European Yearbook / Annuaire Européen, Volume 48 (2000)
The year 2000's most significant international event was, almost certainly, neither political nor military, but scientific - the announcement, in June, that the human genome had been almost totally decoded. Future generations may well see this as a major turning point, opening the way to radical changes in diagnosis, prognosis, and medical treatment. Often compared with the space programme, this vast enterprise still generates misgivings: this new power, which human beings now have, to modify the genetic heritage of living creatures raises fundamentally new ethical questions - and society as a whole will have to find the answers.
In fact, the accelerating pace of scientific and technical progress seems to be reviving atavistic anxieties, some rational, others less so. Recent public-health crises, including the `mad cow disease' scare, which lasted into 2000, have fuelled these fears. The public's rejection of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) - verging on a crusade in some countries - tells its own story.
As regards conflict, 2000 saw the Middle East peace process grind to a halt, and the Intifada resume. In Europe, the situation in Kosovo and Chechnya, both the scenes of fighting in 1999, stayed precarious.
Peace and democracy did score some successes, however, particularly in Europe: the centre-left's victory in Croatia, sweeping former President Tudjman's party off the scene, the democratic party's triumph in Bosnia, and the fall of the Milosevic regime in Serbia.