In Athens today, April 16, 2003, Europe will celebrate its growing strength and unity as ten countries sign the Treaty of Accession to the European Union. After ratification of the treaty, the ten new members will join the existing fifteen on May 1st, 2004, to form a cohesive partnership in a 25-nation group comparable in numbers and economic strength to the United States of America.
With the enlargement of the EU we greet the arrival of a new political order which marks the end of the division of Europe into two hostile blocs following World War II. Europe now, for the first time in modern history, is a partnership sharing common values and a commitment to harmony and cooperation. The dream of European integration, shared by the United States, is now being realized, leaving behind us the wasteful era of wars, hostility and inequalities. We are on the road to a Europe enjoying a unity and influence without precedent in its long history.
The United States has a stake in a Europe whole, democratic and free. Like the “greater union” designed by the American Constitution, the expansion of an integrated Europe furthers the goal not only of freedom of movement, common standards of social well-being, and economic efficiency, but also of unity and greater political responsibility. Europe has the additional task of pursuing this common agenda while preserving the treasured cultures, languages and historical memories of its diverse membership.
Today, our leaders assembled in Athens, which gave its democratic values to the world, as an unprecedented community to greet those values. We look back on the past and rejoice that the era when Europe was a battlefield, with two world wars and civil strife, is now past. All of Europe – north, south, east and west – lived through wars and hardship, with totalitarianism obliterating freedom, repression choking democracy.
In the new century, abandoning the divisive and destructive legacies of the past, we can build on previous positive achievements: common values, integration, economic growth, social justice and collective security. To prove that we not only can but will follow that path, the first years of this century have witnessed bold decisions to strengthen the two main pillars of the European edifice: the European Union and NATO.
The coming accession of ten new members will not end the EU’s further enlargement. Three other countries – Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey – are engaged in the pre-accession process, while other European states, notably in the Balkans, are currently expanding their links with the Union. The enlarged EU will continue to re-assess and develop closer cooperation with its neighbors in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean region as a matter of priority.
Indeed, an enlarged European Union will add its weight to the underlying strength of transatlantic relations. All member-states of the EU have strong traditional bonds with the United States, and America has deep roots in Europe. We should take advantage of that affiliation and of the opportunity to make the relationship between the EU and the US even stronger and more influential. To do so, Europe will need to continue to develop its common foreign and defense policy and become, alongside the United States, a force for global stability and progress in a mutually beneficial partnership.
The United States and the European Union are the backbone of the world economy. We are each other’s first economic partner, main source and destination of foreign investment, and major foreign employers. EU enlargement will only strengthen this partnership.
The EU and the US have a shared vision: of a European Union made bigger by enlargement; better by its closeness to the concerns of Europe’s citizens; and stronger by its pursuit of a more powerful international presence. It will be a Union which plays a leading role in the promotion of global stability, cooperation, justice and development. It will be strong and reliable in a transatlantic partnership of common values and shared interests.
*** This op-ed was contributed by the Washington Ambassadors of the present and acceding members of the European Union, namely Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and of the European Commission Delegation.