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Europe in the International Order

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Roman Kuźniar

The subject of this work is the rise and fall of Europe’s aim to rebuild its position in global politics after the Cold War. With success in the unification of Europe and the subsequent deepening and enlargement of its integration, the Union set itself the ambitious task of becoming a global power, even a superpower.
However, starting with the first decade of the XXI century, we have witnessed a rapid erosion of the international position of Europe (the EU). The author carefully analyses the causes of the EU’s failure in pursuing the role of European representative, Europe thereby pretending to the role of one of three world powers. Besides cultural and demographic trends, the author identifies the main factors leading to this failure: the divergent interests of individual European powers, their incapacity to act in a geopolitical context and the rapid erosion of Europe’s civilizational identity.
The rapid decline of Europe’s international position threatens the appearance of a new and bipolar global arrangement together with the further marginalisation of Europe.

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4 Europe’s Absence from the Cold War Order

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4 Europe’s Absence from the Cold War Order

Europe’s inability to defend the League of Nations’ system had numerous far-reaching consequences. To begin with, the human, biological and moral costs were immense: 40–45 million dead (the exact number remains an estimate), most of them civilians. A part of this death toll was taken by the holocaust, a system of concentration camps, an attempt at the industrial-scale extermination of the Jews who, after all, had been living in Europe before the Germans ever did. Carpet bombing had laid a number of cities to waste. The war had been apocalyptic as none before. The Old Continent and its nations had bled themselves dry, been brought to their knees, morally devastated, economically blighted, socially destabilised. The term “hecatomb”, used to define World War I, took on its full meaning only in the light of World War II.

The punishment for Europe consisted not just of the unprecedented drama of the war itself; Europe had been taken off its pedestal. It had ceased to be the centre of the World system, the leader of the rest of the world and the avant-garde for the development of humanity. Worse yet, Europe was denied any agency in the new, bi-polar international order. Without her former might and greatness, she moved from conqueror to an object of the confrontation between two superpowers which were established in the void left by Europe’s downfall. The international order “had to manage” without Europe while it was left to watch, full of bitterness and frustration, as others took on the roles of conqueror and leader. Europe had to accept their primacy and – in the case of the nations of the eastern part of the continent – the imposition of their brutal power. Nothing of this kind had been seen in Europe since her very beginnings, the time of Charles the Great.

1 A new cuius regio, eius religio (400 years later)

The disenfranchisement of Europe stemmed primarily from her division, which both strategically and ideologically impacted the entire world. In this global confrontation, “The main battlefield remained Europe” (B. Simms).84 At any time the metaphorical battlefield could become a real battlefield, as both sides possessed gigantic military potential whose purpose was to prevent even slight shifts in ← 63 | 64 → international borders and any change in the balance of power, and anxiety, set over the few years which followed the end of World War II. The demarcation line itself was set by the moment of the capitulation of the Third Reich. Towards the end of the war, the Allied forces in the West and the Red Army were effectively racing each other to take far-reaching positions since both sides were very conscious of the fact that every scrap of territory liberated from the Nazis would become a highly valuable strategic and ideological possession, a bargaining piece in the coming confrontation with the then ally. The West (the Americans) realised this relatively late, delaying the opening of the Western Front thereby allowing the Soviets to settle as far as the Elbe. There, the soldiers and commanders of the Western and Eastern Fronts greeted each other somewhat less effusively than the soldiers of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army had done in Brest on the River Bug – after invading Poland in September of 1939.

The division manu militari had been, as it were, accepted in advance at the political and diplomatic levels. Its symbol became the Yalta Conference which took place in Crimea in February 1945. This event has a terrible reputation in the political discourse as well as within the academic community, although its essential decisions did not bear on the division of Europe, decided after the war. It is true that Germany had been divided into various occupation zones, and the Soviet Union received one of those; it is true that none of the territorial gains made by the Soviet Union at the expense of its Eastern European neighbours was questioned; it is true that power in liberated Poland was, de facto, to be held by the Communists installed there by Stalin (the temporary government). Nevertheless, it was made plain in several places that political changes in the liberated countries were to take place in a democratic way, that is respecting the will of those nations and by means of secret and open elections. This was especially stressed in the Declaration of Liberated Europe, an integral part of the Yalta documents signed by the “great three”, that is the leaders of the USSR, the United States and Great Britain – Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The Declaration, which is full of phrases like “democratic institutions”, “sovereign rights of nations” and “free elections”, was also an undertaking to coordinate and commonly agree actions of the “three” in respect of the liberated lands as well as the victims, and allies, of the Third Reich. At the Potsdam Conference attended by the “great three” in July and August of 1945, following the close of World War II of that year, the leaders confirmed those general rules of conduct and the need for the “three” to cooperate in solving political and economic problems of those states.

