Friday, December 13, 2002

A Bad Day For Europe

On the same day its heavy-lift super rocket exploded 3 minutes after liftoff, Europe itself seems to be tearing itself apart as it attempts to enlarge its Union.

The EU is about to set the enrollment conditions for 10 new members, mostly from the unfashionable Eastern part of the continent. In doing so, the Western Europeans are demonstrating why they are particularly unfit to pass judgment on the domestic policies of more diverse democracies such as the United States.

The debate is formally over the terms of membership for Poland (and its cohorts) and Turkey but the subtext is much more interesting. The Eastern democracies have had a far different Cold War experience than that of their counterparts in the West. As a result, the Osties are a lot more receptive to what in America we would recognize as the free-market conservative political point of view.

In Western Europe, “conservative” simply means a socialist wearing an armband. There is very little substantive debate about the limits of government authority.

But the East has experienced half a century of abuse at the hands of unbridled socialists. They suffer from fewer illusions than their better off neighbors. They want prosperity and they know state control of the economy is not the way to achieve it.

They want to join the EU and be part of an economic powerhouse. But the Euro-haves in the West seem to think the EU is a welfare system to be guarded jealously.

Accordingly, new members to the EU will not be given access to the gravy all at once. Poland, for example, would have to wait ten years before qualifying for full agricultural subsidies. Presumably if they behave badly, the full members of the EU might string the Poles on a bit longer.

The real fear is that any new members will dilute the power of the founding members. Of course, that’s true . . . especially if the founding members have no new ideas or visions for the future. Rather, the Western Europeans seem more concerned about defending the status quo and pulling up the drawbridge if necessary.

Their treatment of Turkey is especially galling. According to former President of France, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, “Turkey is not part of Europe,” demonstrating a statesman’s grasp of geography and a bureaucrat's understanding of politics.

Integrating Turkey into the liberal democratic tradition is essential to providing the Islamic world with a vision for the future to rival the Islamofascists. This critical opportunity seems totally lost on the Euros. Rather than welcome all comers to the community of liberal democracies, the Eurocrats are more interested in their own dwindling prestige.

If you're wondering why the United States is a "hyperpower" while Europe is becoming a posturing backwater you need not look any further than Europe's "leadership" on the challenge of radicalized Islam.

Progress in Europe will not come from the frightened turf defenders in Brussels but from the fresh and energetic people of the East. And a the future of liberalized Islam will not be determined in some ghetto off the Parisian ring highway but in Ankara and Istanbul where every encouragement must be given to the fragile secular democracy taking root there.

The Europeans talk a lot about balancing the American influence with their own power, but they forget that the source of American power is not so much based on economic resources as it is on human resources.

Anyone can become as American as the Bush family in about a generation. But show me a second generation immigrant living in France who feels as welcome in the 16th Arrondisment as Giscard and I’ll show you an Saudi prince with bankroll of Francs.

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