The new Europe comes of age

Crowds at the Berlin Wall (picture Dr Alexander Mayer)

On this day, 18 years ago, the Berlin Wall was finally breached. Today, the new Europe finally comes of age.

And how things have changed. In the last 18 years, the EU has grown from 12 to 27 members. It has ratified the Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice, and has agreed and is about to sign the Treaty of Lisbon. The EU has a currency, the start of a foreign policy, and is becoming a factor in the fight against terrorism. Those people who talked about the high water mark of federalism are turning out to be wrong.

But, on a sobering note, things happen slowly. It took longer for Poland and the other central and eastern European countries to join the EU after the fall of the Berlin Wall than it did for France and Germany to sign the Treaty of Rome after the second world war.

Maybe that’s a reflection of the complexity of the EU these days, maybe of the stubbornness of the negotiators involved, maybe of the lack of vision of the politicians. But whatever the reason, the EU we have today is very different – and much better – than the EU we had then.


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