Europe: Centuries of Commonalities and ConflictBritish historian Arnold Toynbee compared civilizations to living organisms. Civilizations, hesaid, are born, grow, flourish, and, after several centuries, die—that is, they fail to exert politicalor economic influence. The European continent has spawned a variety of civilizations over the course of time. Formany centuries Europe was the equivalent of the known world, and its impact on global eventshas been truly formidable. World history was long defined from strictly European perspectives, atendency that has been labeled Eurocentrism. However, two world wars (1914-1918 and1939-1945) were to a large extent fought in the European theater, and the devastation that theywrought reduced the continent’s prestige and influence. Europe’s leading position in the worldrapidly faded as a result. In recent years, however, Europe has proven to be a reservoir, stronger and more durablethan most analysts and observers had deemed possible.EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD ORDERAlthough death and destruction during World War II were not confined to Europe, the continenttook a thorough beating during those years. No wonder, then, that shortly after the war ended,disgust and revulsion with war emerged among Europeans. These sentiments, in combinationwith observation of the stunning success of the United States’ economic aid program for Europeknown as the Marshall Plan, led a Frenchman named Jean Monnet to envision a Europeaneconomic and political federation. His vision was translated by Robert Schuman, anotherFrenchman, into a declaration that aimed at Europe’s eventual political and economicunification. The Schuman Declaration (1950) heralded the European Communities, which cameto be known during the 1980s in the singular (that is, the European Community, or EC). In theearly 1990s, the EC entered one of its most critical phases, that of political union—a concept thatwould grant Europe a powerful impetus in world affairs. Indeed, the EC has since 1993 come tobe called the European Union, or EU. There is no certainty whether a European “superstate” is in the making. But a mostremarkable coincidence is taking place: The “renaissance of Europe” (a phrase that in thiscontext has political and economic overtones, in contrast to its fifteenth-century meaning) hascoincided with the disappearance of the rivalry between the states and the confrontation of thetwo Cold War superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States. These superpowers emergedas a by-product of World War II. Nearly half a century later, in 1990-1991, one of them, theSoviet Union, crumbled and disintegrated. There can be little doubt that a new world order isemerging and that Europe is to playa large role in that construct. The world as a whole bristles with European concepts and ideas. This is well illustrated bythe struggle for economic advancement and greater political autonomy in many countries inAsia, Africa, and Latin America—often called the Third World or developing countries. Thebelief in prosperity and the belief in self-government both derive from the European treasury ofideas (their transplantation to the United States boosted them substantially). Another majorchange in world politics that illustrates the enduring influence of European ideas is the rise ofJapan as a global economic power. Japan’s current democratic system of government as well as
its technology derive from European foundations, although both have also been shaped byindigenous traditions.WHY STUDY EUROPE?Three major sets of reasons explain why the study of Europe is critical. The first is cultural orphilosophical and has to do with the significance of European ideas. The second is political andstrategic and concerns the economic and political importance of Europe today as a group ofcountries that, even though they no longer control the known world, nevertheless exerciseconsiderable economic and diplomatic power and influence. The third is scientific and analytical;it embraces the opportunity for comparative studies to learn from the modem democratic systemsof Europe as they cope with similar challenges as evolving, postindustrial societies. The cultural or philosophical reason for studying Europe focuses on the dominant role ofEuropean ideas around the world. The U.S. Constitution, to cite one example, is one of the finestexpressions of European ideas about the limitation of power, freedom, and human rights; and thelegal and political arguments in the United States concerning civil rights—what they are, andhow they are best protected—are based on European ideas about society, citizenship, andfreedom. In addition, there are the concepts of the “just war,” the justification of self-defense,and peace, all issues that have been perennial questions in the American (and European) debate.Religious pluralism, arguments over the separation of church and state, and the relationship ofreligion to politics are also issues paramount in the United States that first sprouted in Europe. There are also important political and strategic reasons to study Europe: For half a century,Canada and the United States have been militarily allied with 14 Western European countries.The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO; also called the Atlantic Alliance) was foundedin 1949, primarily as a collective-security alliance against possible expansion on the part of theSoviet Union. It has experienced a great many ups and downs. In addition to some intra-NATOquarrels, there has been recurring friction concerning the very superior position that the UnitedStates has taken in NATO as well as frequent squabbles about the relative contributions thatmembers should give to the total effort. Until recently this effort was, as NATO’s Charter stated,in large part dedicated to the containment of communism in the European theater. For decadesthe alliance was far and away the most important foreign-policy commitment to which theUnited States was bound. Interestingly, when the Soviet or East bloc (terms referring to the Soviet Union and theEastern European countries) collapsed beginning in 1989, the Warsaw Treaty