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Europe

German Press Review: A Beautiful Chapter in European History

German editorialists on Friday warmed up for EU expansion, which will take place Saturday.

The business paper Handelsblatt was worried not so much by the expansion as by the concerns that people have about it. Angst is a German word which has crept into other languages, it pointed out, and EU expansion will cause the Germans more of it: angst about immigration, angst about jobs losses, angst about tougher competition. Those feelings will be mixed with German skepticism towards the Brussels bureaucracy. "All this angst is unfounded, and an honest debate about the consequences of expansion would have put paid to it." There are tough processes of adaptation ahead, Handelsblatt concluded, at the same time as the expanded single market will turn out to be a huge program for prosperity.

"From May 1 the clocks in Europe will run differently," the tabloid Berliner Kurier trumpeted. "Friends, where once were bitter enemies; peace, where the Cold War once poisoned hearts," it waxed lyrical. "There'll be new, different fears, but in spite of all the question marks, we know: there has never been a better Europe."

The Frankfurter Rundschau adopted a warning tone. The EU may be getting bigger, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's getting stronger. The EU has to advance to a more significant position in the world, the paper insisted. The EU linked the decision to expand with the deepening of political relationships. "If that fails because of national vanity, the EU will knock itself out of the story. No one needs a big, weak Europe," it concluded, "not the world and not the Europeans."

The Financial Times Deutschland also mixed its celebration with a warning. Expansion is "the challenge of the century," it said. But it warned against approaching this unification in the same way as the reunification of Germany was approached, when those joining were simply expected to submit to the old rules. In this country, it pointed out, reunification brutally revealed weaknesses in the West German economic and social systems. Now Germany is going through painful reforms, and at the end will emerge either as a radically-reformed nation or Europe's biggest drop-out. "The EU now stands before an equally strong pressure for reform." The new EU must deliver what even its biggest members can't: internal security and the power to make a difference internationally. There's only one way for that to happen, the paper said: the countries must give up some of their sovereignty. "Whether the citizens are prepared to do so," it concluded, "depends on what the political leaders can achieve." "Have we really understood what's happening tomorrow?" asked Die Welt. May 1, 2004 is not just another date on the political calendar, it claimed. It's the consummation of one of the most significant and above all one of the most beautiful chapters in European history. We (Germans) should be celebrating. It's not just the increase in size by 75 million people, more than anything else it shows that: "We've overcome the division of Europe once and for all."

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