Next Year Marks the EU's 50th Anniversary of the Treaty
A. After a period of introversion and stunned self-disbelief, continental European governments will recover their enthusiasm for pan-European institution-building in 2007. Whether the European public will welcome a return to what voters in two countries had rejected so short a time before is another matter.
B. There are several reasons for Europe's recovering self-confidence. For years European economies had been lagging dismally behind America （to say nothing of Asia）， but in 2006 the large continental economies had one of their best years for a decade, briefly outstripping America in terms of growth. Since politics often reacts to economic change with a lag, 2006's improvement in economic growth will have its impact in 2007, though the recovery may be ebbing by then.
C. The coming year also marks a particular point in a political cycle so regular that it almost seems to amount to a natural law. Every four or five years, European countries take a large stride towards further integration by signing a new treaty: the Maastricht treaty in 1992, the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, the Treaty of Nice in 2001. And in 2005 they were supposed to ratify a European constitution, laying the ground for yet more integration—until the calm rhythm was rudely shattered by French and Dutch voters. But the political impetus to sign something every four or five years has only been interrupted, not immobilised, by this setback.
D. In 2007 the European Union marks the 50th anniversary of another treaty—the Treaty of Rome, its founding charter. Government leaders have already agreed to celebrate it ceremoniously, restating their commitment to "ever closer union" and the basic ideals of European unity. By itself, and in normal circumstances, the EU's 50th-birthday greeting to itself would be fairly meaningless, a routine expression of European good fellowship. But it does not take a Machiav