Enlargement of the EU to the east is economically feasible, with sufficient flexibility in the west. But it is geopolitically risky. The historic fault line in Europe is between Germany and Russia, not Germany and France. Russia must not be isolated from Europe's mainstreamby prospect / August 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
Published in August 1997 issue of Prospect Magazine
The people and countries of central and eastern Europe have been an integral part of Europe’s common civilisation for 2,000 years; certainly since Charlemagne created the Holy Roman Empire. Prague, Warsaw, Budapest and the Hanseatic cities such as Riga and Tallinn have been centres of culture as significant in their contribution to European culture and history as Brussels, Berlin or Milan. You have only to think of Copernicus and Kepler, or Haydn and Chopin, to realise that the distinctions between western, central and eastern Europe are an artificial phenomenon related partly to the long decay of the Austro-Hungarian empire but, above all, to the iron curtain. Russia and Ukraine, too, were drawn into the European mainstream from the reign of Peter the Great until the 1917 revolution. The influence of Mendeleev, Tolstoy and, indeed, Lenin was pan-European. In the 19th century it was even more natural for the Russian and central European intelligentsia to speak to each other in French than it is for Swedish, German and Italian businessmen to communicate in English today. In the 50 years of European peace before 1914, the aristocratic elite and the professional classes of Europe travelled almost as easily from Moscow to Rome via Warsaw (without passports) as we do today from Madrid to Berlin.
To recreate in western Europe this sense of unity was the great achievement of the last generation and the institutions it created-Nato and the EU. To extend this homeland to embrace the whole of Europe, after the catastrophes of the first half of the 20th century, would be an achievement to crown the millennium which has seen European civilisation-its languages, its economic, scientific and cultural ideas, if not yet its human and political values-take over the globe. But, inspiring as it is to hope that the tide of history is now pushing the whole of Europe towards peace, prosperity and unity, there are great dangers in losing sight of the daunting obstacles.