The Startling Reason Europe Is Expanding East
“Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2007” had nothing on the parties in Bulgaria and Romania during the wee hours of January 1. It was a “heavenly moment,” Bulgaria’s president said, when his country became a member of the European Union.
An EU flag ascended a pole near Romania’s capital building to the strains of the European anthem: Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”—the same piece Leonard Bernstein conducted in Berlin 17 years ago to celebrate the Wall’s fall, when he changed the German word for joy (“Freude”) to freedom (“Freiheit”).
Within 24 hours of accession, 9,000 Romanians experienced their own “ode to freedom” when they crossed into Hungary. Most simply went for a cup of coffee and came right back home.
With the addition of Bulgaria and Romania, the 27-nation EU now borders the resource-rich Black Sea and governs half a billion people.
Romania and Bulgaria are the latest of a slew of former Communist, Soviet-dominated states to join the Union. Eight others joined in 2004. In 2010, Croatia hopes to be the second nation, after Slovenia, that once comprised Yugoslavia to join the EU since the republic crumbled in the early 1990s.
Meanwhile, also on January 1, Slovenia joined the eurozone—the group of EU nations using the Union’s monetary unit. In the first two weeks of the year, its 2 million citizens gave up their tolars for euros, making Slovenia the first Eastern European nation to join the EU’s common currency.
So why is the EU so intent on absorbing Eastern Europe?
The answer has to do with the most dramatic news event occurring on Earth right now. It’s not the war in Iraq or the nukes in Iran. It’s not the ongoing hunt for Osama or the U.S. presidential campaign of Obama.
What has been building in Europe—now for the past 50 years—is going to be the greatest single event to impact your life to this point.
Why Eastern Europe?
How the eastern half of Europe is being incorporated into a united Europe is a huge element in this developing story. It is something the Trumpet has been watching for years. The Plain Truth magazine before us, until the death of its founder in 1986, was also monitoring these developments—amazingly, as far back as the 1950s, when Eastern European nations were mere pawns of the Soviet Union.
Again, let us ask: Why is the European Union so intent on absorbing Eastern Europe? What benefit does it gain from uniting with poor, underdeveloped, corruption-ridden countries still reeling from years of Soviet oppression and Communist dictatorships?
In the case of the recent two entrants, the living conditions in some slums in Romania are notoriously worse than those in Third World countries, while Bulgarian cities host packs of often-dangerous stray dogs.
Romania’s parliament is arguably now one of the most unreformed institutions in the Union. EUobserver.com reports, “Former secret police officers, apparatchiks and pillars of the Communist Party are still doing and undoing party alliances, hindering reforms and mutilating laws beyond recognition” (Dec. 22, 2006).
Bulgaria is now the only EU state where Muslims, 12 percent of its population, are not recent immigrants but a centuries-old local community—remnants of the Ottoman Empire.
In addition to political and social risks, there is also simple economics.
Absorbing poorer countries into the Union is expensive. Back in 2004, nine of the 10 new members all had per capita incomes lower than the average among the 15 existing EU members. Forty billion euros in aid has been earmarked for the two newest members, in addition to all the aid they have already received to help them prepare for accession.
Europe is also expecting—and placing temporary legislative measures to guard against—mass migration from the newer members into the developed west part of the Continent. When Poland joined the EU, for example, tens of thousands of its citizens registered for work in nations like Ireland and the United Kingdom. Net migration to the UK nearly doubled between 2004 and 2005; 400,000 came from the East. Britain is expecting 50,000 to 60,000 new workers in 2007 from the EU’s newest members. This trend raises all sorts of concerns for Europe’s more developed nations, some of which have record unemployment and a history of xenophobia toward the Slavic East. In addition, with the Eastern nations having lower labor costs, fears abound that companies may relocate to these countries once they become EU members, taking jobs from the higher-cost Western states.
Add to this the fact that Europe seems to be suffering from “enlargement fatigue”: It’s just tired of getting bigger. About half of Europeans don’t want the EU to grow any more—the percentage being higher in larger, wealthier nations. Many officials argue that the EU is getting too big and is headed for disaster. Its meetings are too long and boring, they say, and usually produce nothing but resolutions to hold more meetings. Bureaucracy weighs down the decision-making process so much that many experts wonder if this European experiment is doomed.
So why take on two more members? Why promise to take on still more, even if that won’t be until 2010? Are Eurocrats simply signing their own death warrant—sure to choke on the gluttony of federal expansionism?
Considering these apparent risks, it is fascinating that EU leaders continue to press forward with the absorption of these Eastern nations. Let’s examine some of their reasons for doing so.
