The continent's great promise

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THE REBIRTH OF EUROPE By Elizabeth Pond Brookings

Few parts of the world have closer strategic and historic ties to the US than Europe. "Europe matters," writes Elizabeth Pond in the prologue of this paean to a continent we are told is rising faster than American business and political leaders realize.

"Rebirth" is a controversial theme. Many writers feel European unity is little more than a smiling faade over a dark continent. Yet despite many adjustments, Pond argues, Europe is losing the nationalisms and hateful ethnic divisions that made it a wasteland during the first half of the century - and a cold-war American protectorate during the second. Today, a Europeanized Germany (rather than a Germanized Europe) is at the heart of a sophisticated economic confederation that is for the first time "optimistic" about its future.

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When the Berlin Wall fell, talk of rebirth was rife. Hope for a Europe "whole and free" reached a euphoric apogee during the 1992 Maastricht Treaty when the original 12 community members agreed to a common economic and foreign policy - and to "broaden" Europe to include new members from the east.

Yet the savage Balkan crisis, among many other problems, ended the dream of a painless rebirth. American-led NATO troops ended the carnage - but also added to a discourse that might be called "Euro denial" or "wishfulness." Tony Judt, for one, argued that old problems of human nature and self-interest made the idea of Europe "a grand illusion."

Pond disagrees with that analysis. Using the Balkans as a metaphor for all of Europe misses her larger point: that quietly and steadily the interlinking institutions of Europe are deepening unity and creating a common civil mind-set. Time will tell. Eager new EU suitors from the Balkans and Central Europe, as well as the recent meeting in Istanbul of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, suggest new possibilities.

Pond is a former Moscow and Bonn bureau chief for The Christian Science Monitor, and a legend among foreign correspondents for her heroics under captivity in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. "The Rebirth of Europe," which follows her excellent "Beyond the Wall" (Brookings 1993), offers a detailed and relentless focus for students of international relations who want to debate whether Europe is darkening, or brightening.

* Robert Marquand is the Monitor's India correspondent.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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