The Dream of European Unity
“ON THE Threshold of a Dream.” That is how the newspaper The European headlined an article dealing with the “dizzy pace of European integration.” How did the dream come about? Are the lofty expectations it arouses justified?
Shortly after the end of World War II, Winston Churchill suggested the formation of a “United States of Europe.” Since then things have seemingly been heading in that direction. Now, the year 1992 is being acclaimed as a milestone in realizing this dream. But why 1992?
Simply put, by the end of next year, the 12 members of the EC (European Community) plan on reaching complete economic unification. This will mean an end to all tariff barriers. It will allow citizens within the Community to move without restrictions from one country to another, having the same employment possibilities and rights as local citizens. Eventually, a common currency will be adopted, citizens will be provided with European passports and driver’s licenses, and a European central bank will be established. Common policies as to environmental problems and the use of nuclear energy are to be pursued. Traffic laws and other laws will be coordinated.
The EC will thus become the third largest domestic market in the world. Fully one fifth of all world trade—both imports and exports—will involve an EC member state. So its economic policies will logically influence the entire world economy, including the economies of the developing nations.
A recent poll shows that almost 70 percent of all Europeans are in favor of the planned changes. Many EC citizens, in fact, want to go still further. About three fourths of them support pooling scientific research and adopting equal social-security benefits. Well over half even favor sharing a common foreign policy.
Thus, the trend has been shifting away from merely economic unification toward the possibility of political unity. Now, with unexpected suddenness, unforeseen events have given fresh impetus to this goal.
“We Are Being Driven”
On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. The idea of German reunification, often discussed but considered unrealistic, once again became a subject of heated debate. Reunification now appeared inevitable, but scarcely anyone ventured to prophesy how soon it would come. When German chancellor Helmut Kohl was accused of pushing unification plans too fast, he remarked: “I am not the one trying to speed things up. We are being driven.” On October 3, 1990,—less than 11 months after the Wall fell—Germans were celebrating. Germany was once again united.
The world rejoiced that the Cold War was over, as evidenced by a unified Germany. Meanwhile, another unexpected event was already grabbing the headlines. How would Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait affect plans for 1992? Journalist John Palmer noted: “The Gulf crisis is accelerating rather than slowing European Community economic and political integration—and may be hastening the day when the EC operates a common foreign and defence policy.”
During this crisis and the terrifying days of the war that followed, the European Community was, however, unable to arrive at a common policy. This led The European to editorialize: “The Community’s feebleness at a moment of great international crisis has demonstrated how vital it is for Europe to establish a common defence and foreign policy which enables it to act with cohesion and self-reliance.” Ending on a positive note, it said: “The Gulf crisis could give Europe a chance to make amends for its sorry performance and take a significant step towards showing that political union can be a reality.”
Expectations Soar Ever Higher
More and more nations now want to join the EC. Austria, Cyprus, Malta, and Turkey have applied for membership. Other likely candidates are Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. Even former Eastern bloc countries have indicated interest, including Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland. However, the applications of such nations will not be considered until after 1992, when complete economic unification of the 12 members of the EC is to become reality.
Admittedly, much progress has been made toward European unity—and this at a speed once thought unlikely and on a scale broader than people originally dared dream. “We foresee a new European order in which borders will no longer be divisive barriers, in which nations can live without fear of one another, and where people are free to choose their own political and social systems.” So wrote Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Germany’s minister of foreign affairs, on the threshold of the 1990’s. He added: “This vision is no longer a dream. It is within reach.”
But can such unity realistically be expected? If so, would this offer hope that European unity is but a preliminary step to something greater—to world unity?
No one will deny that the world needs unity, for unity would go a long way in solving some of mankind’s most serious problems. Imagine what could be achieved if time and energy wasted on disagreeing could be channeled into united efforts to solve common problems for the common good!
By integrating their economic and monetary systems, an increasing number of nations now seem intent on testing one another’s willingness to collaborate. For example, in pursuit of a common economic Asian market, the countries of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Thailand, and the United States formed the economic arrangement called Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in 1989.
So the scenario is: a newly united Germany, embedded in a soon-to-be united Europe, leading to a not-too-distant united world. The idea sounds good, but is it realistic to believe that it can be implemented?
Although Germany has been united politically and economically for over a year, the country is struggling. Outstanding differences still exist between the five new states (formerly East Germany) and the rest of the country. The euphoria of reunification has given way to the realization that unity is not coming cheap. In one way or another, everyone, politician and citizen alike, is being forced to pay the price.
Earlier this year, The European spoke of “the emotional crisis” existing in what was once East Germany. Because of the stark economic realities of reunification and the collapse of Communist social structures, doctors there are reporting a marked increase in mental illness and stress-related disorders.
Dr. Gisela Ehle, a psychiatrist, says that “the feeling of helplessness is like an epidemic” and that “everyone you talk to is depressed.” In fact, every major change known to cause depression is being experienced by the people: “unemployment, marital problems, uncertainty about the future, financial difficulties, identity crisis, often acute loss of status in society and a general lack of purpose in life.”—The European.
