For centuries Europeans have dreamed of a united continent. That dream is destined soon to be fulfilled!
IT'S NOT a new idea — a United States of Europe. French writer Victor Hugo first used the phrase in the mid-1800s. Before him Voltaire arid Goethe philosophized about it. Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner dreamed of it as they composed beautiful music. Michelangelo and Rembrandt contemplated a united Europe while they produced magnificent paintings. Even Dante Alighieri, as early as 1300, dared to envision the European continent at peace under one ruler. It has been the dream of Europeans for centuries. Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, kings and queens, feudal lords, Popes and archbishops, dukes, barons and earls, philosophers, artists, musicians and commoners by the millions have vainly yearned for a united Europe. The centuries have passed and it still remains an unfulfilled dream.
The Mood Since World War II
Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II, on May 8, 1985, European Parliament President Pierre Pflimlin said, "It might now seem a vain hope to dream of bringing together all the peoples of Europe, but no one can stop us dreaming of a complete Europe united in peace. After all, mankind's greatest steps forward have often only been dreams come true." Forty years ago Europe lay in ruins from bullets, bombs and millions of marching boots. When British Prime Minister Winston Churchill surveyed the devastation in the Ruhr he could not envision Germany rebuilding in the next 50 years. But rebuild they did. In a speech he made in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1946, Churchill called to mind Victor Hugo's 1850s phrase as he advocated a "United States of Europe." French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand, even in the halcyon days before the Great Depression, proposed the creation of a United States of Europe to the League of Nations. It was given to a committee for further study. The dream was temporarily obscured by the rubble of the Second World War. After the war no one knew if the dream could ever come to fulfillment. Europe was many nations now divided into two camps — East and West. The bombing raids were over. The Cold War was on.
Two Europes — Forever Divided?
The end of the war in Europe 40 years ago left Europe a divided continent. An "Iron Curtain" separated the two halves. Many wonder how long such separation can endure. What could bring the nations of Europe together? Or is the status quo satisfactory for the peoples of Europe? The separation can be realized above all else in the two Germanies — East and West. At the end of the war, many Western leaders assumed somehow the two Germanies would once again unite. But 40 long years later they seem more apart than ever. An entire generation has grown to maturity knowing only the reality of two Germanies. Young East Germans on the whole seem little interested in being dissolved into the fast-paced Western culture that has developed after the war years. Many fail to realize most people alive today only know the Second World War as history. Anyone less than 50 years of age remembers almost nothing from personal experience. I was 1 year old when Hitler marched Nazi troops in to the Sudetenland. When the surrender papers were signed in 1945, I was only 7. My memories of the war are toy soldiers and model airplanes. While in Europe this year I spoke with many Europeans, most of them less than 50, who like myself only know of the Second World War as an event of history. A couple who are friends of mine are East Germans. Upon hearing I was in Europe they made arrangements for a trip to Vienna where we could spend a day together. They have gone through the rebuilding process from an entirely different perspective. I grew up in a postwar American culture of high-tech progress — they in the hard working but slower pace of Eastern Europe. They see little hope or opportunity for reuniting the two Germanies in our lifetimes. When I first went to Germany in 1964, the hope of a united Germany was alive and vibrant among West Germans. A national holiday on June 17 each year was celebrated with speeches, marches and the hope of seeing the dream of a united Germany fulfilled. Because of the fervor I observed in Germany, I, along with many other Westerners, believed it would be a short time till East and West Germany would be once again one nation. At that time I wrote an article entitled "The March for an Undivided Germany." But that was more than 21 years ago. There are, today, no immediately visible signs the two Germanies will so unite. It's as though time has stood still on the German unity issue. The marching has ceased. Celebrations looking forward to one Germany are minimal. Many accept the divided nations. That in no way lessens the dream of a united Europe, however. President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg at the commemorating the war's end, said: "In this room are those who fought on opposite sides 40 years ago, and their sons and daughters. Now you work together to lead Europe democratically. You buried animosity and hatred in the rubble. There is no greater testament to reconciliation and to the peaceful unity of Europe than the men and women in this chamber." Thinking of the future, President Reagan then expressed the hope that Europe's centuries-old dream of unity would not die, but come to reality: "Here in Western Europe, you have created a multinational democratic community in which there is a free flow of people, of information, of goods, and of culture. West Europeans move freely in all directions, sharing and partaking of each other's ideas and culture. "It is my hope, our hope, that in the 21st century — which is only 15 years away — all Europeans, from Moscow to Lisbon, will be able to travel without a passport and the free flow of people and ideas will include the other half of Europe. It is my fervent wish that in the next century there will be one, free Europe." He added, "You are, today, a New Europe on the brink of a new century." On the subject of East and West Europe, European Parliament President Pflimlin said: "We must recognize our limitations. We represent only one part of Europe. There are peoples every bit as European as our own that are unable to take their place in our community. Dresden and Warsaw, Prague and Budapest are cities as European as our own 10 capitals." The hope of a united Europe is far from dead. No one can see today exactly how or when it will come to pass. But there is no doubt, sooner or later, it will.