After some years, when – as it turned out – Stalin had not adhered to the Yalta undertakings, and when the reality of Soviet rule in Moscow’s sphere of influence became clear, questions were raised whether the Western leaders could have ← 64 | 65 → foreseen this a turn of events. To a degree, certainly – especially in the case of Churchill who held no illusions as to the true nature of Russian Communism. In such circumstances, it was more convenient for them to pretend that they trusted their ally’s, Stalin’s, signature, for two reasons. Firstly, they needed him to bring the war in Europe to a final, victorious end, while the Americans needed him to lessen the cost of victory over Japan (they did not have atomic weapons just yet). The price for this was a series of territorial and political concessions, at the expense of smaller states, which had already been the victims of either Germany or the Soviet Union. Secondly, the Anglo-Saxons had no intention of fighting for freedom or democracy in nations of Central Eastern or Southern Europe. They did not think it would be effective, nor that it would suit their interests. Already before the war, London had excluded the possibility of actual fighting in defence of Poland, though the enemy was a common one. Any military action against the Soviets, who had been their allies since 1941, was all the more unlikely.

The division of Europe began with the division of Germany. The “fight for the soul of Europe” was primarily a fight for the soul and the shape of that particular country.85 The Western Allies had agreed their policies in the three occupation zones. They aided their economic development with a free market model, installed a democratic regime, in which the Germans found themselves remarkably comfortable, and unified the three zones to form one entity. A Germany that stood on its own two feet while remaining under Allied control was necessary due to the growing tension in relations with the Soviet Union. Germany’s importance to Stalin’s politics was underscored by a blockade of Berlin’s Western sectors (1948–1949) in response, in part, to the West’s policies in the Western occupation zones. Soviet policies in the largest, eastern zone resulted in economic ruin for the area (looting and terror being commonplace). There, Moscow was ruthless in implementing their rule, and receiving payback for their role in the victory. Russia exited the committee of the four powers whose role was to coordinate common policies towards Germany. In these circumstances, the Western Allies decided to announce the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany out of their three occupation zones (May 1949). In response, the Soviets formed the entirely communist German Democratic Republic (GDR). The division of Germany, into two separate states belonging to opposing camps, became a fact.86 This turn of events gave Russia (in its Soviet form), a civilisationally non-European ← 65 | 66 → superpower, a chance to extend its power to the Elbe as never before in history (apart from a short episode during the Napoleonic era). All this, thanks to the “internal” war which Old Europe had been incapable of preventing.

The GDR was merely the westernmost flank of Soviet power in Europe. Its victims included countries from across the central and southern parts of the continent. The Soviets worked hard to assimilate their war booty – territory from the GDR to the USSR, from the Baltic to the Adriatic. The former Central Europe might also be referred to as “Intermarium” (in Polish: “Międzymorze”), to use Piłsudzki’s conception of a union of central-European countries in resistance to Russia. Central Europe had been an integral part of Europe for over a thousand years, yet it relatively quickly became a part of the Soviet Empire – a force which rejected European heritage and announced its desire to extend its power universally. With its regional position, its geo-strategic location, and a history of relations with both White and Red Russia, Poland was a key acquisition in this context. The “Polish issue” was therefore one of the most difficult questions addressed by the “Big Three” at the end of the war. The Yalta and Potsdam decisions, along with Stalin’s iron-fisted politics of fait accompli, decided the fate of Poland’s inclusion in the Soviet sphere of influence. As it had been the first victim of the war, with aggression against it beginning the hostilities, it became also the first victim of the victory. The pattern was the same in Poland as in other countries that fell to the Soviets. The physical presence of the Red Army and the Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del (NKVD) made it possible to install communist regimes supported, or even delivered, by Moscow. Physical elimination of forces of democracy opposed to the regime ensued simultaneously, through murder, imprisonment or flight to the West. Within two to three years a new system, complete in all detail would be formed: ideology, government (primacy of the party over the state), nationalised economy (“reform”), internal security apparatus, all would be subject to Moscow’s control and directives.

The introduction of this new order resembled the implementation of the 1555 Augsburg rule – cuius regio, eius religio. The many long and bloody wars throughout Europe’s history had never managed to break ordinary interpersonal – as well as economic, cultural or scientific – contacts between people. Following World War II, however, things were rather different. The regions under Soviet control became subject to the imposition of the new “religion” through most brutal, odious, far-reaching means ever. In 1555 the issue was only religion. After World War II, the “faith” imposed by one of the sides was totalitarian and equipped with numerous instruments of imposing its decisions and enforcing obedience, from the torture chamber to a monopoly over information and propaganda. The revolution and defence of its “achievements” required terror, and terror was ← 66 | 67 → employed liberally.87 In order for any of this to have effect, imposition of impermeable boundaries was necessary. This was accomplished at such a knock-out speed that only ten months after the end of World War II, and only eight months after the “great three” conference in Potsdam, on 5 March 1946, Churchill was able to give his famous Fulton (Missouri) speech: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. […] The Communist parties […] are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case […] this is certainly not the Liberated Europe we fought to build up”88 (referring to the Yalta declaration).