Historically, Western European thinkers at the helm of the European unity movement have always wanted to incorporate Eastern Europe to serve as a hedge against Russia. Otto von Habsburg, in his 1957 book The Social Order of Tomorrow, called for the liberation of the Balkans in order for this to happen.
In the case of influential German dignitary Franz Joseph Strauss, unifying Europe and enticing the Eastern nations to join the growth and power of the West was the only way to reunite Germany. Western Europe had to become economically and politically attractive to encourage Eastern countries to break away from Soviet domination, which would re-unite Germany—and, of course, place it geographically at the center of Europe.
European leaders continued to pursue this strategy even after the Cold War ended and the Soviet Communist empire was no more. This suggests that the strategic value in extending EU borders remains.
First, Western Europe sees in these Eastern states an attractive bounty of critical resources. This is vital to Europe’s ability to shield itself from any future unpredictability from Russia.
To prepare for EU entry, Bulgaria was required to privatize seven of the government’s power distribution companies, enabling them to be snapped up by companies in Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria. Romania is Central and Eastern Europe’s largest producer of natural gas; it has the largest oil reserves in Central and Eastern Europe; and it contains 10 of southeast Europe’s 11 petroleum refineries. On the coast of the Black Sea, Romania is a major energy transport point via the ports of Constanta and Tulcea.
These two nations are also home to several major pipeline plans, with infrastructure designed to transport resources from the Black Sea (a major route for world oil exports) into Europe and to feed Europe the resources its needs from the Caspian Sea without Russia having to be involved.
Some argue that these poorer nations will not bring the EU down economically but will do just the opposite. Finnish Parliament member Alexander Stubb, for example, writing for the Financial Times, stated, “Some claimed the ‘Polish plumber’ would lead to the downfall of the whole Union. In fact, the new, mainly Eastern and Central European countries, have provided a much needed new dynamic” (Dec. 7, 2006). These countries—being relatively new to the free, capitalist world—are experiencing rapid growth. Eurocrats argue that the East’s highly motivated work force will be an asset for the EU economy.
As compelling as these factors may appear, there is another reason—and far more historic—that drives Europe’s push east.
It lies in religion.
In his book The Clash of Civilizations, groundbreaking political scientist Samuel Huntington asks an important question: Where does Europe end? Its northern, western and southern borders are all outlined by great bodies of water. But where does it end in the east? He answers: “Europe ends where Western Christianity ends and Islam and Orthodoxy begin.”
Yet, if that is true, Europe has already overstepped its bounds, inviting nations in that are largely Orthodox. It did so in 1981, when Greece joined the Common Market, and is doing so again by letting Romania and Bulgaria enter.
But religion is indeed the key. In fact, the Vatican has played a significant role in this entire eastward push.
Pope John Paul ii, originally from Poland himself, was the catalyst for bringing his homeland out from under Soviet tyranny. Just six months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he was in Czechoslovakia proclaiming the ideology that Christianity needed both its “eastern and western lungs” to breathe. Fourteen years later, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and six other Eastern European countries joined the EU club.
Less than two years after communism’s fall, the pope (supported by Germany) bucked world opinion and recognized the predominantly Catholic breakaway states of Croatia and Slovenia, which led to about a decade of grisly conflict and the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Now Slovenia is a full-fledged member of the EU and part of the eurozone, and Croatia is set to join the Union in 2010. It was only five years ago that Bulgaria, steeped in Orthodoxy, received its first-ever papal visit—and now it is the newest EU state.
What John Paul ii was doing the last two decades of his life—from helping tear down the Iron Curtain to inspiring religious revivals in once-Communist nations—was actually building the eastern leg of a historic empire.
His successor, Benedict xvi, is holding the same banner of drawing the East in politically and religiously. He has made his drive for increasing cooperation between the Orthodox East and the Vatican a defining mission of his papacy.
Catholics and Orthodox, he said, “have the duty to defend the Christian roots of Europe, which have formed the continent down the centuries …. [W]e must increase collaboration among Christians in all European countries in order to face the new risks that challenge the Christian faith: growing secularization, relativism and nihilism” (Catholic News Agency, Dec. 14, 2006).
Eastern Orthodox countries actually have more in common with the Vatican than some of the secularized Western members of the Union. They are typically more right-wing on social issues and more devout about their religion. If the Vatican can appeal to their sense of moral uprightness, it can go a long way in repairing the breach of the Great Schism of a.d. 1054, when the Holy Roman Empire officially split between these two great religions.
