Since 1945, governments in Western Europe have directed their military strategy towards countering the menacing threat of a monolithic Soviet Union. But when the current leaders of the 12-nation European Community gathered last week in the Dutch town of Maastricht to hammer out new treaties binding their countries more tightly, they faced a strikingly different danger from the East: an array of unstable new states in place of the familiar old Soviet Union. The EC immediately called on Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (formerly Byelorussia), members of the newly declared Commonwealth of Independent States, to ensure the safety of Soviet nuclear weapons, respect human rights and uphold debt obligations undertaken by the now emascu-
lated Soviet centre. Underlying their deliberations in Maastricht was a pronounced concern that the mounting chaos in Eastern Europe could damage the West’s prosperity. Said German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher: “Things will not go well in Europe’s West in the long term if the situation in Europe’s East stays bad.”
Still, EC states, like other Western countries, could do little but watch as the Soviet system collapsed. The EC dispatched a fact-finding team to the new commonwealth and agreed to send an extra $394 million in emergency food aid to the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad). But the 12 leaders were mostly preoccupied with how to make mainly rich Western Europe even richer. At their three-day summit, they agreed to adopt a single European currency by 1999 at the latest—while giving Britain the right to opt out of the accord. They also agreed on closer cooperation in foreign and security policies and in immigration and police matters. As well, 11 of
the 12 countries—with Britain again standing determinedly aside—agreed to set common European standards in social affairs and labor relations. Although the accords fell far short of establishing the socalled United States of Europe that some federalists had proposed, they set the EC on a course towards much closer union.
For some European leaders, the new power vacuum in the East was another compelling reason that the EC should draw closer together. The collapse of the old Soviet Union, noted French Finance Minister Pierre Bérégovoy, has left the world with only one superpower: the United States. “Europe must be able to balance the power of America,” said Bérégovoy. “And to do that, it must develop its own political identity.” Added British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd: “The sooner we can get this inward-looking exercise over, the better.”
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