European Integration Must Not be Reversed

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As an American, but one very familiar with Central and Eastern Europe, I believe that integrated Europe is extremely important for several reasons. First of all, it is important for maintaining peace and stability, and thus, for overcoming terrible legacies of the Second World War, so devastating to Europe and the rest of the world. Secondly, European Union plays a crucial role in creating economic opportunities for all of its members. The current crisis should not make us forget how prosperous Europe is and can still be. Thirdly, European integration might be a driving force behind a process of creating broader sense of political identity. Europeans have so many different cultures and nationalities and there is a need to bring them together, so that they have some shared sense of community. Any European project has to take this into account, but at the same time create means for people to cultivate their own national identity at the local level.

The process of European integration has gone through a number of changes since the early 1990s. Some of them were very encouraging, and some problematic. The first dramatic change occurred right after 1989, when the long-lasting Soviet domination over a large part of the continent collapsed and many nations suddenly had to reinvent their states, drawing upon their own democratic traditions. In Poland or Czechoslovakia, as it then was, i.e. countries with some history and strong feelings for democracy, this transformation proceeded quite smoothly. In other states it was less clear on what traditions new institutions should be built. In Hungary, where I now live, there have been strong democratic traditions, but also strong authoritarian traditions, dating back to the Habsburg era. The same is certainly true of Romania, Bulgaria and other countries in the Central and Eastern Europe. These were the initial challenges, later developing in the 1990s.

At that time there were two major steps, Eastern Europeans were eager to take in order to revive and develop their democratic traditions. The first one was the NATO accession. Joining . . .

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