Why America wants a more united Europe

Bill Clinton: From a speech by the US President on being presented the international Charlemagne Prize 2000 in Aachen, Germany

Monday 05 June 2000 00:00
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European unity really is producing something new under the sun - common institutions that are bigger than the nation state, and, at the same time, a devolution of democratic authority downward. Scotland and Wales have their own parliaments. This week, Northern Ireland, where my family has its roots, restored its new government. Europe is alive with the sound of ancient place names being spoken again - Catalonia, Piedmont, Lombardy, Silesia, Transylvania, Uthenia - not in the name of separatism, but in the spirit of healthy pride and heritage.

European unity really is producing something new under the sun - common institutions that are bigger than the nation state, and, at the same time, a devolution of democratic authority downward. Scotland and Wales have their own parliaments. This week, Northern Ireland, where my family has its roots, restored its new government. Europe is alive with the sound of ancient place names being spoken again - Catalonia, Piedmont, Lombardy, Silesia, Transylvania, Uthenia - not in the name of separatism, but in the spirit of healthy pride and heritage.

National sovereignty is being enriched by lively local voices making Europe safer for diversity, reaffirming our common humanity, reducing the chance that European disunity will embroil Europe and America in another large conflict.

Europe's peace sets a powerful example to other parts of the world that remain divided along ethnic, religious and national lines. Even today Europe has internal disputes over fundamental questions of sovereignty, political power, and economic policy - disputes no less consequential than those over which people still fight and die in other parts of the world. However, instead of fighting and dying over them now, Europeans argue about them in Brussels, in a spirit of co-operation and mutual respect.

The whole world should take notice of this. If Western Europe could come together after the carnage of the Second World War, if Central Europe could do it following 50 years of communism, it can be done everywhere on this earth.

Of course, for all of the positive developments and our good feelings today, the job of building a united Europe is certainly not finished. We should focus today on two big pieces of unfinished business and one enduring challenge. The first piece of unfinished business is to make South-east Europe fully, finally and forever a part of the rest of Europe.

It cannot be done by forcing people to live together; there is no bringing back the old Yugoslavia. It cannot be done by giving every community its own country, army, and flag; shifting so many borders in the Balkans will only shake the peace further.

Our goal must be to de-Balkanise the Balkans. We must steadily bring those nations into Western institutions.

If South-east Europe is to be fully integrated into the continent, Turkey also must be included. I applaud the EU's decision to treat Turkey as a real candidate for membership. I hope both Turkey and the EU will take the next steps. It will be good for Turkey, good for South-east Europe; good for more rapid reconciliation between Greece and Turkey and the resolution of Cyprus, and good for the entire world, which is still too divided over religious differences.

Our second piece of unfinished business concerns Russia. We do not yet know if Russia's hard-won democratic freedoms will endure. We don't know yet whether it will define its greatness in yesterday's terms, or tomorrow's. The Russian people will make those decisions.

Though Russia's transformation is incomplete, there clearly is reason for hope in its remarkable journey - from dictatorship to democracy; from communism to the market; from empire to nation state; from adversary to partner in reducing the threat of mass destruction. Because the stakes are so high, we must do everything we can to encourage a Russia that is fully democratic and united in its diversity; a Russia that defines its greatness not by dominance of its neighbours, but by the dominant achievements of its people and its partnership; a Russia that should be, indeed, must be, fully part of Europe.

That means no doors can be sealed shut to Russia - not Nato's, not the EU's. The alternative would be a future of harmful competition between Russia and the rest, and the end of our vision of an undivided continent.

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