The European Union has been an astonishing success. It has helped create prosperity and peace across a continent devastated by the two most destructive wars in human history and then divided by an iron curtain. Its challenge now is to adapt to the world of the 21st century.
On March 25 1957, the six original members (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands) signed the treaties known as the treaties of Rome. Today, after successive enlargements, the EU has 27 members, with an aggregate population of 493m that generates 30 per cent of world gross product, at market prices. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then enlargement is flattery’s apotheosis. Each wave of members has chosen to absorb not just the EU’s values, but its body of laws, the celebrated acquis communautaire, recently estimated at 170,000 pages of legislation.