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The Unification of Europe and the Modern-Day European Union (EU)

Lecture by Ettore Greco, Visiting Fellow, the Brookings Institution; Deputy Director, Institute of International Affairs (Rome); Managing Editor, the International Spectator. From 1993 to 2000 he directed the IAI's program on Central and Eastern Europe, before becoming the Director of the institute's transatlantic program. He was adjunct Professor of European Institutions and EU Foreign Policy at the universities of Parma and Bologna, and has authored a number of publications on the foreign and security policy of the EU, the EU's enlargement and its constitutional reform, Balkan issues and Italy's foreign policy.

The Cosmos Club, Washington DC, July 20, 2007


At a Streit Council dinner, Greco introduced his speech with a reference to the transatlantic roots of the Italian Institute of International Affairs (IAI) in Rome, of which he was the deputy director and whose founder was the well-known European federalist Altiero Spinelli back in 1965. Today, IAI is one of the oldest, and largest, Italian foreign policy study centers.

The body of his speech concerned the current state of the European integration process. On one hand, Greco mentioned recent constitutional reforms which are expected to be ratified in time for the next European Parliamentary election in June 2009. The negotiations on the new treaty should proceed smoothly as much of it has already been agreed on, and no "particularly problematic" countries are planning referendums. The constitutional changes will include important provisions for increasing the decision-making capacity of the Union, adopting more majority-voting, and establishing new institutional bodies to increase leadership capacity at the EU supranational level - a step many argue is essential to an organization now consisting of 27 member states.

However, Greco concluded that these reforms would only lead to relatively small steps forward in European integration due to the "enlargement fatigue." Growing discomfort has been emerging among the public and policymakers about the prospect of further accessions. Greco predicted that after the 2004 "big bang enlargement" when Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia joined the EU, we will witness a phase of "at least a slowdown of the process, if not a pause." He also addressed the issue of Turkey, outlining the problems related to its accession to the EU, including the veto power of Cyprus and the promise of some states, such as France and Austria, to hold popular referendums on its membership. In his view, the only country likely and able to join the EU in the next decade will be Croatia.

Although he remained skeptical, Greco emphasized the importance of the recent Reform Treaty as a step, albeit a small one, toward improved organization and leadership at the supranational level that will enable a better functioning and expanding Union.

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