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[Opinion] EU’s Expansion Eastward

Posted October. 10, 2002 22:49,   


Traveling across Europe is not as fun as it used to be, mostly because we don’t need to change currencies of many European countries any more. Indeed, it was fun to get all those foreign currencies traveling around Europe – French franc, German marc, Italian lira and so on. Instead of all those bills and coins, however, all we have now in our hands is euro, a common currency of the European Union. Before the euro, we could earn knowledge about European countries looking at historic figures painted on the bills and learn to crunch numbers trying to save as much money as possible. Now that 12 of the 15 EU member states circulate euro, we have lost the fun of exchanging currencies, albeit enhanced convenience.

▷French government officials, college professors and economic experts I met in Paris last week said that the adoption of the common currency was a success. They pointed to that European countries need no more to push for currency depreciation to enhance competitiveness, which works to stabilize the region’s economy. On the political side, Europeans have begun to seek common peace as they share the currency. This may explain why Europeans, who has a history filled with bloodshed wars, are so against the Bush administration’s war plan. French Foreign Minister even went to say, “In the past, Europeans followed the U.S. lead, but it’s all different now.”

▷EU will further grow into an organization with 25 member states in about a year. The

European Commission said on Wednesday that 10 countries would wrap up accession talks in December and join the EU in January 2004. Then the union will emerge as the world’s largest political and economic block sprawling throughout the European Continent. The euro zone is also expected to expand its reach although three member states including England still stick to their own currencies.

▷Europeans, however, remain skeptical about political integration. “We are facing a dilemma over any further integration,” noted French leaders. Many wonder whether the political integration across Europe would ever be necessary, with people turning their backs against politics on the domestic level. Although the birth of “the United States of Europe” seems far away in terms of foreign affairs and military, the resurrection of the Roman Empire looms large when it comes to economy. And we must move fast to cope with the emergence of the mega-scale entity.

In Paris, Bang Hyung-nam, Editorial Writer hnbhang@donga.com