If reuniting the Germans, people with a common historical background who speak the same language, is proving difficult, what about creating the “Europe without borders” that the pope of Rome has called for? Achieving in 1992 the unity striven for by the EC—the uniting of 12 economies at different stages of development and strength, 12 countries with differing rates of unemployment and inflation—will be hard enough.
Obviously, 1992 will produce losers as well as winners. In the expanded EC market of some 320 million prospective consumers, some businesses will be better able to compete than others. However, some businessmen say that two out of every three EC companies will be negatively affected. Furthermore, while travelers may welcome the elimination of customs controls, an estimated 80,000 customs officials throughout Europe will need new jobs.
Paul Wilkinson, a professor of international studies, reminds us that even though we are entering 1992, “it’s still a Europe of separate sovereign entities,” each of which has “its own traditions of law enforcement” and “its own legal system.” He warns: “Cooperation will develop slowly and painfully.”
Besides the problems of language, differing social backgrounds, and conflicting business methods, probably the biggest problem of all that must be met is the overcoming of slow-dying national prejudices. As former German chancellor Willy Brandt once observed: “Walls in the mind often stand longer than those built of concrete.”
Still, the mood is upbeat, the expectations high. “Nobody thinks that 1992 will be easy,” writes one business journalist, “but the outlook appears bright.”
Even if both economic and political unity were achieved, would this form the basis for realizing true peace and lasting security? Well, consider: Although the United States of America is made up of 50 states with individual laws and governments that are united economically under a national government, the country still has millions of unemployed; its economic stability is still threatened by periodic recessions and depressions, as well as by recurring bouts of inflation. And the measure of political unity has not prevented the country from suffering from terrible pollution, crime, drug abuse, poverty, and racial discrimination.
Of unrest in his country, Soviet historian Yuri Afanasyev said: “The biggest trouble in our house has come from the least expected place: our rich family of nationalities. . . . We believed our empire was protected from such troubles; after all, didn’t we enjoy an immunity of sorts in our ‘eternal brotherhood of peoples’?”
Economic and political unity is obviously not enough to create genuine unity. To create an “eternal brotherhood of peoples,” something more is needed. What?
Where true unity exists, war is unknown. But an indisputable proof that humans are hopelessly disunited is the fact that for millenniums they have been killing one another in wars. Will this senseless waste of human life ever end?
Yes, it will. God’s declared purpose is to bring about a peaceful world. How? Through total disarmament. Under inspiration the Bible psalmist wrote: “Come, you people, behold the activities of Jehovah, how he has set astonishing events on the earth. He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.”—Psalm 46:8, 9.
The Devil angrily opposes this divine policy for achieving world unity. Since World War I, the words from the Bible apply: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”—Revelation 12:12.
World unity, and with it true peace and security, is based on the united worship of the God who “is making wars to cease”; it is not based on the divisive worship of his rival, who is described as “having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” If our expectations for world unity are to be realized, they must be based on an acceptance of the fact that God’s Kingdom is a reality, that it is a literal government ruling in the heavens. This world government authorized by Jehovah God himself is the only means by which world unity will be achieved.
God’s Kingdom is already forming the nucleus of a united earthly society to replace the disunited, warring world we now know. Bible prophecy says: “In the final part of the days . . . many peoples [from all nations] will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ . . . And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.”—Isaiah 2:2-4.
This Bible prophecy is not describing a new world order of human design, even though these beautiful words have been inscribed on a wall of the United Nations plaza in New York City. Rather, this prophecy regarding peace and unity among many peoples is today being fulfilled among Jehovah’s Witnesses, who come from over 200 nations of the world. Among them can be seen unmistakable evidence that a new world society is actually being formed.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are willing to be instructed by God’s Word. They are applying the things they learn, including the admonition to live at peace by forsaking weapons of warfare. They are thereby enjoying an international unity not experienced by any other organization on earth, be it religious, economic, or political. This surely was demonstrated by the conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses this past summer, when in Eastern Europe alone, over 370,000 met together in peace and unity!
True, none of us can be sure to what extent economic or political expectations for 1992 will be realized. But we can be sure of certain other expectations. For example, 1992 will see a continuation, right on schedule, of the divine countdown leading up to the execution of God’s judgment on Satan’s world. (Isaiah 55:11; Habakkuk 2:3) Thus, 1992 will move faithful Christians a year closer to life in God’s promised new world, in which righteousness is to dwell.
Jehovah’s Witnesses invite lovers of world unity to investigate more closely these Bible-based expectations for the future. They are lofty expectations that will not go unfulfilled!
[Box on page 21]
On the Road to European Unity
1948: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Benelux) create customs union, forming the basis for economic union in 1960 and abolition of border controls in 1970
1951: European Coal and Steel Community treaty signed in Paris
1957: Treaty of Rome sets up the European Economic Community with BELGIUM, the FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY, FRANCE, ITALY, LUXEMBOURG, and the NETHERLANDS as charter members
1959: Austria, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland form European Free Trade Association
1973: BRITAIN, DENMARK, and IRELAND join the EC
1979: European Monetary System established; first direct elections to the European Parliament held
1981: GREECE accepted for EC membership
1986: PORTUGAL and SPAIN join the EC
Note: The 12 EC member states are shown in capital letters.
[Picture on page 23]
When customs controls end, 80,000 people will need new jobs