Academic Forum

and Europe:
A Time For
Unity, A Time
For Vision

21-22 Feb. '97

Panel Five: Sharing Hopes and Ambitions: Meeting External Challenges

"Europe's East"

Europe's institutional legacy from the Cold War is twofold: the North Atlantic Treaty and its Organization, NATO, and the European Union (EU) and its related organizations, including the Western European Union (WEU). Through the events of the past 5 years-the collapse of communism in the East, the unification of Germany, the unraveling of the Soviet Union, and the wars in the Gulf and in Bosnia, two critical realizations have emerged: (1) the construction of a united Europe remains unfinished, and (2) security throughout the continent still depends on a strong NATO. The mandate for the two institutions created in the aftermath of World War II, therefore, is to deepen relations among their current members and to expand to the East.

National Perspectives

Governments on both sides of the Atlantic face pressures to target domestic priorities above new commitments abroad. As a result, successful expansion of NATO and EU membership to neighboring east European states relies on a public understanding of the interests at stake. The future of European states lies within the ever-closer union they launched with the Rome Treaties 40 years ago. Similarly, the United States must realize that the web of U.S. interests in Europe has become too dense to permit the sort of disentanglement possible after World War I and briefly considered after World War II.

More specifically, U.S. interests in Europe and its Union include:

  • geopolitical interests shaped by Europe's most dominant nation-states, Russia and Germany, each unsure of the other and both feared, albeit differently, by their neighbors;

  • economic interests that define an unprecedented array of economic transactions and ties unmatched anywhere else outside the Western Hemisphere;

  • political and societal values that are not necessarily identical, but that are shared; and,

  • global interests for which U.S. power and influence might not suffice without the active support of strong and united allies in Europe.

Europe's interests in a strong partnership with the United States, best framed in the context of NATO, include:

  • to preserve the U.S. guarantee of the Article 5 commitment to the collective defense of Europe;

  • to rely specifically on that guarantee to deter a burst of geopolitical revisionism from any single European power;

  • to provide a security environment to reassure all European states that their territorial integrity will not be infringed upon;

  • to provide a guarantee of last resort for intervening in volatile regions outside of Europe, especially in the southern shores of the Mediterranean and in the Gulf; and,

  • to achieve all security goals at the lowest possible cost under restrictive conditions of budgetary austerity.

Institutional perspectives-the European Union

As a union of member-states, the EU faces an extraordinarily complex agenda under conditions of growing Euro-fatigue. "Europe" is the defining political issue for most, if not all, European nation-states. This issue has replaced the left-right cleavages between and within political parties. Now, Europe provides the easiest explanation to the woes said to afflict the societies of Europe-the alibi that justifies the state's need for budgetary discipline or the panacea that can provide growth and cure unemployment. The new anti-European passions that have emerged often rest on the resurrection of communities-national, ethnic, or tribal-remembered wistfully as having been smaller, more homogeneous, and safer before they were invaded by a European idea.

For all member states, the ongoing InterGovernmental Conference (IGC) is a central policy concern. What makes this IGC truly unprecedented is the diversity and the complexity of its agenda: to deepen EU responsibilities in order to widen its geographic area, but also simultaneously to widen its membership in order to deepen its acquis; and, perhaps before anything else, to reform existing institutions in order to do both. What also contributes to the complexity of this agenda is the scope of the needed decisions. The new initiatives under consideration-economic and monetary union (EMU) and the use of force, with a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)-go to the core of a nation's sovereignty. In addition, the 11 prospective EU member states are all relatively small and poor. This will make the new round of EU enlargement economically costly under conditions of strict budgetary austerity, and politically difficult in the context of increased reliance on majority rule and reduced acceptance of national vetoes.

For the months to come, therefore, governments will focus their attention on the trade-offs needed to conclude the IGC in June 1997 (after elections in the United Kingdom), as well as on the difficult choices surrounding their decisions about EMU, scheduled for the winter 1997-98 (before elections in France). The political fragility of several leading member states-including but not limited to France, whose participation in EMU is widely viewed as a precondition to Europe's ability to proceed in that direction-makes these trade-offs and decisions even more difficult. Strains between a number of European countries also add to such difficulties. These unresolved issues may delay the EU's decision to expand eastward.

