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While history clearly did not end in Eastern Europe, it sometimes appeared to have come to a standstill in the West. The Maastricht formula for a European Union proved to be a paper dream. The Danes initially voted against ratification, and Britain threatened to do the same, forcing virtual renegotiation of the treaty. A French referendum produced a narrow petit oui of only 51.05% in favor of the treaty, and there was little more enthusiasm elsewhere.
By the end of 1992, Big Europe looked very much like the same Old Europe. When Yugoslavia broke apart in 1991, so did the idea of a common E.U. defense and foreign policy. Germany plunged ahead with diplomatic recognition of Croatia and Slovenia, while the rest of Europe dithered. When full-scale war broke out in Bosnia, the European response was three years of feckless diplomacy, resulting ultimately in a plan engineered by Britain's Lord Owen that would have divided Bosnia into a messy myriad of Swiss-like cantons.
By 1995 the conflict had become intolerable. The siege of Sarajevo had become the longest in the century's history. Some 700,000 refugees had fled to Western Europe and North America. Worse, more than 200,000 people had died, a high percentage of them civilians, amid growing evidence of war crimes ranging from systematic rape to mass executions. Finally, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke tackled the problem of peace with threats and inducements that brought the warring parties together in Dayton, Ohio, to hammer out an agreement that finally stopped the fighting. Europe's role was embarrassingly marginal.
Yet somehow the Continent manages to move ahead. For all its failures, the E.U. remains the world's most attractive economic club. Austria, Sweden and Finland have rushed to join, and others, including most of the former communist countries of Eastern Europe, have put their names on a long waiting list. The Dayton Agreement has proved that NATO can become an effective peacemaker in regional conflicts. France has rejoined the military portion of the alliance after almost 30 years, and nearly all the former Soviet-bloc countries are clamoring for membership. Even a suspicious Russia has acceded to the alliance's "Partnership for Peace" arrangement and has cooperated with NATO in implementing the Dayton accords.
But peace is far more than the absence of war, and civilization more than the pronouncements of parliaments. It is art, music, cuisine and fashion, all the qualities that transform the monotony of existence into the joy of living. In those qualities, the Europe of the coming millennium is richer, both materially and spiritually, than ever in its history. When hemlines rise or hairlines fall in New York City and Tokyo, the reason can be found in the artistry of the great Parisian houses of haute couture. The hundreds of publicly financed orchestras, operas and ballet troupes of Europe constitute the main repository of the Western world's legacy of great music and dance.
It is a wealth, moreover, that is shared by the vast majority of the population. Despite its costly excesses, the European approach to social welfare has given most of the Continent's people levels of health care, education and pension rights that are the envy of the world while preserving the market forces that make the difference between a welfare state and a police state. The new Europe is the excitement of Berlin rebuilding; the thrill of a high-speed train streaking beneath the English Channel; the new businesses and investments that are bringing style and sparkle to Moscow, Budapest and Warsaw; the growing web of computer connections that are drawing all together.
As Fukuyama would now be the first to agree, history did not end with the '90s; terminal boredom has not set in. For all its setbacks, European history at the end of the century has been less dangerous than it was at its wretched midpoint 50 years ago. The Continent is as lively, inspiring and unpredictable as ever and is sure to remain so.