The celebration of EU expansion will undoubtedly be the highest-scale festival in the history of the entire continent, which has been marked by the wars and turmoil of the past but is now crowned by the ideal of unity. But there's a great distance between celebratory symbols and the everyday.
The final drive toward European unity did not become an exception to this theory. Certain political realities poisoned the EU expansion celebration itself just a few weeks ago, while others appeared in the past few days.
One such poisoned pill was the declaration on partnership and cooperation between the EU and Russia signed between Brussels and April 26 - 27. This time it's not just Euroskeptics who believe that the EU succumbed to Russian pressure, which is why the strategic compromise will not automatically take effect for the new members, as officials from Brussels guaranteed when they promised not to make concessions.
The historic EU expansion is also accompanied by great anxiety of encroachment on the economic privileges of the 15 veterans. Only Ireland and Great Britain have already declared that they will not divide Europeans into categories of old and new. On the eve of celebrations, Sweden joined this pair. This means that only three of fifteen view "new" Europeans as equal partners.
New Europeans will continue to remember a phrase heard in Paris, that "it would behoove the future EU members to learn to be quiet." In the context of the constraint of labor force movement and shifting Brussels politics with regards to Moscow, this statement suggests that in some West European capitals, just as in Brussels, the new members are dealt with not as partners but as houseguests.
April 30, 2004
Although Estonians are strangers to euphoria - the last time it was experienced was during the Singing Revolution - even the most critical compatriot cannot help but admit that tomorrow will comprise a page in the history of the Estonian people. The last several generations have lived in times of changes that our forefathers could only dream about: a generation of peace that lasted 60 years, the collapse of the Soviet empire, Estonia's bloodless restoration of independence, joining NATO and the EU. This was our privilege, and our descendants have a reason to envy us for what we have seen and lived through.
The European Union, naturally, is not a paradise on earth, and those expecting a fast success and luck from it will be disappointed. However, there is an opportunity opening up for Estonia - essentially for the first time in history - to shape its future through a bigger system, and this is becoming a fact.
No opportunity is served on a silver plate. At this point Estonia and its citizens are facing the discovery of Europe.
One discovery is related to our identity. As notorious individualists we are accustomed to consider the "us feeling" as a need to keep together during the turns of history or a way to achieve our selfish ends. It is difficult to have Estonians under one hat if the question is in shaping a new status that will affect everyone. Time will tell whether in the EU Estonians will "calculate" their little deals - everyone by himself - or the Estonian cause will be arranged without psychological complexes.
It is hard both to escape one's own shadow and historical traumas. But outdoing oneself takes at least an effort. Discovering Europe means standing face to face with both multiculturalism and social stratification. There is no doubt that Estonians will manage to turn free movement of labor, services and goods into a rapid improvement in the quality of life, despite the fact that it will begin with an orgy of vodka sales, a madness similar to the candyfloss production that marked the beginning of Estonia's market economy.
April 30, 2004
Europe is here
On May 1, 2004, Latvia will have reached what was for many at the beginning of the 90s a hypothetical and too distant or too beautiful goal - one that today is already boring - admission to the leading Western political, economic and military structures. On April 2 we celebrated entrance to NATO, and on Saturday we will celebrate joining the European Union.
For Latvia, we will have finished the 20th century. It's a miracle that this horror story could have a happy ending.
The EU for us is the best possibility for prosperity and an opportunity to supplement our security. Regarding the threats of the 21st century - which no state can be protected from - we still have to deal with a long standing historic threat. Russia has commonly demonstrated its idea of power and control, even if it's now done by "civilized" means.
Molotov and Ribbentrop, who are finally history for us, are ever alive - for example, in Moldova -- a reminder that all of Europe is still not free and united.
April 30, 2004