Organization(NATO’s opposite number, known as the Warsaw Pact) disintegrated as well. NATO was leftintact. However its future has become uncertain, and the organization’s mixed record incontaining the various nationalist crises in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s gave rise toconsiderable skepticism about NATO’s purpose and effectiveness. As of yet, no plans have beenmade to dismantle the Alliance; on the contrary, it was enlarged in 1999 by the admission ofthree countries from the former East bloc: Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland. In 2000,EU countries agreed to form a rapid-reaction force of 60,000 troops, which some view as theseed of a European army. The multilateral force would be available after the year 2003 fordeployment in crisis areas where NATO (and the United States) might choose not to intervene.Some U.S. officials have warned that a more autonomous European military force couldundermine NATO’s solidarity and capability. However, not only are the French and Germangovernments supporting the plan, but so are the British and others. In 2004, seven additional
post-communist states—Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia—joined NATO as full members, bringing the total to 26. For many North Americans, Europe conjures stereotypical biases. An example is theperception that Europe is fragmented and, in fact, irreversibly divided. Until recently the mainfault line was the so-called “Iron Curtain,” an ideological barrier that divided Communist EasternEurope on the one hand and democratic Western Europe on the other. Other North Americannotions concerning Europe have reference to an abundance of internal continental differences,such as ethnicity, varieties of beliefs, and lifestyle and linguistic differences. One may also pointto class distinctions, believed to be more endemic to Europe than to the supposedly egalitariansocieties of Canada and the United States. Thus, the notion persists that people in Europe generally favor democratic ideals but thattheir societies have on the whole remained stagnant. As a contrast, in the United States, moderndemocracy materialized, coming to expression in the 1787 Constitution. Even Thomas Jefferson,one of the most sophisticated Americans of his day—a man who had lived and traveled inEurope—at one point exclaimed, “We are ahead of Europe in political science.” By this hemeant that while the science of government might have originated in Europe, the United Stateshad started to apply it, testing democratic tenets by putting them into practice. Since North American values are closely related to those nursed and fostered in Europe,many Americans and Canadians assume that most Europeans are like them and certainly lessdifferent or intriguing than Chinese, Arabs, Japanese, or any other powerful non-European groupwhose activities appear to be more dramatic or seem to affect North America more immediately.In the first decades after World War II, Europe certainly diminished in political and economicimportance. But it has clearly risen again, another major reason for studying the region. Finally, study of Europe is valuable because of the similarities and differences that its variedpolitical and socioeconomic systems have with those of North America. In one sense, this blendis useful in attempts to develop general explanations of political and socioeconomic changes. Forexample, theories about party and party-system changes, voting behavior, or generational valuechanges require cross-national data in order to be adequately tested. In another sense, this blendprovides the opportunity for applied learning from the reform experiences of other “sister”countries. Americans could learn from the environmental initiatives, campaign-finance laws, anddrug policies found in various European countries. The classic example is the Scandinavianoffice of ombudsman (basically, a citizen’s advocate to deal with individual complaints aboutperceived maltreatment by bureaucratic agencies), which has been emulated under various namesin other parts of Europe as well as in North America. Some scholars argue that U.S.“exceptionalism” is on the wane. In any case, the possibility exists for increased theoretical andapplied knowledge from paying closer attention to European countries, especially those atsimilar levels of socioeconomic development.How Should “Europe” Be Defined?During the Cold War, the continent was split into two artificial entities, “Western Europe” and“Eastern Europe” (or, in the semantics that emerged in the 1990s, “Central/Eastern Europe”).Although historians may find echoes in the civilizational split between Catholic/ProtestantChristianity and Orthodox Christianity, those earlier West-East borders were never as clear-cutas the Iron Curtain erected by Communist forces after World War II. (In this reconfigured
Europe, Catholic Poland ended up in the East, and Orthodox Greece ended up in the West.) Thepost-1945 division was never strictly geographically descriptive. To the far northeast, Finland,though neutral, was generally considered by academic specialists as being within WesternEurope. To the far southeast, despite a sizable Turkish Muslim community, Cyprus was moreoften than not viewed as an appendage of Western Europe. Vienna, the cosmopolitan capital ofAustria, also perceived as a part of Western Europe though neutral, lay farther east than Prague,the capital of Czechoslovakia, and East Berlin, the capital of East Germany (officially, theGerman Democratic Republic) —both countries that were loyal members of the East Bloc until1989. Thus, geographical terms were in actuality rooted in ideology. On one side of the postwardivide emerged a Europe generally characterized by democracy, market or mixed economies,and technological progress. On the other side was a Europe generally characterized bycommunism, command and control economies, and technological backwardness. During 1989-1990, the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall came down. However, “EasternEurope” did not disappear so quickly. As a Romanian explained to the author in 1992,communism is gone, but the Soviet system remains. In