European Union: False Hopes and Realities

Courtesy Reuters

THE forces making for closer union in Western Europe today are similar to those that created the union of the 13 North American colonies after the War of Independence. The states of Western Europe need to help each other defend their freedom, as did the American colonies. And, as were the colonies, the states of Western Europe today are also impelled to help each other overcome serious economic difficulties. In addition, the development of technology very definitely makes for larger economic and political units. The demands of modern war are such that the organization of adequate defense forces not only is beyond the capacity of any single Western European nation, it is even beyond the capacity of Western Europe as a whole. Hence the Atlantic Pact. In the economic field, the national units into which Western Europe is divided are too small to encourage the use of modern mass-production processes, such as are naturally employed in the United States, and increasingly will be employed in the U.S.S.R. and the emerging great nations of Asia. If Western Europe is to stand any chance of competing in the long run, we must find ways of breaking down the economic barriers that today split up the Continent.

But granted the similarity that does exist between the situation of North America 175 years ago and that of Western Europe today, it is nevertheless exceedingly important that the differences between these two historic situations be understood. The history of Europe for the last five centuries is essentially the history of sovereign national states. In the nineteenth century the unification of both Germany and Italy took place in harmony with technical and economic developments. More recently, however, the predominant tendency has been for the Continent to break up into smaller sovereign units. (I need only mention the break-up of Austria-Hungary in 1918.) True, we see today the beginning of the extinction of national sovereignties in Eastern Europe; but this is clearly taking place against the desire of

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