Where Europe went wrong

Paul Taylor writes: Sometimes an outsider’s eye perceives symptoms of decay more clearly than those who live in the midst of Europe’s daily churn.

In “Fractured Continent: Europe’s crises and the fate of the West,” veteran U.S. journalist and think tanker William Drozdiak shows how three flawed projects launched at the end of the Cold War — the euro, the Schengen zone of passport-free travel, and the eastward enlargement of the EU and NATO — have stumbled into trouble, opening deep rifts in Europe.

“Today, the dream of European unity has begun to wither away, and the future stability of the Continent is clouded in uncertainty,” Drozdiak says in an assessment that contrasts starkly with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s recent assertion that Europe has the wind back in its sails.

Compounding the crises, the former Washington Post foreign correspondent says the United States’ disengagement has left Europeans adrift where previously a steadying hand from Uncle Sam often helped navigate the Continent through troubled waters. Drozdiak is a lifelong Atlanticist steeped in the late Richard Holbrooke’s vision of the U.S. as a benevolent, hands-on European power. He warns that, in the absence of strong American leadership, Europe risks being consumed by its old demon: nationalism.

Drozdiak points to a deep-seated EU methodological problem: the habit of setting out to achieve ambitious objectives with half-baked plans forged in late-night compromises, without anticipating what would happen when things go wrong.

Adopting a single currency without a fiscal union or a lender of last resort; opening internal borders without joint action to protect Europe’s external frontiers; bringing former Soviet satellites into the Western orbit without anticipating a hostile Russian backlash — in each case, Europe’s leaders appear to have been naively optimistic and unprepared.

Drozdiak stops short of predicting whether the EU will fall apart, pitching Europe back into conflict, or seize the chance to pull itself together in a salutary response to Trump and Brexit. But he makes clear the key lies chiefly in Berlin, “the new epicenter of power.” [Continue reading…]

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