OPINION

Staying on course

As US President George W. Bush couldn’t possibly avoid his host Jacques Chirac at the G8 summit in Evian, France, we witnessed their ostensibly warm handshake. However, despite efforts by British Premier Tony Blair, the rift between Europe’s Franco-German alliance and the USA has yet to be mended. Certainly, tensions have eased on both sides but the basis of their dispute remains. The critical issue, however, has to do with what level of cohesion the EU can attain and with the member states’ determination to advance toward independence in the areas of politics and defense. There is no doubt that the EU has a long way to go before it can play an international role in keeping with its size and significance. But it has no choice but to embark on this course. The history of the EU is one of conflicts and alliances, crises and excesses – which is what is to be expected from such a pioneering project. Europe was for centuries the site of many bloody battles but was also the region where the nation and the nation state acquired meaning. And those leaders who tried to unite Europe by force ultimately failed. It is perhaps this historical experience that offers a foundation for the slow but sure process of European unification. Despite differences on all levels, Europe has hammered out a common identity, a single outlook. It is perhaps this achievement which fortifies its attempt at unification, despite the occasional conflict and regression.