What is at play here is a decades-long strategy. Go back to Habsburg’s 1950s book in which he set out the goal of regaining Russia’s East-Europe satellites as part of a united Europe. Then 1965, when Strauss said Europe (ah yes, and Germany) needed to be reunited, and the yoke of communism broken. Then 1967, when Germany normalized relations with Ceausescu’s Romania. Then March 1971, when Tito became the first Communist dictator to visit the Vatican. Several years later came the pope’s visit to Poland and the eventual economic downfall of the ussr leading to the breakaway of the Eastern European satellites, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the execution of Romania’s dictator. Add to that the crisis imposed on Yugoslavia shortly thereafter, the ensuing wars, the strategic occupation, the move of Germany’s capital back to once-divided Berlin, the accession of eight Communist states in 2004 and now two more.
The eastern leg of this empire has been built, slowly and steadily, over the past 50 years. And the strategy has been nothing short of genius.
As we stated in our July 2004 issue, throughout the Middle Ages and through the end of World War ii, “empire” in Europe has been sought through two primary methods: 1) “the effort to rejoin the eastern and western legs of the old Roman Empire under a single imperial rule, and 2) the imposition of a universal religion. These are the twin foundations upon which six of the seven resurrections of the Holy Roman Empire were built: a political foundation backed up by military force and a spiritual foundation established by the imposition of a state religion.”
What is building to include these seemingly poor, crippled nations will be a resurrection of an age-old empire, spanning Europe and split relatively evenly between East and West. It will follow the historic form of the Roman Empire—which was divided between the Latin West with its capital in Rome and the Greek East with its capital in Byzantium (Constantinople, now Istanbul), a region termed by the Greeks, interestingly, Romania.
The political framework of this Union will consist of 10 nation-blocs—likely with half in Western Europe and half in Eastern Europe.
As Herbert W. Armstrong proclaimed, the seven-headed beast of Revelation 17, ridden by a woman (symbolic of a church in the Bible), is a type of the seven resurrections of the Holy Roman Empire (the last one of which has been building since World War ii). The Roman Empire, united by the Catholic Church, has fulfilled this prophecy. This final resurrection is comprised of “ten horns, which … are ten kings” (Revelation 17:12).
Despite the growing size of the EU, Bible prophecy indicates that the ultimate assembly of European nations will be ruled by 10 kings, implying 10 nations or groups of nations.
This interpretation gels with another key prophecy in Daniel 2—where Daniel showed King Nebuchadnezzar how the image in his dream was a prophetic timeline of the Gentile kingdoms that would succeed his Babylonian Empire. The two iron legs of this image depict the Roman Empire with its western and eastern divisions, each with a capital.
Moving down this image, we come to the feet of iron and clay, of which Daniel draws special attention to the ten toes. This is the final resurrection of the Roman (now “Holy” Roman) Empire.
A basic understanding of human anatomy, world history and European geography would teach us that this final resurrection is divided as it historically has been between East and West. More specifically, we can even speculate that with five toes on one foot and five on the other, the East-West division of this 10-nation bloc will be relatively equal.
The Plain Truth stated back in January 1986, “Notice further that the ancient prophecies of Daniel picture this system as a human image standing on two legs. … Thus it is probable that the coming reconstituted Roman Empire will also be composed of two distinct yet cooperative parts: one comprising nations of Western Europe, the other incorporating nations released from Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe. … Given the fact of five toes on each foot, it is possible that five entities will come from Western Europe and five from the East.”
The image of Daniel 2 does not stand on one strong Western foot and another, weaker, crippled foot. The image implies a sense of equality—meaning the Eastern European nations will grow in strength to add vitality to this resurrected empire. And when Europe can stand on this foot, watch out!
Of course, Daniel 2 does say the kingdom is “divided” and that it is “partly strong, and partly broken” (verse 42). The glue that holds this union together is religion.
As destructive and horrific as the Holy Roman Empire’s reign will be, however, it will also be short-lived. Thank God for that. As Daniel 2 goes on to describe, a huge stone comes from heaven to smash the feet of the great image! The lineage of world-ruling kingdoms will be replaced once and for all by the government Jesus Christ will bring at His Second Coming (verse 44).
Before Jesus Christ returns, this 10-nation colossus will plunge our globe into the worst world war ever in our history. Don’t be deceived by the pomp and circumstance of a seemingly harmless economic and political body expanding its borders to charitably include feeble neighbors.
Watch for Eastern Europe to use its EU membership to grow in strength. Watch for any chaos economically or politically to be quickly remedied by a strong leader who comes to the fore in Europe—streamlining the EU’s operations into 10 major divisions. Watch for the Vatican to increase its efforts to reunite Eastern European Orthodoxy with Catholicism under the common denominator of Christian values in an increasingly secular (and Islamicized) world.
Europe is about to stand on its own two feet!