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History Table of Contents
1999 Winter Conference
Winter Conference 1999
The New Europe and the Atlantic Relationship
Growth, change and opportunities...a comprehensive evaluation
Growth, Change and Opportunities: A Comprehensive Evaluation

Presented by Giles Merritt

Like it or not, the EU has passed the point of no return.

  • Europe's Single Currency, the euro, is already pulling the EU into a new phase of political union to counterbalance the monetary union of 11 of the 15 members.
  • The next enlargement of the EU, together with the demands of EMU, is creating the conditions for a radical re-think of the powers and inter-relationships of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers.
  • The result is likely to be a radical overhauling and streamlining of the EU's political and administrative role. After 40 years of slow, partial changes to the Brussels decision-making machinery, this process will dominate the European political scene for the next five years at least.
  • European integration and unification is an incoherent and potentially divisive process. EU countries have very different political goals and cultures, and the tough issues under discussion leave increasingly little room for compromise.
  • The EU can neither stand still nor go backwards. Economic and technological pressures in the global marketplace, coupled with security concerns in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Mediterranean, are pushing EU integration forward willy-nilly.
  • The dilemma Europe faces is that pressing forward with political union is as much a high-risk strategy as would be trying to put the brakes on. The political sensitivities of closer EU integration could yet trigger adverse popular reactions in some member states. At the same time, failure to press ahead with projects like the greater democratisation of the EU could also result in public opinion around Europe turning against the whole concept of European unity.