College of LAS « Illinois

Polictical Science

EU Expansion May Alter U.S.'s World Role

EU economy is now larger than that of the United States.


This June, the European Union saw its greatest single enlargement since its formation in 1957. The growth bumped the EU up to 25 countries from 15, significantly increasing the weight of its economy and voice in the international arena.

The ramifications will be far reaching, says political science professor and EU expert Robert Pahre, affecting the farmer in Poland to the Bush administration in Washington.

"When these central and eastern European countries joined the EU, it opened up possibilities for many of the people who have been suffering the effects of Communism for the past decade," Pahre says. "But there won't be equality when it comes to the benefits. If you're a Pole who already knows English, German, and French, all kinds of opportunities will open up because you'll have the freedom to move to other countries in the EU to find better jobs with better pay. But if you're a farmer in rural Poland with a horse and cart you take to the market to make a living, you'll only see more competition from the open trading."

The U.S. will also feel more competition than ever before as the growing size and strength of the European Union affects the U.S. voice in the world.

"The U.S. has always just been able to make rules about things like product safety and then assume everyone else will have to follow because we're the economic powerhouse," says Pahre.

"But when you think about the EU's economy, which is now a bit bigger than the U.S.'s, and when you consider the 80,000 pages of common rules being adopted by all its members, it becomes obvious that the U.S. will have to get used to sitting down at the table with
someone else."

Matters such as anti-trust law, professional certification, accounting, and mergers and acquisitions will also be affected as the growing European voice strives to protect its interests. In all areas, Pahre says, the U.S. must learn to collaborate rather than just lead.

"We especially have to get used to being partners with Europe in areas such as trade negotiations and security policy," Pahre says. "If we work with Europe, we can have successful military operations like the occupation of Afghanistan. If we don't learn to play well with others, we'll see repeats of the political divisions we have now over Iraq."

The EU was formed by the 1957 Treaty of Rome, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg. The 10 countries added in June include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Cypress.

Summer 2004