Tuesday, September 05, 2006

THE NEW EUROPE

There were two stories today in the Christian Science Monitor today that caused me to reflect on the nature of Europe in 2006. I don't think that Europe will ever be able to have the cohesion of the Six (Belgium, France, (West) Germany, Italy, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands). Still, it seems like they need to have something in common other than all living on a dangly bit hanging off the end of Asia.

In the first article, Michael J. Jordan (but perhaps not THAT Michael Jeffrey Jordan) writes about a growing sense in the European Union that Europe will not build an identity without establishing moral underpinnings for the Union. The idea is that moral relativism and materialism are not quality building blocks for unity. I'm not sure they are moving as quickly in the direction of defining a European morality as they think. For instance, many Poles think that they brought Communism down by clinging to strong Catholic morality. Many of the them think it worked, and expect the man who lead them, John Paul the Great to be made a saint. For these people "moral underpinning" has a clear meaning and is probably pretty similar to following the catechism to the extent possible. Meanwhile, said one more secular Westerner, "in many ways, Eastern Europe is four decades behind in these debates." Ah yes. Condescension. A fantastic building block. That should work out great.

In the second article, it turns out that the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria still apparently sterilize Roma (aka Gypsy) women without consent. This does not appear to be very widespread, but it does seem to happen with some regularity. Sterilization was evidently a Soviet-era policy, as well as a Nazi policy. Well, technically the Nazis "sterilized" by murdering, but in the context of this discussion that really seems like nitpicking. Anyway, that the Gypsies are not integrated into Central/Eastern European society is not a huge secret, or a big surprise. However, the extent of the problem, including these sterilizations, is shocking. Of course, these stories are related because Slovakia is one of the countries pushing the "moral underpinnings" issue in the first article, and because Bulgaria and Romania are both candidates for EU admission. Perhaps there is more to admission than accepting the acquis communautaire and adding a star to the flag. I wonder how long Europe has to figure out what else there is to it.

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