2 The institutionalisation of the division of Europe and its consequences

The division of Europe, and the division of the World as a parallel process, had many dimensions and was presented in many ways. It had multidimensional consequences, not limited to economic, diplomatic or military formulae such as the entente, Locarno or the Anti-Comintern Pact – as had been the case in the past. The new division was spoken of in such terms as “West-East” (blocs), “bipolar” (antagonism of two opposed superpowers), “Cold War” (confrontation without the use of military force). This division manifested itself in the following spheres:

Political (a fight for influence in individual states, the propagation of different models of government)

Strategic (balance of power in Europe and the World, and the accompanying arms race)

Economic (the clash of two opposing models of development)

Ideological and social (the clash of two opposing visions of social order, in individual states as well as globally)

This division had one more feature. Not only was it all-embracing, it was also universalist – stretching as it did across the entire World – and binary: success ← 67 | 68 → for one side meant loss for the other. This context defined the sharpness of the conflict and the constant threat of the Cold War turning hot.

Nothing worse could have happened to Europe. Not only was it thrown off the pedestal of the “Ruler of the World”, standing Athena-like over the globe and its peoples, but her destiny was also decided by powers beyond her borders. This disenfranchisement was all the more painful because of the United States’s European roots and Russia’s perceived civilisational inferiority. The two foreign superpowers competed in Europe, within her territory, but their competition had a global character. On the one hand, Europe was one of the theatres of this competition, while her potential was subjugated to the global interests of those powers, on the other. Pax Americana and Pax Sovietica took the place of Pax Europaea (and Pax Britannica and others) in territories where the two extended their control and influence. Both declared their universal ambitions, but their main potential was concentrated in Europe whose division was therefore so rigid and complete. Both sides were convinced that the situation in Europe would decide the global balance of power, which is why no geopolitical shifts were allowed once the new order was set. Each superpower attempted to pull its part of Europe closest to itself and to shape it in its own image, in the sense of spreading its developmental model.

As for the train of events which were the results of the World War II and of decisions taken by the “Big Three” in 1945, well, those are well known and the scope of this work does not require that they be recounted in detail. In the name of chronology, only the main events will be mentioned here. The US Army brought liberation to Western Europe and, with the exception of Germany, was relatively quickly recalled back home, across the Atlantic. It could not, however, bring economic, and certainly not social, restoration. The ruin of Europe’s economies was not limited to the physical destruction of factories but also included the results of production being shifted to serve the war effort, severing of connections and a lack of workers, alongside unemployment. The drop in gross national product reached 50% or more for some countries and regions. This meant poverty, social unrest, instability and resultant attractiveness of populist and leftist, including communist, ideologies. The model of the victorious Soviet Union appeared to be an attractive alternative, especially as the human cost of “Soviet progress” was never seen up close. Communist parties in the West were in fact gaining in popularity. There were reasons to believe that, at the right moment, Moscow might use them as a fifth column. Therefore, in June of 1947, the Marshall Plan was announced. The plan of the Secretary of State, and of Washington, was to use massive financial aid to enable Western Europe, and Germany in particular, to rebuild its economies. “The Plan” could have included the countries of ← 68 | 69 → Eastern Europe, but Stalin would have none of it. The need for substantial financial assistance to revitalise its economies, minimise poverty and prevent its societies from sliding into social instability and political radicalism showed how far Europe had fallen, from having been the richest part of the world only a few years before, and how deep the war’s consequences had been.89 The Plan worked very well and bound the economies of Western Europe closer to economy of the United States (previously those relations had been relatively limited). To implement the Marshall Plan, the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) was set up. The assistance was feasible not only for strategic reasons but also because the United States had become, for a short time at least, an economic mega-superpower; its share in global production was almost 50% – an unprecedented situation.90

The binding of the United States and Western Europe in the political and strategic sphere followed very easily. The Europeans quickly realised that in their condition – and faced with the geo-strategic superiority of the USSR – they would not be able to withstand an offensive by the Red Army. The blockade of West Berlin confirmed Moscow’s determination in the heart of Europe and its readiness to use force to achieve its aims. The Brussels Pact of five countries signed in March 1948 was not sufficiently credible in this respect.91 At the common request of London and Paris, therefore, the Americans decided to enter into a broader treaty with a larger number of European countries, signing the Washington treaty in April of 1949. This provided the groundwork for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – to be established within a few years. The western part of Europe – which not a half century earlier had been conquering the World and extending its empires – became a US protectorate in terms of its security. The Atlantic Treaty became the main instrument in the strategy of halting the Soviet Union and a nuclear deterrent.92

