The keynote speaker at a UCLA conference on security issues in Europe and Eurasia revisits the meaning of European unity.
A group of countries is standing in line to join this boat that they are saying is sinking.
The new Europe is still hard to reconcile with Europe's history for Telmo Baltazar, a member of the European Commission delegation in Washington, D.C. In his June 1, 2007, keynote address at a UCLA conference on security across the region, Baltazar, who is Portuguese, painted a stark contrast between the dominance of "former tribes and former kingdoms" and the "different adventure" of the European Union.
"Sixty-five years ago Europe was Auschwitz…," he said. "Thirty-five years ago my own country was a dictatorship. Spain was a dictatorship. Greece was at the hands of the Junta."
Today, driving from Portugal to Lithuania (formerly under Soviet control) is as unobstructed as a trip across U.S. states, though measured in kilometers. You know you've crossed the border from Portugal to Spain, Baltazar said, only when your cell phone carrier changes.
Although Baltazar, the EC delegation's Justice and Home Affairs counselor, is a relatively young official, he has witnessed the changes himself. He recalls being turned back from the French border as a teenager, at a time when Portuguese workers were emigrating illegally. Did he speak French, he was asked; did he have friends in Paris?
"The same person [today] can become the mayor of Paris," he remarked. "I would probably have a good chance, bearing in mind the Portuguese diaspora."
Three panels of experts at the day-long conference discussed security in Europe and Russia from the points of view of territory and transportation, energy, and the environment. The event was sponsored by the UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies (CEES), the Center for International Business Education and Research at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, the Center for Globalization and Policy Research at the School of Public Affairs, and the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles. CEES is producing podcasts of the panel discussions.
In the keynote speech, Baltazar said that the failure of European Union member states unanimously to ratify a constitution is not as significant as its progress in developing common authorities and regulations for security and other issues.
"A group of countries is standing in line to join this boat that they are saying is sinking," he said, referring to skeptics of European unity and cooperation.
Especially in the last 10 years, he said, the EU has moved from agreements on trade and economic issues to common understandings about issues directly affecting people and their movements across borders.
In response to a question, he expressed regret that the United States, which has consistently backed the development of the EU, nevertheless has been slow to recognize it as the relevant authority on issues of travel and migration. Specifically, he said that U.S. visa requirements should be waived for the citizens of all 27 countries. All of the EU member states permit U.S. tourists to visit for 90 days without visas, under an EU policy theoretically based upon a principle of reciprocity.
"The United States still has the bilateral vision," preferring to deal with nation-states on important issues, he said.
In terms of governmental structures, the differences between the United States and Europe can be observed in actions such as customs procedures at airports. In France, for example, the official who implements EU regulations on inspections is decidedly French.
"There will never be, at least not in the foreseeable future, a federal employee," he said. "Federal is an F-word in Europe."