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EUROPE: FIVE YEARS LATER : 'It is not possible to do this in 2 or 3 years.' : Jacques Delors, president of the European Union's Executive Commission

November 01, 1994|Tyler Marshall

I f post-Cold War Europe has a political visionary, it is Jacques Delors, the president of the European Union's Executive Commission for the past decade and the man who revived the dream of binding onetime enemy states into an economic and political union.

Sitting at a work table in his airy 14th floor office in Brussels, Delors spoke quietly but forcefully about the region's problems and its future with Times correspondent Tyler Marshall:

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Question. Before the Berlin Wall opened, you talked of resolving the German question within a European federation. Germany is now united but what has happened to your vision of a federated Europe? Did the fall of the Berlin Wall come a decade too soon for the architects of a united Europe?

Answer. The federalist approach remains the best way . . . (but) the main problem is a question of goals. For me, the responsibility of my generation is to extend the values of peace, tolerance, mutual recognition and cooperation to all European countries. It's the only way to avoid many Bosnian wars in the future. These are the same goals that drove the fathers of a united Europe.

It's a priority to me, because if Europe's identity exists--and it does exist as strongly in Prague, Budapest and Warsaw as in London, Paris or Berlin--then the fall of communism implies a new approach to the geographic and political limits of the EU. It's not possible to achieve this in two or three years because the economic conditions are not the same in eastern and western Europe. We just have to accept that reality.

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Q. Eastern European democracies are still very new. Some do not have strong democratic traditions. Isn't that a danger to the united Europe?

A. Yes, because for more than 40 years, the Communist regimes tried to stifle the development of the individual, his initiative and his spirit. We must rebuild this spirit. This is the reason why European countries face not only economic problems but also psychological ones. As citizens of Western Europe, we must understand that and be patient.

It is not possible to do this in two or three years. However, if I assess the situation in many East European countries right now, I'm confident. But please, we need time! They need time.

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Q. How much time? Two generations, three generations?

A. One generation. Twenty years to adjust to democracy. But do not forget that Western democracies must think about the quality of their own political life. They must reinforce the feeling of responsibility of each citizen. If people remain too individualistic, too indifferent to public life, it is impossible to make progress in the democratization of European Union.

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Q. There has been criticism in Central and Eastern Europe that the EU nations have not done enough to help them. How do you react to this?

A. Through our loans and loans from the European Investment Bank, we have matched the efforts of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank. We have also opened our markets. Imports into the EU in 1993 were twice that of 1989. From my personal point of view, we have ended with stage one of our relation with Eastern European countries--the emergency support. For me stage two . . . means a more sophisticated form of help, notably through common infrastructure, creation of financial markets in those countries, financing of private investments and helping with a very difficult restructuring of agriculture. To succeed, we must combine these steps with a greater opening of our markets. . . .

This is not easy but the concession we make today will be a benefit for all tomorrow, in increasing the level of exchange and also in opening your (American) market for our economy.

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Q. As you look back over the five years since the Berlin Wall fell, what concerns you most about the future of Europe?

A. I have two worries. First, the risk of economic decline of all Europe vis-a-vis the United States, Japan, China, Asian countries and so on. Without a strong economic position, it is going to be impossible for Europe to maintain its distinctiveness and its influence in the world. This is clear.

My second worry is how people accept the present trend toward a more fragmented society with the phenomena of social exclusion and unemployment. . . . These (worries) are not directly linked with the future of the construction of Europe, but they are fundamental points. The discussion of the future of Europe is not only one about which country is capable of joining the EU.

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