Prophesied for Our Day
As amazing as it may sound, the ultimate formation of a modern united Europe was prophesied thousands of years ago — in the days of the Babylonian empire. Through a dream given to King Nebuchadnezzar, God revealed the panorama of Western civilizations from 600 B.C. all the way to our time today. In the dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a great image with a head of gold, breast of silver, thighs of brass and legs of iron. The king called his wise men and astrologers, but none could interpret the dream. Then God gave his servant Daniel the meaning. Here's what the dream foretold: "You [King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire] are that head of gold. After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron" (Dan. 2:38-40, New International Version throughout). Though a powerful kingdom, the great empire of Babylon fell to the Medo-Persians in 539 B.C. For more than two centuries the Persians controlled Western culture. But it, too, could not endure. By 333 B.C., under Alexander the Great, the Greco-Macedonian empire rose to unparalleled heights in military strength, art and education. Shortly before the birth of Jesus, the Romans began to dominate Western civilizations. Remember, God had revealed in the book of Daniel there would be only four world-ruling kingdoms before the establishment of God's government on the earth. Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome make up those four great world-ruling empires. Rome was to outlive the others — but it, too, fell into decadence and decay. The fall of the great Roman empire officially occurred in A.D. 476. Rome had survived 500 years. More than 1,500 years have passed since the fall of Rome. But God's kingdom is not yet established. What has happened? Was the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream wrong? Not at all. We don't, however, have the complete story. In Daniel 7 God revealed to the prophet even more about these four world-ruling kingdoms — this time through an analogy of four great wild beasts. Daniel saw: "Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. The first [Babylon] was like a lion... a second beast, which looked like a bear [Persia]... after that... was another beast, one that looked like a leopard [Greece]... and there before me was a fourth beast [Rome] — terrifying and frightening and very powerful.... It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns" (Dan. 7:2-7). Here are the same four world-ruling kingdoms, but the fourth kingdom was different. It had 10 horns. After Rome fell in A.D. 476, three Arian kingdoms occupied the West under the banner of Rome the Vandals, the Heruli and the Ostrogoths. But they soon disappeared. They are described in Daniel 7:8, "Before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it." "Another horn, a little one" what was that one? In the early part of the fourth century A.D. the Roman emperor Constantine had given official recognition to Christianity. It was later made an official state religion. After the fall of Rome, the bishop at Rome gained great importance. Through land acquisition, the Church began to play a much more prominent role. In A.D. 554 the Church commissioned Justinian, the Eastern Roman emperor at Constantinople, to restore the empire in the West by uprooting the last of the three Arian kingdoms, the Ostrogoths. Religion, then, is the little horn of Daniel 7:8. Since the Imperial Restoration the Church has played an important role in the development of European culture and civilization. The first three horns were outside kingdoms that only temporarily held power in Rome between A.D. 476 and 554. They were "swallowed up" by the Imperial Restoration. Since Daniel's vision foretold 10 horns (we might call them resurrections of the ancient empire), after A.D. 554 there must follow seven kingdoms. There indeed have been six great restorations in Europe since that time. First was the Imperial Restoration of Justinian beginning in 554. Next came the Frankish kingdom under Charlemagne in 800. Then followed the Holy Roman Empire of the German nations beginning in the 10th century. After that the Habsburgs led the Austro-Hungarian empire. Napoleon led a French revival of the empire in the early 19th century. And in our century one of the briefest attempts to revive the empire was proclaimed by Benito Mussolini in the 1930s. With Adolf Hitler joining forces to form the Axis powers, the sixth of the final seven horns rose and fell. Where are we in the course of prophetic events today? We now await the seventh resurrection of Rome. Events now taking place are leading to the formation of what well may be called a "United States of Europe." The potential of such a union is even greater than either of the superpowers — the States and Russia. United As some Europeans view it, why should 235 million Americans on the West have to protect 300 million Europeans from 275 million in the U.S.S.R. on the East?
Who Will Form the Final Union?
