fr en de

Europe: The immense success of 50 years of enlargement

A liberated continent

[This editorial is available in Ukrainian.]

The first enlargement of the European Community took place in 1973, with the accession of Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Since then, the Union has undergone 6 further stages of enlargement, tripling its population. Ratified by referendums everywhere, these accessions represent an immense geopolitical success that is too often underestimated or disparaged in the West.

What policy, what leader, what country could have achieved on its own what has happened in these states?

Neither the Marshall Plan, nor the Atlantic Charter, nor the Helsinki Charter, nor the OSCE, nor any other alliance could have peacefully brought about the extraordinary transformation achieved by the nations returning to free Europe. With freedoms regained, sovereignty guaranteed, stability assured, it was growth and prosperity that liberated countries from totalitarianism which wanted nothing more than to live their national and European identities in freedom.

What Europe has achieved is unprecedented in the history of mankind, and there is no reason to balk at its success. It should be hailed as an historic achievement.

Of course, not everything is perfect and, as in all democracies, our regimes are plagued by discontent, impatience and anger. The cause and the pretext are the same evil: residual, recurrent nationalism, the tool of the weak and the instrument of dictators. It still exists in Europe, where not everyone has understood that patriotism (love of country) has nothing to do with nationalism (hatred of others - Romain Gary). It is often used as a vector for protests that are primarily directed at national governments.

The new-found sovereignty intoxicates some small-minded leaders, who are limited by their weak powers, and feeds their internal demagoguery. Yes, we still have to convince people that the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and non-discrimination are universal values that belong to Europe. But we must not despair: pressure from the people and from our partners, as well as time, will do its work in Hungary, Slovakia and the Balkans, and comparing the examples on their borders ought to be enough to convince them. 

As Europe prepares to vote in continental elections, and with Ukraine and Moldova knocking at the door, let us never forget what European integration has brought to more than 400 million citizens, and what Georgians are now clamouring for: peace, stability and prosperity, of course, but first and foremost freedom!