2. Europe’s crises and the fate of the West
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*A timely warning for both sides of the Atlantic.
Sometimes an outsider’s eye perceives symptoms of decay more clearly than those who live in the midst of Europe’s daily churn.
France’s weakness has become one of Europe’s — and Germany’s — biggest problems,” Drozdiak quotes Merkel as telling aides. When Sarkozy, who irked her with his impulsiveness and inferiority complex, tells Merkel: “Angela, we are made to get along. We are the head and legs of the European Union,” she retorts: “No Nicolas, you are the head and legs. I am the bank.”
Drozdiak takes readers on a tour of European capitals, diagnosing the fractures he says still threaten to pull the EU apart, despite a recent return to modest economic growth, the election of the energetic pro-European Emmanuel Macron as French president and an uptick in public support for European unity after nearly a decade of deepening disenchantment. Some of his sharpest observations take place in Warsaw, Moscow and Ankara.
Veteran U.S. journalist William Drozdiak has painted a dark picture of Europe | Flickr via Creative Commons
He sees liberal democracy under threat not only in former communist countries such as Poland and Hungary, which joined the EU after the collapse of the Soviet empire, or from authoritarian rulers in Russia and Turkey on Europe’s fringes, but also at its Anglo-Saxon core, with angry nationalism trumping enlightened self-interest in Britain and the United States.
Though Drozdiak paints with a broad brush primarily for an American audience unfamiliar with the minutiae of the EU, his dark tableau is a usefully unflattering mirror for any Europeans tempted by complacency following the defeat of anti-EU populists in France and the Netherlands earlier this year. The surge of support for the anti-immigration far right in Germany and Austria underlines the persistent danger of centrifugal forces tearing at the fabric of European integration.
- At times, Drozdiak’s picture may be a shade too black, notably on France, which looks less stagnant and doomed to perpetual decline six months into Macron’s reforming presidency than it did late last year when he was writing. Yet he is right to warn of the potential for Islamist terrorist attacks to trigger anti-Muslim violence by extreme-right vigilantes who are arming and training, against a backdrop of rising tensions over Islam, secularism and security.
- Drozdiak compares Trump’s outlook to the isolationism that dominated U.S. policy in the 1930s, ushering in trade protectionism and ignoring the dangers of rising fascism in Europe.
He pinpoints Italy as the next potential flashpoint of European crisis if renewed political instability after next year’s election brings unresolved banking problems to a head in the heavily indebted country, which may be too big to bail out. It’s a judgment that may err on the side of gloom. Italy has a history of teetering on the brink without falling into the abyss.
Drozdiak, who does not hide his dismay at the defeat of Hillary Clinton, depicted as a committed pro-European internationalist, is at his most vitriolic in analyzing the “America first” approach at work in Washington. He compares Trump’s outlook to the isolationism that dominated U.S. policy in the 1930s, ushering in trade protectionism and ignoring the dangers of rising fascism in Europe.
Europeans and Americans alike would benefit from heeding Drozdiak’s warning: That European unification may go into reverse and unravel due to blinkered nationalism on both sides of the Atlantic.
Hillary Clinton is depicted by Drozdiak as a committed pro-European internationalist | Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at : eu