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Mediterranean Quarterly 15.1 (2004) 17-38

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After Expansion:
Europe toward Dis-Union?

Irene Kyriakopoulos

The European Union is on the verge of immense change. Less than two years after launching its single currency, the euro, it committed itself to another daring project: expansion. As in the past, the EU will embark on an ambitious experiment by consensus enshrined in a treaty. This milestone was reached in spring 2003: the EU, together with ten candidate countries, signed the Accession Treaty for Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia. The signing ceremony on 16 April, which took place under the Acropolis in Athens, celebrated a historic event, a series of achievements, and the EU's continuing commitment to fulfill "those tasks that are critical to the well-being, security, and prosperity of [the EU's] citizens."1

The EU's new project of expansion, to include eight continental states in Eastern Europe and two island countries in the Mediterranean, is unique in terms of direction, size, and timing. All previous expansions added countries that belonged to Western Europe, geographically and politically, to the core of the original six members of the EU. The current expansion is eastward and to the south. The largest one-time expansion to date occurred with the reunification of Germany in 1990, which made Germany the most populous country in the EU. But the current expansion will add 100 million people to the ranks of EU citizenry. This represents a huge increase—about 25 percent— [End Page 17] in the population of a unique supranational entity. Timing is also different. Europe's expansion will coincide with the Intergovernmental Conference on the Constitution of the EU; this process aims to transform the EU from an entity formed on the basis of treaties to one based on a single document of law. These factors indicate that the transition of the EU from fifteen to twenty-five member states will represent a formidable challenge to its continuing evolution.

Since the formation of its precursor, the European Communities, in 1957, the EU effort through its various growth stages has pursued a well-defined strategy of economic integration toward its larger goal of political unification through successive enlargements.2 The central idea of this undertaking, from the beginning, was to foster intra-European cooperation in the allocation and distribution of national resources so as to minimize the chances of conflict in the future. The strategy of economic integration pursued to date has emphasized transnational resource coordination to promote material affluence and maintain social cohesion through fair distribution of income and wealth. The extent to which this strategy has been successful can be attributed to the ability of EU member states to reach and maintain consensus to give up national sovereignty as necessary for supranational welfare. Consensus has been the primary factor and cornerstone of the union and has allowed the EU to achieve both internal peace and material prosperity.3 What are the prospects for maintaining such a consensus during Europe's transformation through expansion?

The answer may well depend singularly on the role, pace, and policy priorities of Europe's economic strategy and the extent to which they can be adjusted and adapted to meet future needs. Many other factors will undoubtedly [End Page 18] be at work, including history, collective identity, culture, and tradition; indeed, the multiplicity of approaches suggests that the study of Europe as an idea is neither linear nor additive. In this essay I approach Europe from the standpoint of political economy and advance the proposition that continued economic integration constitutes the single most critical determinant of Europe's geopolitical configuration after expansion. Given its history over the past five decades, the process of economic integration will require political consensus for its success and will play a pivotal role in shaping the course of pan-European security in the future. The EU's scheduled expansion to twenty-five member states will result in an increasing divergence between economic integration, on one hand, and political unification, on the other. Policy choices required for the...


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