The political, strategic and economic planes were most important, in terms of absorbing the western part of the Continent into post-war Pax Americana. The United States’s primacy among Western nations was felt in other areas too. For ← 69 | 70 → example, in finance, where the US dollar replaced European currencies in the international financial system and became a true world currency (though the British pound retained a substantial role, due to City of London and the remaining British colonies). The 1944 Bretton Woods system, consisting of two financial institutions – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund93 – was entirely in American hands, due to their share in the global product and the role of the dollar. America took over from Europe in terms of scientific development and technological innovation. In the two decades following World War II, the great majority (over 50%) of Nobel Prize laureates in physics, chemistry as well as physiology and medicine were American. Finally, America took over from Europe in terms of ideology. The “American way of life” had no equal in terms of the attractiveness of its lifestyle and its social order. Popular culture enforced the vision of, sometimes rebellious, freedom and the ability for anyone to reach success through courage and hard work, in a place where everybody got a chance. The leading figures of Hollywood’s dream factory from John Wayne to Glenn Ford or singers from Elvis Presley to Bob Dylan were heroes to the imaginations of people from Los Angeles through Warsaw to Tokyo.

In the discourse describing the World, Europe was replaced not just by the United States (“America”) but also by the West. In a geopolitical sense, this phrase, like the Atlantic Alliance, became common only after World War II. After all, there had not been a geopolitical “West” before. Europe’s place in the international order was taken by “the Free World” (in an affirmative version) or Pax Americana (in a version for those with some scepticism). Western European countries remaining within the American sphere of influence had the distinct advantage of continuation of civilisation. Western Europe did not need to leave its civilisation. To the contrary, she could safely continue developing it. Meanwhile, the nations of Eastern Europe, under Soviet power, faced the threat of sudden civilisational uprooting.

The Soviet plan for the nations which had fallen under their sphere of influence included tearing them away from Europe not just in political and economic terms, but in civilisational terms too. Hence the widespread attempts at cutting their Christian heritage away at its roots. This was an attempt to control their identity which was to fail, due to the depth of that identity in those nations and people. “Breaking away from Europe” and connecting to Moscow centre ← 70 | 71 → included all areas of life – in keeping with the consciously totalitarian character of Soviet Communism – and was executed at several levels.94 The first of those were the bilateral relations between each state and the USSR, giving the countries satellite status. Appropriate agreements shaped their inferiority in legal terms (limited sovereignty), as well as in terms of the party ideology, economy and military affairs. Altogether, these agreements made Moscow the sun in its solar system, radiating its influence to all the other states. The second plane of implementation consisted of individual agreements between all of the satellite capitals (Warsaw and Sofia, e.g., or Bucharest and East Berlin), also governing all matters regarding relations between them, from party ideology to the military. The third plane of this structure were multilateral agreements. These began with the “Cominform” (a mutation of the Comintern, which had been dissolved in 1943), or the Information Bureau of the Communist Parties, created in March 1947 and tasked with party-ideological supervision over the newly-minted “allies” and “satellites”.95 In 1949, in response to the Marshall Plan and the creation of OEEC, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance was formed. Its main objective was the permanent establishment of the communist economic model in the member countries (eight of them to begin with) and autarchy in the face of the West (breaking of earlier connections to avoid “the threat” of interdependency). Finally, in response to the Paris treaties signed by the Western countries in 1954,96 the Warsaw Pact was created. It stood not just as a political and military alliance but also as a powerful instrument through which Moscow could discipline its “allies”, as confirmed by the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces, once it became clear that there was a probability of substantial reform of the socialist system in that country, and the introduction of “socialism with a human face”. Not surprisingly, Moscow took this, quite rightly, as an attempt to depart from socialism altogether. ← 71 | 72 →

Thus, there emerged a tightly bound, monolithic block of countries excluded from Europe in all aspects except for geography, heralding an impending “historic victory” over Europe, or at least her political systems and her civilisation as these were practised by the countries of Western Europe. This victory was to be reached either through “inevitable war” (Moscow gave up on the “inevitability of war” in 1956) or through peaceful competition, in which “the forces of peace, progress and socialism” (as defined by many party declarations) would prove their superiority over the opponents. Without getting into too many details of this construct and its evolution after 1956, including the time of detente, Moscow wished to create its own “anti-Europe” through its sphere of influence. This only serves to underscore the situation in which Europe found herself as a result of World War II and the divisions which had followed.

3 The birth of the “Little Europe” in the shadow of its protector from across the Atlantic

The disasters and ruin of World War II, Europe’s division and the transfer of influence to external powers – these are not the only pieces of bad luck that befell the continent at that time. Shortly afterwards, many nations and territories of Africa and Asia began to free themselves from under Europe’s colonial domination. Undoubtedly, that was one of the reasons why countries of Western Europe, of whom many had been colonial powers, would take a keener interest in Europe herself. The process of decolonisation outside of Europe hastened and supported the process of European integration.

