©02 The Media Desk
Well, it moves forward.
In fits and starts and sometimes taking three steps sideways and one back to move a step and a half forward. But it is moving that way.
Napoleon's vision. Hitler's vision. Aye even going back to Charlemagne King of the Franks and the Holy Roman Emperor at the turn of the ninth century.
A United Europe.
United as an economic and political power. A Military Entity under one flag. A borderless land of free trade and movement.
In short. A United States of Europe.
And some are saying this is a good thing...
Currently the European Union has 15 member countries covering the continent from Portugal and Spain to Sweden and Finland to Greece and Italy and the UK as well.
The EU is looking to add Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and then Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey a few years later.
So the Union is slowly creeping East. Into the Former Soviet Republics.
Romania is Not France. Even East Germany was more advanced just before the Wall came down than some of the Balkans are today.
Now Hear This... we are talking about the Balkan States in South Eastern Europe, not the Baltic States up by Finland. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia. These countries were swallowed whole by the USSR, but were left relatively alone, and since the early nineties when they regained their independence, they are making great strides. They have been seeking membership to NATO. The Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the local chamber of commerce made up of the dozen or so countries bordering that body of water, promotes tourism and business and has brought new industry and more visitors to the area over the last several years. These three would be a good fit into the EU as they sit today.
Historically the countries known collectively as the Balkan (Balkin) States have been at war with each other, and failing that, themselves internally, since Roman times. The Byzantine and then the Ottoman Empire calmed things down for awhile from the Thirteenth Century into the last one. Mainly by imposing Outside Order on Chaos.
Remember World War One? That little stink about the assassination of the heir to the Hapsburg throne. Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife? It all started because of...
"Some damn foolish thing in the Balkans,"
"O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am meek and gentle with these butchers! Thou art the ruins of the noblest man That ever lived in the tide of times. Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood! Over thy wounds now do I prophesy,-- Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips, To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue-- A curse shall light upon the limbs of men; Domestic fury and fierce civil strife Shall cumber all the parts of Italy; Blood and destruction shall be so in use And dreadful objects so familiar That mothers shall but smile when they behold Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war; All pity choked with custom of fell deeds: And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge, With Ate by his side come hot from hell, Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war; That this foul deed shall smell above the earth With carrion men, groaning for burial."
Antony, Julius Caesar, Act 3 Scene 1 ( Shakespeare, not Streisand )
Even Caesar had problems in the Balkans. Those provinces were barely considered part of the empire, completely uncivilized, and since there wasn't anything worth carrying off there, their tribal flare-ups were tolerated more than other more valuable parts of the Empire. If Rome had heartburn in Palestine and grief from the Germans and worse from the Celts... They avoided the issue by simply ignoring the areas above Greece for the most part. If the Visigoths wanted it, they could have it, as long as they kept fairly quiet.
"If you will allow us to make homes in the country south of the Danube we will be friends of Rome and fight for her when she needs our help."
A Chief of the Visigoths
"Rome always needs good soldiers. Your people may cross the Danube and settle on our land. As long as you remain true to Rome we will protect you against your enemies."
Well, later Rome found out that keeping them quiet wasn't enough. Alaric the Visigoth King sacked Athens around 400 AD and then marched on Rome herself.
So much for Friends of Rome in the Balkans.
Russia found out that ruling the Balkans is like swimming in molasses. The Czech disturbances that led to Prague being occupied by Soviet armor is simply the most infamous of the incidents. There were also eruptions in Hungry and Romania and others over the course of their membership in the Warsaw Pact. At times Moscow considered Bulgaria a hostile power and garrisoned it accordingly.
Since then there have been civil wars and genocide and all sorts of other nonsense that has appalled the world.
But if you look at their track record. Crimes Against Humanity is simply another phrase for Government Business As Usual.
Some of these countries are still as backward as anything can be and have paved streets. The US State Department considers them Moderately Developed while undergoing Profound Change. Political Upheaval and even Armed Insurrection happen on a fairly regular basis, even if they are not all successful it brings one to wonder who is running the place this week.
The Economy of most of these countries is something that can only happen in a former Soviet Republic where the Black Market is THE Market. And the Official World exists in some places in name only. Some of the industries are nationalized state owned affairs, others have been privatized yet still run like they belong to the Comrades, others still are booming and going like they're trying to make up for lost time.
Now as for the People of the Balkans. They seem to have never been the problem. For the most part, they are peaceful hard working people who only wish to be left alone by the outside world. Be the outside world Caesar, Napoleon, Stalin, or ... the E.U.
Part of being invited to join the European Union is the countries have to meet a list of criteria involving farm and manufacturing subsidies, human rights, and political changes.
Some member countries like Ireland and France have yet to meet all of these guidelines. But it seems unlikely the EU is going to cut off relations with Paris and impose sanctions on wine or snail exports to the rest of the Union over it.
It is much easier to pick on something like Bulgaria which is having trouble putting its shoes on the right feet than to tell Sweden to quit pouring money into SAAB to keep it afloat.
Besides, the EU is still having a collective tizzy-fit over Mad Cow and genetically engineered soybeans. How are they going to force some peasant farmer plowing behind his ox not to plant something that Archer Daniels Midland promised him will double his yield so he can buy that Russian tractor he's always wanted?
And then there is the Euro. A raging success by all accounts, right? Of course right.
Some small businesses refused to take the Euro until they were informed by their State Controlled central banks that deposits in the native currency wouldn't be honored after such and such a date. Rumor has it that some places now honor the US Dollar at face value and take the Euro only after jacking up the price. While it is the official currency in the Union it is not being welcomed with open arms and cash register doors.
Not a real stunning endorsement of the Union as it tries to assimilate even more countries into it.
So what are the chances of Europe becoming the Great Melting Pot the EU people envision it from behind their shinny desks in Brussels?
Well, considering they have the better part of twenty five hundred years of history running against them where they were all individual, xenophobic, and warring nations, it doesn't look good does it.
The French, for example, have limited their language to less than 100,000 words by law. Effectively stagnating themselves in an era where things are moving and developing faster than can even be tracked by those whose jobs it is to keep track of what's obsolete. Germany has gone through its own convulsions, first inviting in every Guest Worker they can find, then getting all bent and trying to run them off when the work is done. Of course England and the rest of the UK is a hopeless muddle only the British can love... kinda like the rest of us trying to appreciate those pictures of Prince Charles in a suit jacket and kilt.
The bottom line is a couple of questions.
IF the EU was NOT trying to evolve itself into what the Desk sees as a U.S. of E. Why then would they go to such lengths to recruit and indoctrinate the Balkan countries, who are indeed Third World when compared to Denmark and the others, and even Turkey who, since at least 1200 BC and the Trojan War, has believed the only good Greek is a Dead One, into the EU?
The second is: Can the U.S. of A. compete globally with what most assuredly will be a rather Socialistic U.S. of E. with a population of about 450 Million people (the current 375 Million plus the combined populations of the proposed member states.)? [At this writing the US population estimate is 288,254,020.]
The European Union: http://europa.eu.int
North Atlantic Treaty Organization http://www.nato.int/
http://www.baltinfo.org The Council of the Baltic Sea States
For more information about individual countries visit the US State Department travel advisory site at: http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html
[NOTE: The Desk's opinions of the Balkans are based solely its judgement of their Governments, the history of the region, and recent news and developments in that part of the world. As stated above, the PEOPLE of those countries are generally good sorts who live under the heel of regimes usually best described as 'not so good'.]
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