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A United Europe: Differing Levels of Attractiveness among Individual Member States (September 25, 1987)

The Single European Act extended the authority of the European Community and enhanced its international appeal, yet criticism grew among its member states. The EC bureaucracy – so went a common lament – was unable to implement reforms that were long overdue. According to the author of this article, such overwhelming problems meant that political integration was not in sight.

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Twofold Europe

The reputation of the European Community changes with the position of the beholder. If we can trust the pertinent public opinion surveys, then fewer and fewer citizens of member countries approve of the EC. In contrast, in countries that do not yet belong to the Community, “Europe” is increasingly perceived as a unified whole and the third largest actor in world politics, after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Both assessments are justified. The view from the inside, especially, presents problems. The growing bureaucracy and regulatory fury of the Brussels headquarters has long been the subject of complaint. The budget dispute, which returns annually, threatens to paralyze the Community soon. A new regulation of EC financing has failed so far, because the member countries cannot agree on how to reform the nonsensical common agricultural policy. Recently, there has also been a dispute over the role the Community should play in research- and technology-policy. The heads of government approved Commission President Jacques Delors’ plan to complete the Single Market by 1992. It is questionable, however, whether this schedule can be adhered to in light of economic disparities and groaning decision-making mechanisms. Europeans increasingly see “their” Community as a vehicle that never gets rolling because it constantly needs repairs.

With increasing distance from Europe, the attraction of the European Community grows. Many Third World countries, which do not want to be dependent on one of the two superpowers, look hopefully towards the “third world power, Europe.” Central or Latin American politicians continue to affirm that they view the EC not only as an important partner, but also as a model worthy of emulation. Often, the political unity (or at least agreement) that we have achieved seems nothing less than paradisiacal to people in regions where civil wars are being waged and conflicts among countries are still frequently fought out as armed struggle. Here, illusions about the Community’s ability to act politically and its economic opportunities may come into play. That this is not, however, just a false estimation formed on the basis of great distances has been shown by developments with our neighbors who are not EC members.

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