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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 14:46, June 25, 2004
Europe, America face a 'depth integration'
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On May 1, the European Union (EU) will expand from 15 nations to 25 nations, this change naturally reminds this correspondent Ding Gang of his Poland tour in 1996. At that time, Poland was actively striving to join NATO, When talking about this matter, a professor at Warsaw University asked this correspondent to remember two main points: First, accession to NATO means gaining a "green card", while joining the EU means "naturalization"; second, Poland hasn't forgotten it was the Americans who helped it finally realize a "homecoming".

In the over half a century course of European integration, the United States has actually been playing an active role as a promoter. The foreign minister of Czech once said, "Without the active participation and efforts of the United States after World War II, it would have been impossible to realize Europe's integration of today." These remarks at least indicate that so far the train of European integration has not run off the track imagined by the Americans.

Historically, the United States had one thousand and one ties with Central and East European countries that are soon to be admitted into the EU. For many years, immigrants of East European descendants within the United States have been the enthusiastic supporters of eastward expansion. During the Cold War period, the United States had all along regarded these countries as targets of first choice for "peaceful evolution". After the Cold War, Washington again gave these countries huge amounts of economic aid. When members of a previous antagonistic bloc finally threw themselves into the embrace of the West, this change is, for the United States, undoubtedly a victory for its concept of value that the country has all along been pursuing in Europe. This point is not denied even by those "old European" partners. While reviewing the evolution history of the EU, an article on Germany's Der Spiegel (Mirror) Weekly pointed out that the "Europeanization" of Europe became possible only through "Americanization", this is not only applicable to its security organization, i.e., NATO, but also a kind of world civilization is penetrating from the United States to every corner of Europe.

At a time when the United States is pushing the American-styled democratic idea worldwide by taking advantage of the counter-terrorism war, such kind of victory is of more practical significance. Condoleeza Rice, assistant to the US President in national security affairs, said that the United States had paid a heavy price in supporting Europe's change and integration, because it conforms to America's interests, and because the concepts on value of Europe and the United States are so close to each other. Today, we also need such kind of spirit...we need such spirit to help people worldwide who are seeking for freedom, prosperity, democracy and rule of law.

Eastward enlargement is also in the economic benefits of the United States. Currently, the average daily cross-Atlantic trade volume has exceeded US$1 billion. Europe and the United States contribute nearly 37 percent to the total global commodities trade volume, and nearly 45 percent to the total service trade volume. When new and old Europe merges into one entity, then this market will be more attractive. Although a stronger EU will bring about some new frictions on America-Europe trade, generally speaking, for the United States, advantages are much greater than disadvantages.

Eastward expansion began in the period when America-Europe relationship stepped into a new coordination. The drastic change in Eastern Europe, the rapid expansion of economic globalization, the salvo of US counter-terrorism war and the start of a new round of negotiations-the mingling of these factors has generated a kind of background that is completely different from the setting during the Cold War, the focus of attention of American and European decision-makers has begun to divide. Just as the New York Times columnist Friedman has said: Leaders of European countries first think of integration when they wake up in the morning, while what US President thinks of is in which place next terrorist attack will possibly occur, and how to cope with it. The Iraq war has caused the differences between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean to go public. Some American experts are worried that with the rise of a giant Europe, there will be more conflicts of interests between Europe and America, and contradictions will keep deepening, Europe will challenge the leadership position of the United States in diplomacy, economy and many other aspects. Maybe such worry has come a bit too early, but it indicates that along with the enlargement of the EU, America-European relationship will undergo many changes.

Will an enlarged Europe become a rival of the United States? It is quite impossible at least in the foreseeable future. This is not only because Europe still lags quite far behind the United States in the aspects of military, competitiveness, education, culture and political influence, it is all the more because the designed target of the eastward expansion of the EU originally is not aimed at the United States as the adversary. A EU that takes the United States as its opponent not only cannot finally realize its enlargement, but also it will definitely entail the re-division of Europe, causing destruction to both sides. Moreover, the integration of old and new Europe still has quite an arduous course to traverse, and it still cannot go further without American help and support. An American expert on European issue analyzes that the EU still needs the United States to ensure its internal balance, the progress of the integration of the EU depends largely on the United States that serves as an internal stabilizer of Europe. At the same time, there is an increasing need for a strong and friendly EU to maintain US stability and play a restrictive role in it.

With respect to future eastward expansion, the United States lays the focus of its attention on the change in Europe's position brought about by the enhancement of its strength. Europe is no longer an old partner dancing only to the baton of the United States, but rather it is a new partner capable of shouldering responsibilities and obligations. This naturally requires the United States to pay a price for the adjustment in the roles played, the biggest challenge lies in how to establish a new-type relationship. Hamilton, former US assistant secretary of state in charge of European affairs, says that European and American societies have not become estranged from, rather they only run foul of each other. Nowadays, the many problems facing European and American decision-makers are generated by "depth integration", this kind of new intimate relationship is associated with their respective internal political core issue, its nature is entirely different from the "shallow integration" mode of the Bretton Woods-GATT system set up at the end of World War II, while the new "depth integration" will bring about a new, cross-Atlantic bond.

Just as so far the eastward expansion of the EU that contains a strong US factor, the trend of future enlargement will depend largely on what kind of a Europe the Americans hope to see. When we come to see what impact eastward expansion will exert on America-Europe relationship, perhaps we should pay more attention to what influence the status quo of US-European relationship and its development will bring on eastward expansion. In 1999 this correspondent witnessed in the headquarters of NATO the historical event of Poland, Czech and Hungary joining NATO. The trifle thing this correspondent saw at the flag-raising ceremony is still quite significant when it comes into his mind. Before Poland became a full member of NATO, whenever there were major activities, the Polish ambassador, in the capacity of observer, sat by the side of the US ambassador; after Poland gained a formal capacity, the position of the Polish ambassador had to be arranged in the alphabetic order, it was shifted to the place between Norwegian and Portuguese ambassadors, from then on, the distance between him and the American ambassador has been widened. This Polish ambassador said with feeling, "I'll think of my old friend."

The above article was carried on page 7 of People's Daily April 29, 2004 and translated by People's Daily Online

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