Moving the EU Eastward

The EU, rather than NATO, draws the sharpest dividing line across Europe. Unlike NATO, whose effectiveness is measured in terms of what does not happen, the EU is an exercise in community-building whose effectiveness is measured in terms of what does happen, especially in the economic area. In fact, the test of EU effectiveness may well be the widening gap-economic and also political-between members and non-members, and concomitantly, the narrowing gap among EU members. In other words, moving the EU to the East will be said to be working effectively as divergences between members and non-members increase. This is why step-by-step EU enlargement may prove especially risky for Europe. States not included in the first wave of enlargement should receive open and explicit commitments of relatively rapid future membership.

  • A first set of issues raised by EU enlargement concerns the Maastricht Treaty revisions that are the focus of the 1996 IGC. Because the EU countries have already decided to proceed with enlargement, issues such as institutional/procedural reform, development of a CFSP, and closer member-state cooperation in the areas of justice and home affairs are already being negotiated and will be decided with the understanding that EU membership will expand soon. Thus, the bargains that are struck at the IGC over Treaty revision will have significant implications for the conditions, terms, and timing of EU expansion to the East. The main concern for some EU countries appears to be over the desirability to organize a "hard core" of members which would move the Union at a quicker speed and toward a fuller union than their other partners who would choose to stay behind in some areas (like CFSP) and/or would prove unable to keep pace in others (like EMU). Such "flexibility" in the enforcement of the ideal initially stated in the Rome Treaties-namely, the ideal of "an ever closer union"-would be designed to protect the EU against straddlers as well as against new members.

  • Another major issue related to enlargement to the East concerns the reform of the EU budget. Over three-quarters of that budget is earmarked for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and regional development policy ("Structural Funds"). Prospective EU members in the East, many of them agricultural countries whose combined GNP barely equals that of Holland, need substantial levels of support in both areas. Therefore, after IGC has been completed, debate over EU expansion will take place with the understanding that enlargement will cause a redistribution of EU funds which, depending on decisions made over the EU budget, will prove costly for current EU members that receive some type of subsidies from the EU. Accordingly, the conditions, terms, and timing of EU expansion will also be affected by the bargains struck by current members over budget reform.

  • That enlargement of the EU to the East will take place is no longer questioned Delays have to do, in part at least, with the extraordinary complexity of EU enlargement. During the four previous phases of enlargement, the period of negotiation took between two and seven years. Although no specific date for enlargement has been announced, a few known facts permit us to determine a reliable target: Negotiations will start in early 1998, six months after the end of the IGC; the EU prefers (and, in this case, will need) to negotiate with more than one applicant at a time (although not all 11 current applicants are likely to be considered in 1998); final decisions for launching EMU may exacerbate monetary and political instabilities within and between EU countries, which will divert attention away from the process of enlargement in 1998-as will national elections scheduled to be held in France and Germany that year; finally, further delays may also occur when the EMU decision is enforced, with the launch of a common currency-the Euro-in January 1999, and because of the uncertainties that may continue to prevail during the transition phase envisioned for the Euro until June 2002.

Dual Enlargement

After World War II, the various institutions built by the states of Europe with the direct support of the United States reflected the diversity of the risks and threats they faced or perceived at the time: Soviet implantation in the East as well as the expansion of Soviet power and the intrusion of communist ideology in the West; accommodation of the defeated states in these institutions as well as the alleviation of the concerns over a premature resurrection of their power and ambitions; acceptance of anticolonial revolutions in the European empires as well as protection of Western interests in these former European colonies; recognition of Europe's dependence on U.S. leadership and U.S. power as well as determination by some to gain leverage on the ways in which U.S. leadership and power would be exercised.

So it was then, and so it is now. Europe's enlargement to the East follows two tracks that are parallel because they respond to different needs and schedules, but that must ultimately converge because these needs and aspirations are complementary.

