Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Beware of Instability Ahead!

Europe must keep its 'soft power'

Suddenly we have a new debate on whether the enlargement of the European Union should continue or not.

It's a vitally important debate for everyone concerned with the stability of Europe.

Let us be clear: if we backtrack on the commitment to an enlargement of the European Union with the countries of Southeastern Europe, neither the continued European reformation of Turkey nor the reconciliation and reintegration of the war-torn socities of the Balkans has much prospect of going forward.

In fact, the risk of backsliding is very great.

If the Union pulls back from its commitment to enlargement, there is a serious risk that these societies start to backtrack on their commitment to European values and stability.

And that's my message in an OpEd article in the Financial Times today. The link is to the Centre for European Reform website, since you can find it there as well as on the FT site.

There are those saying - Angela Merkel of the CDU in Germany among them - that we can't overburden the Union and that we must bring the citizens along.

That's certainly correct, and there has been much sinning in the later respects during the last few years. I know of few political leaders that truly have tried to carry the message of the virtues of globalization and the enlargement of the Union to their respective electorates.

Leadership has been profoundly lacking.

But to leap from this towards a populism that sees Polish plumbers as a threat to the social fabric of Europe, or plays towards rude anti-Muslim prejudicies to stop Turkey, is irresponsible in the extreme.

There is reason to be worried. We'll see what comes out of the French debate on these issues.

And we'll see if CDU in Germany manages the delicate balancing act between irresponsible populism and sceptical leadership on these issues during the coming election campaign.