Decolonisation had begun just after World War II. Within the subsequent fifteen years, the Europeans would part with possessions which they had been gradually gathering through the previous three centuries or more. There were several reasons for the sudden implosion of this global, if diverse, system, starting with the consequences of World War II. Soldiers conscripted from the colonies had served in European armies and assisted “their overlords” in regaining… independence and freedom. That experience could not be taken away from them. The earlier failure of those “overlords” and their subsequent misery meant that much of their legitimacy was already lost. This was compounded by the blighting of their military and financial powers, a process which crippled their ability to enforce obedience in the colonies. The other reason was, of course, support for the process of decolonisation from the side of the superpowers which took the opportunity to replace the Europeans and extend their global influence, in line with their universalist message which they preached. This was true in particular in the case of the Soviet Union which, in addition to supporting the ← 72 | 73 → process itself, offered a model of development which appeared to be a shortcut to making up lost ground in terms of civilisational and economic development. The Americans also supported decolonisation as it fit very well into their “freedom mission”. An apt demonstration of anti-colonial cooperation of the superpowers was their action against the intervention of Europe’s colonial powers – Great Britain and France – following the nationalisation of the Suez Canal in 1956. Thirdly, keeping colonies ceased to be profitable in every sense – financial, political and moral. Drawn-out conflicts impacted the finances of the colonial powers and angered public opinion. It would be more profitable to grant independence to the colonies while keeping political and, especially, economic influence, along the lines of the US influence in Latin America.

The process began already in 1945, with the dismantling of British imperial acquisitions in South Asia and the Middle East. India, the jewel in the imperial crown, gained independence in 1947, with independent Pakistan being carved out of the territory at the same time. Indonesia (East Indies) gained independence from Holland in the 1940s. At the same time, the nations of Indochina began their fight to free themselves from France. The humbling defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 became a psychological turning point in the process: it was easier to divest of the colonies quickly, and without a fight. The Americans did not draw any conclusions from the defeat of the French and mired themselves in a bloody conflict which would last till 1973. Decolonisation of Africa began in earnest only in the second half of the 1950s. At the beginning of that decade only three countries were independent – Ethiopia, Liberia and what would later become the Republic of South Africa, where power was held by the whites. Later decolonisation ran its course quite easily, with the exception of the Kenyan uprising violently put down by the British and the drawn-out conflict in Algeria (seen by Paris as an overseas department of France herself). The process of dismantling the French empire in West and Equatorial Africa was hastened by President de Gaulle who preferred to concentrate on healing France than on fighting lost causes.97 The year 1960 was therefore made “the Year of Africa”. The United Nation (UN) proclaimed the famous Declaration on granting independence to colonised states and peoples. A year later, the non-aligned states movement was formally launched. Moscow was quick to seek to extend ← 73 | 74 → its influence there, while the so-called Third World became an arena for rivalry between the West and the East.98

And so, in under twenty years following the war, an important attribute of Europe’s greatness and her place in the international order was taken away. Empires fell like houses of cards, as Great Britain, France, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Portugal lost their former possessions. In the case of Portugal, the last of its colonies were lost in the mid-1970s. London and Paris attempted to retain relationships and influence in their former colonies through various formulas, under the common banner of a Commonwealth. This, undoubtedly, allowed them to keep some of their imperial prestige (a common language, a type of monetary community in the Pound zone or the Franc zone) as well as the influence of Europe as a civilisation.

The experience of two world wars, the division of Europe and protectorate of the United States and the loss of colonies encouraged the Europeans to take care of themselves, or to lay down such conditions for peaceful international relations as to give everyone a chance for economic and civilisational development. The overriding motive was peace. “The contribution which an organised and living Europe can bring to civilisation is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. In taking upon herself for more than 20 years the role of champion of a united Europe, France has always had as her essential aim the service of peace. A united Europe was not achieved and we had war”. Thus spoke the French foreign minister Robert Schuman in Paris on 9 May 1950. His speech contained a plan99 proposed by Jean Monnet, another French politician deeply engaged in the creation of European unity. The core of the plan was the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, in effect turning over these industries, crucial to building of armaments, to common, pan-national management. ← 74 | 75 → And so, on 18 April 1951 six countries signed the treaty – France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux nations. The Kellogg–Briand Pact forbade war; the Schuman–Monnet plan made it impossible. This was a Copernican breakthrough in the history of Europe, following many centuries of wars great and small which only served to weaken the Continent from the inside.

