The EU took a big step toward becoming the world’s largest trading market, with 446 million people vs. NAFTA’s 416 million. It put 10 additional countries on the track to EU membership: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Malta.
That brings the total to 25 countries. But the big news is that Turkey is also on track for membership, although on a much slower track. Turkey is an important step forward for the EU because it would be the first Muslim country to join. Imagine what it would take to engineer a similar partnership with the U.S. and any other Muslim country.
I am in awe of the EU. It is our century’s “great experiment” and I truly hope it succeeds. Admitting poorer countries to the EU is a very generous act because the wealthy countries must contribute more in revenues than they get back. But I believe it is incumbent upon the wealthy countries of the world to be generous with the less fortunate. I would like to see the U.S. follow along and work toward bringing down the wall that divides it and Mexico. I think it is just a matter of time before Vicente Fox co-opts Reagan’s speech and declares “Mr. Bush, tear down this wall.”
Walls everywhere must come down if people are to truly get to know one another, empathize with one another, and stop fighting one another. It’s a very long and contentious journey, of course, but I think the EU has made some amazing strides.