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The Significance of European Integration (February 2, 1996)

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Today we once again have a clear view of the values and traditions that connect the peoples and nations of our continent. Václav Havel spoke of a “return to Europe.” This alone shows that arguments based on foreign policy and economics are not the only ones supporting the accession of the states of central and southwestern Europe to the European Union. The enlargement of the EU is essentially a question of what the Treaty of Maastricht calls “Europe’s identity.” Prague and Krakow are central European cities! It is inconceivable to me that Poland’s western border, for example, should always remain the eastern boundary of the European Union. I would view it as an ominous development if Europe’s strength abated with its enlargement. But I think it would be just as ominous if Europe garnered strength only by excluding others. In the coming years we will have to prove that it is also possible to build up a meaningful Europe with fifteen or more member states.

At the same time, however, it cannot be that the slowest ship determines the speed of the entire convoy in the long run. Should individual partners be unwilling or unable to participate in certain steps toward integration, then others should still have the opportunity to move forward and strengthen their cooperation, which is open to participation from all partners. The experiences of the last twenty years have shown that those who hesitated at first eventually came along after all because the power of the facts led them there. [ . . . ]

Source: Speech by Chancellor Helmut Kohl on the Occasion of the Conferral of His Honorary Doctorate by the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium, February 2, 1996, in Bulletin (Press and Information Office of the Federal Government), no. 12, February 8, 1996, reprinted in Internationale Politik, no. 8, 1996, pp. 82-84.

Translation: Allison Brown

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