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[Comments] (2) Public Service Announcement: I would like to draw your attention to a very important event that is going to occur tomorrow, Saturday, May 1, 2004.

The largest ever expansion of the European Union is about to take place. Ten nations: Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta, and Cyrus. The significance of his cannot be over-estimated, yet has been, in my opinion, deeply underestimated in terms of importance in American public opinion.

The members of the EU now total 25, its land mass is roughly equivalent to the United States, and its population about 150% of that of the US. On May 1, the EU will become the largest single market area in the world.

More importantly, ten Eastern European States, many of them ex-communist, three of them even once belonging to the former Soviet Union, will begin to receive the benefits of EU membership, including a freer movement of goods, capital, and labour that will encourage investment and growth, agricultural income support and structural funds to support the expansion of infrastructure, and eventual membership in the euro zone.

The expansion of the EU represents the expansion of ideals that we as Americans hold dear; the EU was initially formed as an economic integration and recovery tool, also to ensure peace and good harmony between the European nations. Since then it has taken upon the additional goals of social welfare and a better standard of living for all its citizens.

The EU is taking a big step towards bring peace and prosperity to a traditionally impoverished and conflictual area; and it is also breaking down, in a major way, the age old division between the east and the west of Europe.

Many are skeptical, just as many have been in the past; no one ever believed in 1948 that Germany and France could ever be close allies. Margaret Thatcher, one of the most notorious euro-skeptics of all, argued in a speech in Bruges, that one of the limits of the EU is it could not be defined as Europe, because it was not Europe: “The European Community is one manifestation of that European identity. But it is not the only one. We must never forget that east of the Iron Curtain people who once enjoyed a full share of European culture, freedom and identity have been cut off from their roots. We shall always look on Warsaw, Prague and Budapest as great European cities.”

Beginning Saturday, the three cities she used as examples, plus many, many more, will be a part of the EU. Gone is the iron curtain divided those who share the same rich and common “European” heritage, gone soon will be the impoverishments that have haunted these “eastern” nations in modern times.

What seems unlikely or ever impossible today (Romania, Bulgaria, the Balkans, even Turkey) is actually quite possible, if the right steps are made, slowly, in the right direction. Peace and prosperity can be obtained, even for the most antagonistic and disadvantaged nations, and ancient rivalries can be replaced by close alliance and close cooperation.

This is real progress, and we are fortunate to be watching as it unfolds.

***Disclaimer: I am not in any way associated with the European Commission, or on their payroll as a propagandist. Really. I swear. ***


© 2002-2010 Rachel Richardson.