The movement for European unity had begun a few years earlier. Winston Churchill’s September 1946 speech provided some important impetus, as the former, and future, British Prime Minister referred to the “United States of Europe”.100 A lot of political activity by numerous, diverse political and ideological groupings culminated in the European Congress at The Hague in May 1948. The fruit it bore, along with the formalisation of the movement itself, was the creation of the Council of Europe in May of 1949. Its founders intended it to be a unifying organisation for the free, western part of the Old Continent. It was given broad-ranging powers, reaching into important domains of international affairs, with the exception of issues of security which had already been assigned to the Atlantic Alliance. The Council had one significant weakness, however – it was a loose, coordinating forum. It had no integrative powers – which suited the British approach to European unity (“don’t let our freedom to manoeuvre be limited in the slightest”). London was still betting on the “special relationship” with the United States and on imperial interests.

The countries of the Continent, whose experience of World War II was incomparably more painful than Britain’s, harboured traditions of thinking about European federalism. They decided not to wait for Britain with its “splendid isolation”. Therefore, as soon as the Coal and Steel Community was in place, two more integrative projects appeared – European Defence Community (EDC) and European Political Community (EPC) (1952–1954). The project moved along but the French, unilaterally, rejected the EDC in 1954 and the EPC automatically fell. At that time, incredibly, proponents of a united Europe, instead of giving up, proposed an even more ambitious project. A year after the rejection of the EDC treaty, work began on full integration along a common market model, allowing for free trade of goods, services, capital and labour (the four freedoms). The common market would have technocratic agencies (Commission), political mechanisms (Council, Assembly) and a judiciary (Tribunal). It would also have a number of other mechanisms, serving the purpose of opening the member ← 75 | 76 → states and their nations to each other. The plan for this model was not only to prevent any hostile undertakings but also, importantly, to hasten the development of European nations and return to them some faith in their own civilisation through the synergies and expansion of freedom which would follow. The British again refused to take part in European unification. The treaty creating the European Economic Community (EEC) was signed in Rome on 25 March 1957. A great day in the history of modern Europe.101

For a little over ten years, the Community was composed of the same six states, resulting in the EEC being referred to as “the six”, in addition to the “common market” and “little Europe”. Indeed, it had been “little” to begin with, but as it grew in strength, “little Europe” expanded its integration within the group and moved beyond it. From the beginning of the 1970s, it developed in three main directions: acquisition of new member states, political cooperation and development of trade relations with the outside world, including aid to less well-developed nations. These are well-known matters, with extensive literature, so at this stage we will have only a few paragraphs, for the sake of gaining a proper perspective.102 The British quickly realised that they had underestimated the potential of the integrative model initiated by “the six” and applied for membership at the beginning of the 1960s. President de Gaulle blocked it, believing the UK to be an American “Trojan horse”. He did not trust London’s intentions. Several years later, the UK applied again, and again de Gaulle slammed the door in their face. He did not wish to allow for any “diversionary tactics” employed against the accepted model of integration before it had had a chance to properly establish itself. The UK finally entered the EEC with Denmark and Ireland in 1973, following de Gaulle’s departure. In the 1980s, Greece, Holland and Portugal joined the organisation, following, in each case, the collapse of an internal autocratic regime. The number of members of “little Europe” thus doubled but would remain at twelve until 1995. ← 76 | 77 →

In an effort not to remain closed off in a strictly technocratic or economic formula of integration, the late 1960s saw the emergence of efforts to give the Community political agency too. In October 1970, the foreign ministers of “the six” gathered in Luxembourg and announced the need for closer political cooperation. They saw such cooperation as necessary in the light of “a need to prepare Europe for her duty towards the World, such as will inevitably arise out of her increased integrity and growing international role”. The ministerial declaration demonstrated Europe’s yearning for a greater international role, which had been taken away by the war. The heads of diplomacy of those countries began to meet regularly and, starting in 1974 and at the instigation of the French, so did government leaders. Those meetings became a new institution of the European Community – the Council of Europe, signalling Europe’s readiness to enter international affairs. There were many ideas which suggested that the process ought to go further (for instance the famous Tindemans Report of 1975)103 but by the end of the Cold War only one uniform European Act was created, in 1986, setting down a more solid base for European political cooperation. In it, the members undertook to act as a “unified force in international relations or international organisations”.104

Europe was “little” but already in the 1960s and 1970s began to regain her former shine, due in large part to her economic success, a renewal and return to vitality following the destruction of World War II, an advantageous social model, stable democracy and development of human rights. Her culture also radiated outwards – Italian and French cinema, The Beatles, Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour conquered the hearts of audiences in many parts of the World. European literature was still favourite with the book reading public. Admiration for the graceful elegance of Vienna or Paris went hand in hand with recognition for ← 77 | 78 → European cuisines and the unequalled quality of wine from many of her regions. High culture was similarly esteemed. The World would have gladly welcomed Europe to the spheres of grand politics, but that would need to wait.

