Montenegro’s prospective
independence also increases by one the number of countries in the
already long queue to join the European Union. With 25
current members, the EU has promised admission to Bulgaria and Romania,
although there is still some haggling about timing. Croatia will almost
certainly be next, while other hopefuls include Serbia, Bosnia &
Herzegovina, Ukraine and (most controversially) Turkey.

Back in
the 1990s there was a lot of discussion on the theme of “broadening vs
deepening” – the idea being that there was a division between those who
wanted to increase the powers and importance of the EU’s institutions,
and those who thought the priority should be to increase EU membership
by embracing what were then the newly liberated countries of central
and eastern Europe.

I always thought this was a false dichotomy,
promoted mainly by Eurosceptics who were really agnostic about
“broadening” but who embraced it as a tactic to stop “deepening”, which
they hated. In reality, the supporters of stronger EU institutions also
supported the admission of new members; at most, there were some
differences about timing.

Since then, broadening has certainly
happened, with ten new members admitted two years ago and more on the
way. And although deepening ran into some trouble last year with the
rejection of the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands, the
EU’s importance also continues to grow; most notably with the
successful introduction of the common currency, the Euro.

I said
a couple of weeks ago that the vital importance of the EU in France and
Germany was as a political device to end their history of warfare. That
motive is no less important in the eastern countries – Donald
Rumsfeld’s famous “new Europe” – whose experience in the twentieth
century was even more horrific.

These are early days, and the EU
is still seen as a mixed blessing by many in the east. But if
Eurosceptics expected the new members to band together against the
influence of France and Germany, or to gum up the EU works generally,
then those hopes have yet to be realised.