Today, July 1st, Croatia became the newest member of the EU. Membership talks continue with Montenegro, set to become member number 29. Talks with Serbia are scheduled to begin next year, bringing the total to 30. Others may follow.
At a time when the EU’s continuing fiscal problems continue to make headlines, it must seem strange that countries are lining up to become members. Clearly, the perception over there on the continent of Europe is different to what it is here in the United States.
“Enlargement has been the EU’s most successful policy, bar none. The hope of membership was crucial in fostering and smoothing the transition to democracy, first in Greece, Spain and Portugal and later across large parts of eastern Europe. The lure of joining the rich democrats’ club led countries into social and constitutional reform and persuaded them to free statist economies. The results benefited not just new members, but existing ones, too.” (“Keeping up with the Croats,” The Economist, June 29th)
Meanwhile, anticipated talks to promote a free trade area between the EU (the world’s biggest single market) and the US (the world’s biggest single national economy) are looking less hopeful following the revelations that the US has been spying on EU countries, nations that are in alliance with the United States.
Thanks to Edward Snowden, anger and hurt feelings are running high in Europe. Can western European allies restore trust in the leader of the free world? It remains to be seen.