In the prophecy given in the book of Daniel, the image was in the form of a man. A man has two legs, and on the feet 10 toes. We should not pass over the significance of this. The two legs depict an empire divided. From before the Imperial Restoration in 554, the empire was divided in two. The Western capital was often at Rome, with Constantinople the capital in the East. It was from Constantinople that Constantine the Great ruled in the fourth century. And it was from here that Justinian led the Imperial Restoration. Later Western restorations existed side by side with the Eastern Empire. Even the Axis powers of World War II had two capitals — at Rome and Berlin. With that clue we might look for the seventh and final stage to also be made up of European nations partly from the West and partly from the East. In addition to the two legs, the image had 10 toes. Those 10 toes reveal the final form of the empire will be made up of 10 nations or groups of nations. In January of 1986 Spain and Portugal officially become part of the European Economic Community. This culminates years of struggle and negotiation. Portuguese Prime Minister Mario Soares signed the treaty of accession on June 12, 1985. In describing the event as one of the most significant moments in Portuguese history as quoted in a Reuters press release, he said: "We have made it!... From here we will be setting off... on a new enterprise which will return Portugal to the unity of Europe, to fully participate in its dynamism and progress." In another Reuters release, staff writer Youssef Azmeh, commenting on the entrance of Spain and Portugal into the European Community, observed, "The dream of a United Western Europe draws a little closer tomorrow when Spain and Portugal sign a treaty to join the European Community." In January there will be 12 nations making up the combine. But they are all Western nations. Since Daniel's image pictures the two feet each with five toes, we would do well to anticipate that the ultimate European union will change today's map dramatically and include Eastern European nations as well. No one knows yet just which nations will make up the final 10. The possibility always exists some nations could be considered one, such as Benelux (Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg), or two or more Balkan ' or Iberian states could be grouped together. After all, the modern borders of European nations greatly differ from the many different borders in historic times.
The 21st Century Dream?
With the 21st century only 15 years away, many do not see the dream of a united Europe being fulfilled till the next century. But in our rapidly exploding technological world, events can happen so rapidly as to make our heads swim. We can awaken any morning to find a "portion of the world in the grips of terrorists. Or an oil boycott could reshape international thinking in a matter of days. Trade wars are heating up at an intense pace. A number of Latin American nations are on ' the brink of debt collapse and threaten default on multibillion-dollar loans. Should such occur, the world economic scene could immediately be in chaos. And there is always the threat of nuclear confrontation even among some of the smaller nations. Anyone or a combination of these and many other events could force European nations to quickly unite. And there is always the democratic process. Otto von Habsburg, once heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, now works tirelessly as an elected official of the European Parliament to bring the nations of Europe together into one large supranational entity. He, along with hundreds of other elected officials, attempts to hammer out the basis for greater harmony and ultimate total union of the European nations. Whether in this century or the next, the inevitability of a united Europe is there. The dream is only a matter of time till reality.
The Common Ingredients
Over the centuries the divergent nations within Europe have made it nearly impossible to bring them together. Language and culture, politics and currency have all been barricades to unity. But one by one the barriers are being broken down. Since the formation of the European Economic Community in 1957, the original six nations have now expanded to 12. Several languages are taught in EC schools, making the language barrier far less significant. Trade regulations and tariffs have been regulated to the common good of several member nations. But more than any single unifying factor, religion has played and will play the most important role. During the papal visit to the Low Countries earlier this year, the Pope was booed by some. Yet his visits to other countries reflect the respect and admiration the Catholic populace worldwide have for their leader. Pope John Paul II, the first Slavic Pope, has maintained the popular theme of a united Europe since his election to the papacy in 1978. Perhaps more than any other single element of European history, the Church has desired to see European unity under the Christian banner. In a May speech at the headquarters of the European Economic Community in Brussels, the Pope said, "European countries cannot submit themselves to the division of their continent." He urged officials to intensify their search for unity and work toward eliminating the East-West division. Speaking of the two Europes (East and West) John Paul II said, "The countries that for different reasons do not belong to your institutions should be included in the fundamental desire for unity." This past summer the Pope designated Methodius and Cyril as patron saints of Europe. On June 26 The Wall Street Journal observed: "The symbolic importance being attached to this choice of two missionaries to the Slavic peoples highlights the Pope's vision of a united Europe." This comes at the 1,100th anniversary of the death of Methodius. The two patron saints were responsible for bringing Christianity to the Slavic world in the ninth century. The Wall Street Journal article further commented: "These European men [Methodius and Cyril] dreamed great dreams and then acted to change the face of their world and their era." A July 2 Associated Press wire release added, "In the fourth encyclical of his papacy, the Polish-born pontiff lauded two ninth century saints who brought 'Christianity to the Slavs and set down his vision of a Europe spiritually united by a common culture and religion." The Catholic Church remains the one constant force in all European history. It will play an ever-increasing role in the unification process. Through the normal democratic processes the dream of a united Europe would indeed not be fulfilled till well past the start of the twenty-first century. But what if the Middle East explodes into a wave of terrorist activity threatening even the destruction of Jerusalem's holy places — holy to not only Muslims and Jews but to the Christian world? What if an international debt collapse occurs, forcing Europe for their common good to unite? What if even Eastern bloc European nations see value in casting their lot with a new Europe? What if, with the high office of the Pope backing them, Eastern European nations seek religious unity with Western Europe? A combination of these events could bring about a union of any 10 of these nations into that final stage of the resurrected Roman empire. And it could happen so fast, when it does, the world would be astounded. The groundwork has been laid — it has been in the process since European rebuilding began the day World War II ended. This magazine has been forecasting that ultimate union from even before the end of the Second World War in 1945. Europe is on the threshold of fulfilling the dream — the centuries old dream of at last a united Europe.