Olivier Guez writes: Even though radical Islam, mass migrations, Russian revanchism and military interventions are challenges that no European state can meet alone, political sentiments across the Continent are all in the wrong direction. Frightened Europeans retreat into their sovereign little states, propelled by the popular right and xenophobia. In Hungary and Poland, those forces have taken power. By 2017, they may well do so in France, and Britons may have quit Europe altogether. That would leave no nation in a position to take the reins from France or Germany in leading Europe’s imperfect union.
So what comes next? Can we reasonably believe Europe will snap out of it? Will there be a Franco-German turnaround in shamed memory of the slaughter at Verdun 100 years ago? I don’t think so.
It is a matter of leadership. In the 1990s, François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl, like Adenauer and De Gaulle before them, could work together, in part because they had experienced the ultimate alternative — the horrors of war. But those giants have long left the stage. There exists today neither any guiding program nor true solidarity, and historical memories have grown very short. Ms. Merkel and Mr. Hollande are more than ever focused on their own national conundrums: for France, how to control terrorism; for Germany, how to treat refugees.
What Europe’s heads of state have not done, and simply must begin to do, is prepare their citizens for the one great requirement for progress toward more unity — an enormous leap of faith and optimism, even while in the grip of fear. Instead, they betray their peoples’ fondest dreams by pecking at one another. And even my generation, who were 15 to 20 years old when the Berlin Wall fell, fails to stand up to them and demand that they save the dream we were promised — a Europe finally at permanent peace and working in unison after all the divisions and horrors of the 20th century. [Continue reading…]