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Whither Europe? 

Two contrasting views on Europe, one from a sceptic, the other from a life-long Euro-enthusiast. But it’s the sceptic who surprises himself with a positive take, and the devotee who is frustrated.

Joe Klein, continuing his jaunt around Europe, fetches up in Brussels, “capital” of Europe. It’s wonderful piece, full of clever, felicitous phrases. There’s a part of Klein that want to be cynical about eurobabble, but he concludes, “Europe has been a halting 50-year road, as easy to ridicule as the aesthetics of the euro banknote — but the euro stands, and last week was gaining strength against the dollar. The EU stands as well, an elitist salon undoubtedly, but a bolder and far more supple example of transnational possibilities than the UN has been, in a world where transnationality is no longer an option, despite what my government says.”

Tim Garton-Ash, however, is troubled about the European Union’s continued grudging progress towards expansion. My heart lies with Klein’s conclusion, but I agree with Garton-Ash’s eloquent final paragraph.

“Had the reunification of Europe happened 10 years ago, a huge positive charge of such idealism and enthusiasm would have flown into the European project from the liberated east. I still hope that a little of it will, from great Europeans like my old friend Bronislaw Geremek. But for the most part the new members, if and when they get in, will have concluded that Europe is really about haggling behind closed doors to pocket a few more million euros for one of your national special interests. That is the lesson we will have taught in 15 years of visionless, mean-spirited wrangling.”

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