  • About Russia, there are fears that plans for NATO enlargement-its modalities and timing-do not make enough room for legitimate Russian security concerns and may cause a division of the continent, comparable to what took place after NATO's enlargement to the Federal Republic of Germany in May 1955 (which Moscow used to justify the establishment of the Warsaw Pact). There are also fears that NATO enlargement may affect the domestic political debate in Russia as to precipitate a post-Yeltsin revisionist government that would seek to reassert its domination among most, if not all, former Soviet republics. Whether these fears are exaggerated, the decision to enlarge NATO is proceeding with a related attempt to devise a Charter that would outline the terms of consultation and cooperation between all NATO members and Russia. Similarly, arrangements involving the EU should be envisioned for and with Russia and such other states, including Ukraine, that are not currently part of the EU march eastward-even though, admittedly, these arrangements need not be sought with the same sense of urgency as shown in the case of NATO. These arrangements might include such steps as EU/WEU Partnerships for Stability.

  • Regarding the United States, some continue to believe that U.S. power and leadership remain central to the security and stability of postwar Europe. Others, however, seem more inclined to emphasize the risks raised by both: a tendency toward unilateralism encouraged by an excess of power relative to allies and adversaries alike. Some exasperation in Europe over the form and methods of U.S. leadership has often been a part of the Euro-Atlantic political landscape. On occasion, that exasperation is cause for bilateral tensions that test the cohesion of NATO and, by implication, of the EU as well. Although such tensions are usually experienced most openly between the United States and France, they have a dimension that is more widely European as they reflect misgivings that are shared by other NATO allies and EU partners. In December 1995, the Transatlantic Agenda signed by President Clinton and the Presidents of both the European Council and the European Commission was an attempt to normalize U.S.-EU relations with the inclusion of non-trade issues commonly addressed in the traditional context of state-to-state relations. Whether this agenda is implemented in coming years may help define the future course of EU relations with the United States. Whether similar attempts are made to define EU-NATO relations may also help refine the institutional environment of the common Euro-Atlantic space built in the West during the Cold War and also envisioned in the East now that the Cold War is over.

  • NATO and EU enlargement are processes that can be separated but remain nonetheless inseparable. The schedule of the first tranche of NATO enlargement is now known: announcement by July 1997 and ratification by the Spring of 1999. In the case of the EU, assuming a one-year stall on serious negotiations in 1998, a maximum of three years of negotiations (1999-2001), and another year (2002) for ratification, a realistic target for enlargement might be January 1, 2003 at the earliest. Such a target date should be formally acknowledged to end the ambiguities that still surround the EU intention to enlarge. Allowing these ambiguities to persist has economic and political consequences for the prospective member states. Persisting ambiguities may also have significant consequences on such other major decisions as U.S. ratification of NATO enlargement.

  • A postponement of NATO enlargement would be a difficult setback, but a delay in EU enlargement may not be helpful: EU enlargement may be politically demanding for current EU states, and in the short term its economic reward for new EU members may be disappointing. Synchronization of NATO enlargement and EU expansion can only occur with the second and third rounds of NATO enlargement: NATO from 16 to 19, EU from 15 to 20-25, NATO from 19 to 20-25, and so forth. (Yet, this process is not open-ended. At some point, further enlargement of either NATO or the EU becomes undesirable, and there are states, like Russia, whose membership in either institution remains unthinkable for the foreseeable future.)

  • Finally, NATO enlargement creates additional pressures for the EU in the foreign policy and security areas. For example, the formulas adopted at the Berlin meeting in June 1996 will be all the more effective if the Europeans develop a CSFP that enables them to increase their collective responsibilities in a NATO framework that is both transatlantic-thus permitting reliance on Article 5 guarantees-and European-thus permitting autonomy of action and, to an extent, the related control too. These considerations raise questions about Europe's ability to sustain reasonable levels of defense expenditures, and to pursue the related steps in the area of arms (development, procurement, and deployment).


Not the least of the problems facing the United States and its allies in Europe is that the dual enlargement of Europe to the East will last a while before either becomes a fact: starting the clock in January 1997, 24 months at least for NATO, and about 6 years for the EU. When debating or even considering enlargement, NATO and EU members are likely to raise issues that add to the apprehensions or resentment of their partners. What will be at issue is not only which states come in, but also which states are kept out of, either institution, and how such states (including Russia) interact with their non-NATO, non-EU neighbors. At issue, too, will be the complementary steps required by enlargement: NATO relations with Russia and EU relations with the United States, NATO and EU relations with non-members (PfP and EU associates), CJTF (which has to do with NATO reform) and CFSP (which is tied to EU reform), NATO issues of command (where?) And EU issues of leadership (who votes?). What may have to be watched will include:

  • The NATO ratification debate in the United States. Ratification for EU enlargement will not raise many difficulties in Europe. With regard to NATO, however, there would be no worse disaster for the Western institutions than a U.S. failure to ratify enlargement. The next-to-worst outcome is a protracted debate that ends with a small majority that would confirm the apprehensions of existing members and thus complicates their own ratification debates (or even ratification debates in the newly admitted states).

