For centuries Poland was Europe's marching ground - when it was not dismembered and wiped off the map entirely by some combination of Germany, Austria and Russia. The Kingdom of Poland battled the Teutonic Knights as far back as the Middle Ages and memories of Hitler's Blitzkrieg storming into the country in September 1939 are still alive in the minds of the elderly and the imaginations of the young.
In April, while the US was loudly conquering Iraq, the world's weirdest empire quietly swallowed 10 countries. In the ancient shadow of the Acropolis, the European Union expanded from 15 nations to 25, opening its gates to the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the island of Malta, and the schizoid mess that is Cyprus. Someday, "Europe" might extend all the way to Japan.
What's the EU's secret for transcending nationalism? Infrastructure. April's 4,900-page Treaty of Accession is all about railroads, smokestacks, trademarks, livestock, fertilizer, cosmetics, glassware, footwear - everything it will take to level the playing field across a consumer population of 450 million people. Life is bound to improve for the new members, from Polish newspaper editors who once feared for their lives to black-lunged Czechoslovakian miners. Celebration is in order, and mankind should rejoice.
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