External relations of the EEC at the time were limited to preferential trade agreements with former colonies, mainly in Africa. Initially that had been a series of agreements signed at Yaoundé and later, from the mid-1970s, the Lomé conventions, renewed every five years, which included also countries of the Caribbean and the Pacific. This category was to facilitate ongoing development of those nations on the one hand, and to keep them within Europe’s sphere of influence. Interestingly, Eastern Europe did not figure at all in the EEC’s external relations. When the region did appear, it was only in the context of ministerial conferences, sittings of the Council of Europe, mentioned somewhere between the issue of East Timor and the problems of Latin America. A “United Europe” was not envisaged, nor was any possibility of future membership for Central European states. The identity of Europe at the time covered only Western Europe. Official documents do not betray even a shade of hope that the Iron Curtain would ever fall.

4 Attempts at dialogue between “East” and “West” and the sudden fall of the Iron Curtain

In the seventies, there was a break in the Cold War. It was a time of reconciliation and initiating contacts between nations who had been divided by the Iron Curtain. The overall division itself seemed stable so there was no fear of a risk of disturbing the strategic equilibrium. Without much resistance, both sides participated in negotiations in 1972 leading up to the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in 1973. Soon the entirety of these talks and agreements came to be known as CSCE also called in the West the Helsinki Process – after the location of the talks. On 1 August 1975, thirty-five countries of the East and West – from NATO and the Warsaw Pact, but also including neutral countries – signed the Helsinki Final Act. The document defined the principles of mutual relations and created the framework for cooperation in many areas, from the economy, through energy policy and transport to science and sport, as well as interpersonal relations. Moscow wished to thereby obtain ultimate recognition for what had been called in the party–government documents of the communist bloc the “Yalta-Potsdam territorial and political order”. In the West, the perception was rather the opposite – it was considered that with its articles concerning the respect for human rights and the openness of the communist countries to economic or interpersonal relations, the CSCE would serve the liberalisation of ← 78 | 79 → the regimes in the East and their increased independence from Moscow. However, the implementation of the provisions of the Final Act did not seem to be overcoming the divisions of Europe.105 In the second half of the seventies, an anti-communist opposition developed behind the Iron Curtain – though illegal it was nonetheless already becoming publicly visible. The leading role in these opposition movements was played by the Polish opposition. Every few years in Poland there was an anti-systemic event culminating in its brutal pacification by the authorities. Ever since the signing of the Final Act, the democratic opposition, though anti-systemic, enjoyed international legitimation which it was able to invoke. And Western countries acquired a means of exerting pressure on the East. The culmination of this new tendency was the revolution of Solidarity (1980–1981) which could be held in check only by the introduction of martial law. But the ideological failure of communism was complete: the army stood against a workers’ movement, born in the “Lenin” Shipyard.

After that it was downhill all the way. Though in the first half of the eighties there was a short-lived return to the atmosphere of the Cold War with dialogue and cooperation broken off, sanctions and militarisation. The Soviet Union was only temporarily able to take up the challenge. It was not able to substitute its – however powerful – military might for its deficit in legitimation. The deepening economic crisis in the Eastern Bloc made it impossible to sustain the basic material needs of its societies. Communism lost in its competition with democratic and free-market countries across the board. Ultimately the system burnt out from the inside. No one could be in any doubt as to which model was the better one, which provided better for the material and spiritual needs of individuals and nations.

The fall of the communist bloc surprised everyone. At the end of the eighties, the outlawed Polish “Solidarity” regained some space for action, as the communist government felt they would be unable to bring the country out of the deep economic and social crisis without their help. The striving for freedom was also apparent in other countries. In Central Europe the most symbolic figures, ← 79 | 80 → besides the Polish electrician Lech Wałęsa, was the Czech intellectual Václav Havel. And the fomentation in Central Europe found its counterpart in the deeds of the young Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev who undertook to lead the USSR out of crisis and save communism by deeply reforming it. But it was too late for that – even assuming that it would have been possible to reform communism. The United States, under Ronald Reagan’s leadership, saw the opportunity to hasten the demise of the communist bloc – in what was essentially an ideological battle – and remove once for all a dangerous contender for global leadership. Hence, the comprehensive programme of the administration intended to accelerate the collapse of communism (a more proactive version of keeping communism in check).106 At the end of the eighties, during the rise of a revolutionary spirit in Central Europe, the leaders and observers of Western Europe (those in the EEC) failed to notice that one of the main factors in the dramatic changes was the desire to return to a Europe of nations, to no longer be a region subject to a civilisationally foreign Soviet domination.


84 B. Simms, Europe. The Struggle for Supremacy, from 1453 to the Present, Basic Books, New York, 2013, p. 456.

85 B. Simms, op. cit., p. 459.

86 For a more detailed discussion, see: J. Holzer, Europa zimnej wojny [Europe in the Cold War], Znak, Kraków, 2012, pp. 173–196.

87 P. Courtois et al., Czarna księga komunizmu. Zbrodnie, terror, prześladowania, Prószyński i S-ka, Warsaw, 1999. The chapter concerned with Poland was written by Prof. A. Paczkowski.