those parts of Eastern Europe at theforefront of the economic transition from communism to capitalism, participants in thedemocratic opposition movement often found themselves out of work while former Communistofficials were “capitalizing” on their resources, connections, and knowledge to gain control offormer state enterprises. Indeed, the legacies of communism will be played out over generations.However, by the late 1990s, the evidence that “Europe” was being redefined, often painfully, hadbecome compelling. This has been illustrated most dramatically by the candidacies of the formerCommunist countries of Eastern Europe for membership in the European Union. However, eventhose ex-East bloc countries at the top of the organization’s candidate list (Hungary, Poland, theCzech Republic, Estonia, and Slovenia) are likely to face long and difficult transitions after entrybefore they become EU members in the full sense, like Spain and Portugal (which, as newdemocracies, joined in 1986). With the circumstances still in flux, this book embraces for the most part a political, ratherthan a strictly geographical, definition of “Europe.” For example, it does not view Russia and theother (non-Baltic) successor states of the Soviet Union as politically a part of “Europe,” eventhough they may be members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe(OSCE) and the Council of Europe. The primary focus here is on the “Europe” of the 25, EUmember states and those countries that are closely aligned with the EU’s economic regimethrough the European Economic Area (EEA) or, in the case of Switzerland, through bilateraltreaty agreements. Obviously, aspiring members on the eastern and southeastern peripheries of“Europe” cannot be ignored, such as Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and even Turkey. It is mostlikely that over the next decade, the scope of “Europe” will expand further, and future editions ofthis book will do likewise: “Europe” is not yet finished.HOW TO STUDY EUROPEGiven its variety of political, economic, and social arrangements, there is no best single way oflooking at Europe. It is thus necessary to combine elements of four approaches. The firstapproach to studying Europe concerns the level of individual countries, which has been thetraditional method of historical and area studies. The concept of the nation-state emerged whenthe Peace of Westphalia was concluded in 1648. That same era also gave birth to internationallaw. As a result, Europe was rarely viewed as a consistent entity but, rather, as a conglomeration
of countries, internally fragmented and competing for power among themselves. Two questionsmay thus be raised. First, why is Europe not more integrated? (One of the answers wouldundoubtedly be because ethnicity and culture have proven to be such strong variables.) Second,is it possible to speak of a European political system? (Here the answer would be, “Not yet.”) The second approach focuses on the supranational economic and security networks such asthe European Union and NATO. At this level, we learn of the broad limits of policy, howEuropean leaders perceive their common interests, and how these countries relate diplomatically,economically, and militarily as a group to other actors on the world scene, the most important ordominant being the United States and Russia (the main successor state of the Soviet Union).Russia, of course, is no longer considered a global superpower. But in terms of geography, it is avery large, neighboring power—with a huge nuclear arsenal. Several things should be kept inmind when examining Europe at this level. First, more is going on in Europe than merely theactivities of organizations like NATO and the EU; for example, there are the activities of theOSCE and the Council of Europe. Second, the memberships of these organizations do notinclude all the countries of Europe. (And, in the case of NATO, it includes non-Europeanmembers.) Finally, ideologies and religions in Europe operate most distinctively at this level.Conspicuous examples are the environmental and peace movements, and the Roman CatholicChurch. The third approach to the study of Europe focuses on regions within countries or crossingborders. Regionalism is a term that has come up in the EU vocabulary, where it refers to some ofthe more outlying regions (such as Sicily and Scotland) among its members. These regionsusually have been poor or less developed, and needing of special policies for economic activity.One has to bear in mind that regional issues often also involve ethnic issues—that is, on thefringes of nation-states, one tends to find ethnically divergent peoples. In recent decades, manyethnic groups have “rediscovered” their roots (such as the Welsh) and cross-border connections(such as German-speaking Italians). This has given rise to a range of activities, mostly cultural,but some political. In the future, these areas are likely to merit increasing attention. The fourth approach to the study of Europe is truly comparative, concentrating ongovernment institutions, policy formation, issues, and the all-important linkage mechanisms suchas party systems and interest groups. This approach endeavors to find how governmental andnongovernmental institutions compare in several or all countries. Among the many issues thatneed to be studied and compared are the environment, social-welfare policy, unemployment, andimmigration. It is possible to construct a time frame that employs all four approaches. This time frame hassix sections: 1) the pre-1945 background; 2) reconstruction, 1945-1951; 3) the consolidation ofWestern Europe and the Cold War, 1951-1963; 4) prosperity and detente, 1963-1973; 5)stagflation and insecurity, 19731989; and 6) since the end of the Cold War, 1989-present. Whilesuch a division is practicable and useful, one must bear in mind that the dates are somewhattentative and that the periods overlap to some extent. There can, for example, be no doubt thatboth the consolidation of Western Europe and the Cold War started earlier than 1951, whiledetente was an intermittent phenomenon at best, punctuating an extended phase, much longerthan the years specified.