Washington. -- Rome was not built in a day, and the Treaty of Rome, establishing the bases of European Union has been decades in developing. But, step by step, the construction and integration of Europe proceeds. The first of this year, the single European market was born. The first of last month, the Maastricht Treaty came into effect.
Without fireworks the European Community thus transformed itself into the European Union -- the EC into the EU. The citizens of the 12 member-states became citizens of the European Union as well. There is not yet a single currency, but one is scheduled to arrive no later than the end of the century. There are not yet common borders among all 12, but the Schengen Accords have mitigated boundaries among member-states. There is not yet a federal United States of Europe, but meaningful new steps toward "pooling sovereignty" have begun.
For supporters of the European Union it is a gratifying time. The will to union in Europe has survived and persisted against high odds, against competing claims and cross-cutting loyalties, in spite of the Cold War and the dismantling of the Eastern Bloc, in spite of German reunification and its accompanying economic strains, in spite of Margaret Thatcher's serious misgivings and opposition, in spite of Iberian wines (detested by French farmers) and Iberian instability.
It has survived in spite of deep differences in language, history and political values. And now it gives every evidence that it will survive the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and NATO even though these institutions may succumb to the strains imposed on them by the EC.
And European Union is still growing -- driven by its dominant idea, its French president, Jacques Delors, its large and skillful bureaucracy in Brussels, and by the special relationship of France and Germany.
In her memoir, "The Downing Street Years," Mrs. Thatcher comments on the close relationship between France and Germany that enabled them to dominate the European Community and to diminish Britain's influence. "Although this relationship may have seemed to depend on personal rapport -- between President Giscard and Chancellor Schmidt or President Mitterrand and Chancellor Kohl . . . it is explicable in terms of history and perceptions of long-term interest." As such, it is a permanent feature of the European Union.
The relationship between France and Germany not only enables them to shape EC policy, but through the EC to greatly influence the alternatives available to the United States as well. The reaffirmation by France and Germany of their intention to develop a 40,000-man "Eurocorps" promises to exert a major influence on the development and role of NATO in the next decade.
Its purposes were described by the German defense minister, Volker Ruehe: "The Eurocorps is the central building stone for European defense. We are creating an instrument for a joint foreign and security policy of Europeans." He noted that the European defense force would be based in Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament, and that other members of the European Community would be joining at some future date.
In case of war, Mr. Ruehe explained, the Eurocorps would be placed under NATO command, and for that reason France would attend some NATO meetings for the first time since Charles de Gaulle withdrew France from NATO and NATO from France in 1964.
But -- we should be clear -- the Eurocorps is to be a European force, not part of an Atlantic Alliance. Its non-integration into NATO is what distinguishes the Eurocorps from the Western European Union, a force which is integrated into NATO.
Why do France and Germany desire a military that will inevitably duplicate aspects of NATO, if NATO is to persist in roughly its present form?
The answer, I think, is the magnetism of the European idea: and the desire of both France and Germany to be a superpower in an age of superpowers. To an extent that most Americans have failed to understand, France and Germany are engaged in nation-building. And nations have governments, ambassadors, armies, identities and interests; therefore, the European Union must have them too.
France has worked particularly hard to not only build the European Union, but to stamp it with a distinctive French brand of nationalism and protectionism seen in France's intractable demands for agricultural subsidies. The decision by the EC to accede to France's demands for new concessions in the GATT negotiations on agriculture reminded us that EC unity sometimes comes at the expense of the United States or even the world trading system, but never at the expense of the French farmer.
European Union promises to crack open the remaining institutions of the post-World War II era. It will require some new thinking on America's role in Europe's economic and security affairs.
Jeane Kirkpatrick is a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.