better idea than they thought it was," Mr. Pavoncello said.
Fortified by this success, Europeans will probably allow the pace of integration to pick up.
Britain seems likely to scrap the pound and adopt the euro within a year or two. And the European Union's 15 members Austria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden will see their numbers grow substantially.
Ten countries Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Malta and Cyprus hope to join the European Union in 2004. Bulgaria and Romania could join in 2007.
But those are poor countries. Their per capita production is just 40 percent of that in member countries.
Because of that, said Chris Brown, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, the impact of integrating Eastern Europe will be "massive."
"The existing European structure is unstable," Mr. Brown said. If a dozen countries are added, he said, the confederation will either have to become much looser or much tighter, along the lines of the United States.
"What's kind of interesting is, which would the United States prefer?" he said. "It's always had an ambiguous attitude towards the European Union, really. During the Cold War, it was in favor of European integration insofar as it made Europe stronger in the face of the Soviet threat, which isn't there anymore. But if you had a common European foreign defense policy, then this would be far less favorable to the interests of the United States than, for example, the current British foreign policy is."
And creating economic integration on paper is not the same as creating it in fact, which poses a problem for the effort to have a common economy and support a common currency.
"The fundamental element which you have, for instance, in the United States, to redress economic imbalances which is people picking up in a U-Haul and moving from Michigan to California is really missing for Europe, where people in Sicily are not going to pick up on a truck and go to Helsinki simply because there are more jobs there," Mr. Pavoncello said.
Also, he said, expanding the union raises questions of the capacity of the various countries to stop immigration.
If the countries are admitted, he said: "Once you've managed to enter into Hungary, then you're in. So the issue is how can Hungary guarantee, for instance, that you won't have 100,000 Armenians all of a sudden all across Europe, or for that matter, Azerbaijanis or whatever."
The war against terrorism will play a role in Europe and its relationship with the United States, said Dick Leurdijk, of the Clingendael Institute of International Relations in the Netherlands.
The unease in Europe about potential military tribunals and conditions in which the United States is holding prisoners is likely to grow, as the war against terrorism moves from Afghanistan to a second stage, wherever that might be.
European nations have made clear, Mr. Leurdijk said, that when the United States attacks another country they will need much more information about how particular targets can be justified.
If the coalition against terrorism were to fall apart, he said, the United States would fight on alone and might withdraw its troops from the Balkans before Europe could maintain the peace on its own.
But most European experts predict clear skies.
"I see a period of growth and stability in Europe in the next decade," Mr. Pavoncello said. "I think that there are all the conditions for this continent to progress in peace and in greater integration."


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