September 2009: Our eyes are focused on the upcoming election in Germany, which shortly after will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The European giant, the former young tiger, looks now more like an old elephant, moving slowly with the typical ailments of age.

During these past 20 years, the whole of Europe has been expecting Germany to carry the whole continent, with strength borne of post-reunification enthusiasm. But things have not been as easy as we had thought.


October 1989: The whole world was watching the multitude of Eastern Berliners pushing towards the wall, which was finally smashed to pieces and sold to tourists, backpackers, hippies and any kind of folk in search of a piece of history.

Shortly after, one after one, all the communist regimes of Eastern Europe would fall, and the Soviet Union would disintegrate into 15 independent countries.

During the ensuing years, it looked like the former EEC could be absorbed into a more encompassing European Union, a union based on common rights and equalities, in which abominations of the past like the death penalty and torture, as well as race, religious and gender discrimination would be banned.

But the enthusiasm of becoming European citizens, all brothers within a great union of countries with shared laws and powers, soon vanished, after a series of hurdles and failed challenges year after year.

We can say it is the normal path followed by an emerging civilization: we learn from our mistakes, trying to avoid repeating them and working toward a better society marked by peace and democracy.

Among the challenges that the European Union has failed to meet, the greatest and most shameful of its short life was surely the former Yugoslavian civil war, with hundreds of thousands of innocents massacred.

In particular, the horrible genocide of Srebrenica, where some 7,000 civilians -- including men, women and children -- were barbarically massacred, with the complicity of the blue helmets of the UN, created an indelible scar on the history of the European Union.

Building a free, fair, equal and democratic society requires a strong determination to fight for it. Unfortunately, some extreme circumstances require strong responses -- even embracing weapons to defend these values, if no other option is possible.

 The fledgling European Union has succumbed to bureaucracy, politicism and hypocrisy,  while for years millions of people -- a whole generation, or perhaps more -- has seen their lives destroyed under the most abominable conflict in Europe since the end of the World War II.

Right now, the geopolitical situation has turned quite complicated, with the recycling of the former Communist party and KGB cadres in Russia, who have created a new political system composed of spies, mafia and army. With that, the spectre of the cold war has returned.

The unsolved Israeli-Arab conflict, the US-led war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, the perennial troubles in the Korean Peninsula and the new conflicts for resources in Africa have put the European Union in a position of an impossible neutrality; in this globalized world, everything concerns and affects our interests.

Now, someone seems to understand it. And in some ways we can see the EUs hasty expansion towards more eastern European countries and the Balkan area as a way to keep these countries from the influence of the imperial dictatorship of the Russian regime a regime cloaked in paranoia and anti-western and anti-democratic sentiment, and committed more than ever to destroying any countries that dare to escape its sphere of influence, while condemning them to misery, tyranny, corruption and desperation.

 The European Union, after failing to adopt a common Constitution, is trying to re-invent itself in order not to fail, after the growing disillusion, apathy and lost feeling of being Europeans of most of its citizens.

The economic crisis is also adding more fuel to the fire.

In the years ahead, Europe needs to recover that enthusiasm which invigorated it 20 years ago, and move ahead, united and determined, towards a better, equal, tolerant and multicultural society.

Not everything has been a failure: the common currency, the Shengen Pact and the upcoming (hopefully) Lisbon Treaty are some of the most audacious challenges met in the past decades.

For the European Union to succeed in upholding its principles, one former failing will need to be corrected: the determination to fight for peace, freedom and democracy, per se, at any cost, independent of any economical or sub-political interests now is imperative.

Another Srebrenica would mark a colossal failure, the death and the burial of the European Union. It would be the end of a dream: the European dream.

 Maximiliano Herrera