  • Peacemaking and Peacekeeping in Bosnia. Implementing the Dayton agreement will also affect the future course of events on both sides of the Atlantic. In this sense, Bosnia may play a role in the post Cold War world comparable to Korea's at the onset of the Cold War, when the U.S. will to intervene and fight-to make peace as well as to keep it-had a decisive influence on Europe's perception of U.S. leadership and credibility. A U.S. withdrawal from Bosnia before reconciliation has been achieved, would set the stage for a withdrawal of European forces and, possibly, a resumption of hostilities. Consequences would be twofold: in the United States, the case against NATO enlargement would be strengthened as an example of doing too much and the Europeans too little; in Europe, criticist would target such new evidence of U.S. leaders who deliver less than they promise. But for the United states to do its share, the Europeans, too, will have to do theirs in ways that are readily understandable. Too much equivocation in Europe will be conducive to more hesitation in the United States-whether in contributing troops for peacekeeping, or money for reconstruction, or both for reconciliation. If Europe's contributions to peace in Bosnia are said to be not possible without U.S. contributions, then it may well be argued that U.S. contributions will not be deemed possible regardless of European contributions.

  • Attitude of Russia toward the Near Abroad. Russian policies toward the former Soviet republics will remain very significant as they will reduce or enhance lingering apprehensions among many of Russia's neighbors, especially Ukraine and the Baltic states. In a sense, the evolution of Russian attitudes and policies outside its borders (and even, by implication, within its own borders) will set the pace of the second round of NATO enlargement-more urgently if the evolution is for the worse, and possibly more leisurely if the evolution is for the better. The same reasoning does not hold true for the EU, however. On the contrary, the more effective EU enlargement and the more imperative it will become for non-EU members to acquire membership lest the gap between them might become irreversible.

  • Developments outside Europe. Also significant is the evolution of political and inter-state crises outside Europe, especially on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. There, political Islam serves to devise and enforce anti-Western policies. In the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli peace process is all the more fragile as Arab governments vitally important to a successful end game are increasingly fragile. In the Gulf, U.S.-European tensions are over policy (double containment versus constructive engagement) as most countries in Europe find their specific interests threatened by the U.S. strategy while the United States finds the long-term interests of the West undermined by Europe's strategies. Instabilities in North Africa are felt especially in Southern Europe, where political, economic, and even emotional interests in that region are significant. These instabilities can also spill over to the rest of Europe, the EU, and NATO as they become test cases of European or transatlantic solidarity. These issues confirm trends that point to more, not less, competition for influence not only among Western countries but also between them and other countries whose oil and gas demand is growing very rapidly.

  • Evolution of current EU states and their institutions. Political changes in Great Britain, socio-economic instabilities in France, and political changes and socio-economic instabilities in Germany will also be vital features of the transformation of Europe in coming years. In none of these countries is NATO or EU enlargement to the East politically significant at this time. But changes of governing majorities in France and Britain could transform political alignments within Europe. For example, how would a new Labor government in Britain view Europe-and what would be its impact on Britain's relations with the United States and with France? How would a new round of cohabitation in France, after the 1998 legislative elections, impact on French bilateral relations with the United States and Germany, and multilateral relations with the EU and NATO?


The year 1997 is a special year in history: it helps celebrate the achievements of the bold vision that set the stage for the U.S. return to Europe 50 years ago. That vision now needs both to be refined and expanded. Refining it demands that new formulas be devised to link both the EU and NATO to the United States and Russia and to link NATO and the EU. Expanding them demands that the political geography of Europe be moved eastward. If that vision is achieved, future historians, too, will remember 1997 on its own right-as the year that began the organization of a whole and strong Europe after the previous 50 years had liberated it.

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