When they joined the European Union in 2004, East European nations wanted more than just prosperity–they sought protection from an ascendant Russia eager to maintain influence in its old Soviet neighborhood.
Three years on, new member states say the EU has been letting them down — preferring good terms with energy-rich Russia over the interests of its vulnerable, less economically weighty partners.
Over the past 18 months, Poland has seen its meat and farm exports to Russia halted, Lithuania has watched helplessly as its refinery has been cut off from oil supplies, and Latvia has been unable to export its canned sprats to the east.
The EU has done little to block Russia from carrying out what has widely been described as punishment for breaking free of Kremlin influence and a signal to other East European countries not to move close to the West.
As the EU’s largest energy supplier, Russia supplies three-quarters of the bloc’s oil and about 40 percent of its gas.
In 1957, the signers of the Treaty of Rome that established the European Economic Community, a precursor to the EU, probably had little notion what their desires for and “ever close union” would produce. Those countries –France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg — sought economic cooperation as a way to prevent future wars.
The ideal that grew from that vision was realized, at least momentarily, during last year’s World Cup soccer championship in Berlin. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans with a single currency in their pockets crossed national borders without showing passports, peacefully waving the flags of their homelands in a city that decades earlier had ignited a world war.
*The Moscow Times (2007)