Douwe Osinga's Blog: Back from the USSR

Monday, March 15, 2004

Back from the USSR

Back from Armenia and Georgia. All in all a very interesting week with lots of sights, activities feeling like real adventure and of course amazingly friendly people. No night without an offered drink and sometimes not even a morning.

Travel books about the region are either filed under Asia or Europe. Technically speaking, they are part of Europe. This might have to do a lot with the fact that they used to be part of Russia/the USSR and that you have to draw the line somewhere (though Siberia is usually deemed to be Asia). But it makes you wonder, where are the boundaries of Europe?

The first question of course, is, which Europe? The song contest? Euro soccer champion? Or the big one, are they elligible for the European Union?

Walking in downtown Yerevan (the capital of Armenia), you could swear you're in any other Eastern European capital recovering from socialicism with a vengeance. Young people sipping their lattes in hip bars, expensive shops selling the latest gadgets from Japan. Up in the mountains it is a different story. Things are in general disrepair and anybody you meet has a 70% chance of being drunk; usually on home made stuff that tastes awfull (but does grow on you).

But it is all fixable and if the right economic pollicies are implemented, no doubt that these countries will grow richer, healthier and happier. But EU candidates? Why not. But where do you draw the line then, should the Kazachstan be able to apply? Or Morocco? Or even Iran? I'd say, why not. Europe is an idea more than a place. If countries attain the right policies, implement democracy and freedom of press, they're welcome. Take Canada, I'd say it is a perfect candidate.

So they EU will keep absorbing countries until it borders the US on all sides? Why stop there? I'm hoping for the day the US and the EU will merge.