Europe After Copenhagen: Some Brief Observations

 The enlargement of the European Union--incorporating 10 new states, applicants largely from post-Communist Europe--is the most important geostrategic event since the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11.

 The enlargement of the European Union--incorporating 10 new states, applicants largely from post-Communist Europe--is the most important geostrategic event since the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11. Unlike the latter, however, it is mostly a benign process-yet its impact on global affairs should not be underestimated.

First and foremost, when the latest enlargement round is completed, the European Union will be more populous, have a bigger market and possess an overall higher total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than the United States.

The EU's eastward expansion also means that the countries of the Balkans, as well as Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, will feel the increased "civilizational" pull of the West. The consolidation of the EU's eastward flank will strengthen civil society and democratic tendencies in all of those countries.

However, the impact of expansion on the existing members of the EU should also not be discounted. Inflexible labor regulations in Western Europe, for example, will be undermined by competition from migrant workers and by capital flight to the east to take advantage of a cheaper skilled labor base. The expansion of the Union will also oblige France and Germany, the EU's central powers, to operate more democratically. On the downside, a complete failure to tackle the ludicrous Common Agricultural Policy at Copenhagen, leading to its ossification for many years into the future, ensures ongoing trade frictions with the United States and between the developed West as a whole with the rest of the world.

With enlargement, the EU will now have a plausible claim to speaking for the entire continent, and the sense of its weight will grow. Spurred by both their own anti-Americanism and patronizing talk from Washington, Europeans might develop a continental-wide nationalism that will one day frustrate American policymakers more than today's impotence. Yet, before Washington is rocked by predictions of a coming clash with Europe, the United States should remember that EU enlargement was inspired by America's decision to enlarge NATO. New and future EU members have first been integrated into the Euro-Atlantic world because of the efforts undertaken by the United States. Indeed, a new pro-American constituency may develop within the European Union among the ranks of the "easterners." Therefore, it makes sense for the United States, in order to retain and gain further influence, to continue to advocate the inclusion of countries to the east of the enlarged Union.

 

Radek Sikorski served as Poland's deputy minister for defense and for foreign affairs. Currently, he is executive director of the New Atlantic Initiative and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute