The Scramble to Define a Suitable 'Europe'

July 19, 1994|By JEANE KIRKPATRICK

WASHINGTON. — Washington.-- "I have always found the word 'Europe' in the mouths of those politicians who wanted from other powers something they did not dare to demand in their own name,'' Otto von Bismarck observed with a clarity that can easily be mistaken for cynicism.

What does Helmut Kohl not dare to demand in Germany's own name when he advocates a European Union almost as large as the continent in which Germany remains the largest state? As Chancellor Kohl explained to the French daily Figaro, recently: ''The Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary will necessarily become members of the European Union one day or the next. And for us Germans it is clear that the Eastern border of Germany should not remain the border of the European Union because Poland must be part of Europe.

''But Russia will not be able to join the European Union,'' he added, flatly. Russia would not fit. It is too big.

What Helmut Kohl hopes to achieve through ''Europe'' but does not dare to demand, is, I believe, this: an expanded, integrated Europe in which Germany is the largest state, a Europe on the Maastricht model with reformed political institutions in which a united Germany will have the larger voice.

This Europe -- affluent, industrial, democratic -- will be a superpower in its own right, with its own institutions in which it will make its own decisions.

In these institutions, which are already being consolidated, Germany will have great influence. Germany cannot demand to be a superpower able to dominate its neighbors. But Chancellor Kohl, who has shrewdly steered Germany through the process of reunification,

can work for a ''Europe'' that is both ''wider'' and ''deeper'' and that gives Germany the dominant role it dares not demand.

To build this Europe, Germany needs reliable allies in the internal politics of the EU. So far, France has been the principal ally. ''Our most important partner to the West,'' Mr. Kohl says. But that is not the status France demands in the name of Europe.

As long as Europe was divided, there was a nearly perfect coincidence between French and German goals. France looked to ''Europe'' to restore its status as a great power in a world of ''superpowers.'' It looked to the Franco-German relationship Russia does not need an invitation to be part of 'Europe,' Yeltsin has reminded Western interlocutors.

dominate Europe and to liberate it from American hegemony.

That vision -- of a large France at the center of a small European Community -- was realistic for as long as the Cold War lasted. Within the institutions of the Community, France worked to preserve that small Europe, and it is still working to block or to slow expansion to the east. ''Membership some day but not tomorrow,'' French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur answered Polish entreaties to join.

But with membership of the Union changing -- four new members have already been accepted -- the French must protect their position in the emerging balance of political power in the Europe through which they plan to project French power.

So, if there is to be expansion east, then France will support the inclusion of Russia, understanding, as French statesmen have always understood, that geography makes France and Russia natural allies in a Europe with a powerful center.

France and Germany became so accustomed to having their way in Europe that they were shocked when John Major used a veto to block the Franco-German candidate for European Commission president to succeed Jacques Delors. They seem to have ignored British views.

What the British ask in the name of ''Europe'' is a large, diverse, decentralized area as free as possible of obstacles to the movement of goods and capital and ideas. To this end, Britain has urged expansion and inclusion of the democracies of Central and Eastern Europe -- including Russia. The British goal, Mr. Major decided, requires that the next European Commission president be someone who will respect existing rules and member rights and who is not committed to a closed Europe.

What of the rest of Eastern Europe, and of Russia? What demands does the word ''Europe'' cloak?

In the name of Europe they demand to be part of an entity -- whatever entity there is -- which stretches from the Atlantic to the Urals, or as Bill Clinton put it last week, from Portugal to Russia. They want to be part of its markets, its political and military institutions, its life. And so they apply for membership and they insist.

They do not want ''associate status.'' They do not desire merely to be ''partners.'' Russia, Boris Yeltsin said at Corfu, wants to be a full member of the European Union.

It is not enough to tell Russia, as Mr. Mitterrand told Mr. Yeltsin: ''That cannot happen from one day to the next.'' The Russian president sees ''Europe'' as the ''reunion of peoples artificially separated by ideological barriers.'' Russia does not need an invitation to be part of Europe, Mr. Yeltsin has already reminded Western interlocutors.

Bill Clinton spoke eloquently to the vision of a united Europe of independent nations living in peace and prosperity. But though it has a stake, the United States has no vote in the institutions that decide who is eligible for membership in Europe. Still the task of building frameworks to support the democratic institutions and free markets is urgent.

But it appeared our European friends dismissed Mr. Clinton's arguments as one more example of well-meaning American moralism.

I believe the president should act now to develop American initiatives to reinforce freedom in Eastern Europe as once the U.S. reinforced freedom in Western Europe.

Economic and security relationships between the United States and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe would almost surely help our Western European friends expand their definitions and institutions. It's worth a try.

Jeane Kirkpatrick is a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.

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