Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The New Force In the EU: Here Comes Spain?

I have a confession to make. I think there was something wrong about the way that the Western democracies celebrated the 50th anniversary of the D-day landings in Normandy last week. In the first place, they portrayed the allied operation as the decisive phase in the crusade against history's most evil ideology. This was an insult to the millions of Soviet soldiers who, from 1941 to 1945, fought and died while bearing the brunt of the battle. It may be inconvenient that these soldiers were commanded by Stalin, but in the interests of historical justice it is disgraceful to play down their heroism. Second, all the anniversary speeches about the liberation of Europe in 1944 and 1945 sounded rather hypocritical when you remembered that countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia were by no means set free by the landings. Looking at Presidents Lech Walesa of Poland and Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic as they attended the ceremonies last week, it was hard not to wonder if they felt the same way. Third, and most importantly, where were the Germans? The defeat of Nazism was as much a triumph for the German people as it was for the other nations of Europe. Fifty years on, surely it is time to bury the hatchet. As it happens, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl found other ways to fill his time last week than to watch the D-day commemorations on CNN. He went to Schwerin, a town in what used to be East Germany, and hosted a summit with Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez. This meeting may have been more important for Europe than all the pomp and ceremony in Normandy. Kohl said after the talks that Germany, France and Spain intended to form a "troika" within the European Union and pursue coordinated policies from July 1994 to January 1996. This is the period in which these three countries will each hold the EU presidency for six months. It will likely be the most crucial time in Western Europe's post-war history, since in 1996 the EU holds a conference that will determine if Europe becomes a political and economic union or breaks up into antagonistic nation-states. It may seem odd to think of Spain as part of a tripartite bloc that will shape Europe's future. Germany and France, sure, but Spain? Would it not be more natural for Italy or Britain, countries that have bigger populations and larger economies than Spain, to be the third top cat? Do not underestimate Spain. Recently, it has acquired the opportunity to play a pivotal role in Europe. The election in Italy of a right-wing government that contains neo-fascists has, for better or worse, greatly reduced Rome's voice in European affairs. Meanwhile, Britain is discounted because it seems eternally unsure about its European destiny. The next most important EU country is Spain, and Gonzalez knows it. What this means for Europe remains to be seen. But we know that Spain, as a southern country, is suspicious about the imminent entry into the EU of four central and northern states -- Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Spain also thinks the balance of EU power could be tipped even further away from the Mediterranean if Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary join the EU. As a result, the EU's expansion into Eastern Europe could well be held up, and trouble is looming on the European horizon.