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Sun 23 Dec 2012 17:00 BBC Radio 4

38 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 18 December 2012

Allan Little looks at the changing dynamic of the European Union

The Europe that Britain joined forty years ago was a small and loose association of nations on the western edge of the continent. Germany was still divided, with its capital in the sleepy town of Bonn near the Belgian border. France - with its long-standing commitment to the sovereignty of nation states - was the driving force of the European project.

But the last decade has seen a profound and irreversible shift. Europe's centre of gravity has moved dramatically east. After reunification in 1990, a much more powerful Germany has emerged. The countries of the old Eastern bloc look to Berlin for leadership. Their experience of Soviet occupation and communist dictatorship has committed them to building a much stronger and more tightly integrated Europe, one that will help secure their young and still vulnerable democracies. "I want the European Union to become a superpower," the Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski tells the programme. This changing dynamic is the subtle, hidden undertow to the continuing tensions over the Euro.

Forty years ago the European project was being shaped by those who had survived the Second World War on the Western Front. Now, more and more, it is being driven by those who lived through the brutality and horror of the Eastern Front, and who endured forty years of communist oppression.

Power in Europe has shifted, from the old and familiar Paris-Bonn relationship to the new and much more dynamic Berlin-Warsaw. This is the new Europe. It is one in which France - once the unchallenged leading voice - is increasingly marginalised. And it is one in which Britain seems, increasingly, reluctant to stay part of.

Producer: Jane Beresford.

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