European political integration: a historical perspective
Faculty of Applied Economics
Antwerpen :UFSIA, 2001
Research paper / UA, Faculty of Applied Economics UFSIA-RUCA ; 2001:17
University of Antwerp
In Europe there has always been a common culture. Unfortunately the old continent has always been divided along political lines. Before World War I there was a balance of power which sustained relatively well the revolutionary waves. But in 1914 the whole structure came down like a house of cards. In the interbellum the balance of power was not restored. Moreover no serious attempt was made at substituting a collective security system for the balance of power. After World War II Europe lost its privileged position in world affairs. Like Germany in the 18th century it became the scene for competing outside powers. Six Western European powers tried to unite by creating the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. Right from its inception the Western European integration process proceeded with fits and starts. Periods of diffidence alternated with periods of progress. In 1989 communism disappeared in Eastern Europe. All the Eastern and Central European countries applied for membership of the European Union. For the first time in history Europe has the opportunity to unite the continent. Unfortunately nationalism seemed to have become stronger. An important task rests on the shoulders of the European politicians: to convince public opinion that the big problems of the new millennium had better be dealt with by the European Union than by each of the fifteen member states separately, and that a united Europe will increase material wealth.