88 W. Churchill, This Is Certainly Not the Liberated Europe We Sought to Build Up, “International Herald Tribune”, 12 March 1999.

89 The Plan meant some 13 billion dollars for Europe, although the full extent of America’s assistance was almost twice of that. Further discussion in: J. Holzer, op. cit., Chapter 5: Odbudowa gospodarcza na Zachodzie [Economic Revitalisation in the West].

90 In the following years the share dropped slowly to around 25%, where it remained for the subsequent decades.

91 A London initiative which bound Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in a military alliance.

92 R. Kuźniar, Polityka i siła…, op. cit., p. 207 and subsequent pages.

93 The establishment of the International Trade Organization (ITO), the third of the planned institutions, did not eventuate. In its place, 1947 saw the creation of GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

94 See also: W. Roszkowski, Półwiecze. Historia polityczna świata po 1945 roku [A Half-Century. The Political History of the World after 1945], Wyd. Naukowe PWN, Warsaw, 1997, Chapter: W bloku komunistycznym [In the Communist Bloc]; and J. Holzer, op. cit., Chapter: Tworzenie bloku wschodniego i żelazna kurtyna [Creating the Eastern Bloc and the Iron Curtain].

95 It was dissolved quickly, in 1956, following the “renewal” after the twentieth assembly of the Communist Party of the USSR, and due to the permanent establishment of “real socialism” in the satellite countries and their connection to Moscow.

96 They led to the creation of the Western European Union and the Brussels Pact, and to the inclusion of the Federal Republic of Germany in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

97 It was precisely the costs and crises related to keeping a hold on the colonies (Indochina and Algeria) which were the nail in the coffin for the IV Republic. The creator of the V Republic, General Charles de Gaulle, was committed to independence for African states.

98 The concept of the “Third World” was used in the Cold War period of East-West confrontation to describe countries, mainly former colonies, exhibiting a lower level of economic development and where their model of development was not a combination of democracy and free market, nor was it “real socialism”. A large number of these countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, founded – at the conference of Cairo and Belgrade in 1961 – the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a loose coalition of countries avoiding identification with one of the main camps. See also: W. Roszkowski, op. cit., pp. 138–154.

99 The text of Schuman’s Declaration (in Polish and French) in: P. Parzymies (ed.), Integracja europejska w dokumentach [European Integration in Documents], Polski Instytut Spraw Międzynarodowych, Warsaw, 2008, p. 100 and subsequent pages. Full English text: https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/symbols/europe-day/schuman-declaration_en.

100 The idea of the United States of Europe had appeared in France in mid-XIX century, then returned in the late 1920s and early 1930s as the Pan-European Movement was gaining popularity.

101 The roots of this project, and the biographies of the founding fathers, are exceptionally well presented in: J. Łukaszewski, Cel: Europa. Dziewięć esejów o budowniczych jedności europejskiej [Goal: Europe. Nine Essays on Building European Unity], Noir sur Blanc, Warsaw, 2002.

102 More detailed discussion to be found, for example, in: Z.M. Doliwa-Klepacki, Integracja europejska [European Integration], Temida 2, Białystok, 2003; K. Łastawski, Historia integracji europejskiej [History of European Integration], Adam Marszałek, Toruń, 2006; Integracja europejska w dokumentach [European Integration in Documents], in: P. Parzymies (ed.), PISM, Warsaw, 2008.

103 The Belgian Prime Minister’s report, commissioned by the European Community summit in 1974, saw the EEC being transformed into EU. Section B, Point 1 states that, “European Union implies that we present a united front to the outside world. We must tend to act in common in all the main fields of our external relations whether in foreign policy, security, economic relations or development aid”. The report itself was not put in practice, in part due to strong opposition by London, by then an European Commission (EC) member. Its constituent parts would be, however, gradually integrated into EEC and EU treaties. Polish text of the report in: P. Parzymies (ed.), op. cit. English original at: https://www.cvce.eu/en/education/unit-content/-/unit/02bb76df-d066-4c08-a58a-d4686a3e68ff/63f5fca7-54ec-4792-8723-1e626324f9e3/Resources#284c9784-9bd2-472b-b704-ba4bb1f3122d_en&overlay.

104 Text of the Act, ibid.

105 It is no coincidence that the chapter on the situation in Europe in 1979–1985 in: J. Kukułka Historii współczesnej stosunków międzynarodowych 1945–2000 [A History of Contemporary International Relations 1945–2000], Warsaw, 2001, is called Utrwalanie podziału Europy [Sustaining the Division of Europe]. The next chapter is: Nowe napięcia w stosunkach ogólnoeuropejskich (1980–1985) [New Tensions in General European Relations (1980–1985)]. However, the author identifies the sources of these negative phenomena exclusively in the “policies of NATO countries” which is a historical distortion (pp. 271–298).

106 R. Kuźniar, Polityka i siła…, op. cit., pp. 134–145.