Whither Europe ? (English/Spanish


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European leaders are deeply worried. There is no sign of improvement on the economic front : Greece is not recovering despite strong European support ; warning lights are flashing in Portugal, Italy and Spain. The unified European economy is in danger, especially in the “peripheral” countries. For the first time since the establishment of the Euro, countries are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, threatening the entire system with collapse. European financial authorities first decided to weaken the Euro in an attempt to stabilize the situation but following their unsuccessful attempts to solve the Greek and Portuguese crises, the Euro itself is under attack. The European Union is today demonstrating economic fragility, while at the same time it is faltering socially and politically. The very essence of the EU is at risk with no clear future in sight.

Recent economic developments are throwing harsh light on another deep and cruel reality. There is no sense of a common European political vision, either at home or abroad. France and Germany are attempting to provide leadership but it remains clear that deep tensions exist. The British government remains close to its American partner. There is no common foreign policy and the recent Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, then in Libya and Syria, have underlined the sharp differences among European leaders. Some follow the American lead while others prefer a passive, reactive stance. To play a role at the international level, the European Union must have a united vision. Besieged on the periphery by a multidimensional economic crisis, the EU is itself becoming politically peripheral to the new world order. Its glory seems little more than a glorious past and an unrealistic, idealized future.

Meanwhile, another crisis is creeping silently across Europe, radiating from its very heart and calling into question the very essence of its being. Debates over “identities”, multiculturalism, religious diversity or legal restrictions (on freedom of worship) are signs of intrinsic erosion. The new Muslim presence in Europe, together with the EU’s hesitation to welcome Turkey, has placed the new reality at the top of the European ideological and political agenda. Turkey is too much a Muslim country, too much “the other” to claim to be one of “us,” claim the new populists. The marginalization of Eastern European countries points to a similar trend.

It is no longer clear, in Europe itself, who is truly European or what are the geographical borders of the European continent. If you no longer know who you are and where your boundaries are, small wonder you are lost in a globalizing world. This sense of disorientation is everywhere in a European debate driven by deep identity and psychological crises wedded to the threat of economic and political instability—all ingredients that fuel insecurity, and undermine self-confidence and hope. It hardly comes as a surprise that European politicians are increasingly leading by emotional appeals and demagoguery instead of drawing up responsible and reasonable political, ideological and economic platforms. Unable to create a common vision and to find effective solutions, they now find themselves locked in a vicious circle.

Europe, within the EU or beyond, is in poor health. Will its future be one of marginalization ? Torn between ideological and political proximity to the United States and its need for Chinese and Indian investment, Europe is searching for a way out. No European country can succeed on its own—but the political determination to deal with the populations’ fears and concerns is still lacking. Europe needs radical internal reform led by committed and courageous political leaders. Such leaders must begin by declaring, repeating and teaching that Europe has changed, that it has a new face. New priorities, even though unpopular on the short run, must be established in order to hope for success in the long term. Europe needs time, but our politicians are caught on the horns of a dilemma. While they need to think beyond the next generation, they are obsessed with winning the next election. Trapped between short-term imperatives and long-term necessity, it might well be that they cannot find a solution.

Citizens and civil society as a whole have no choice but to break the vicious circle ; they cannot allow their future be destroyed by a lack of collective confidence and by narrow individual political ambition. It is time to be vocal and constructively critical. The crisis in Europe is slowly driving its citizens back into the old, negative reflexes : reactive arrogance, rejection, racism, xenophobia, etc. It is up to the Europeans to say enough is enough ; they must refuse to sacrifice their values, to become narrow minded, unreasonable and undignified. In Spain and in Greece, citizens have gathered in public squares to express their refusal, calling themselves “the indignant.” Their movement may provide a non-violent and public-spirited way to break with the logic of negativism, and open the way for a radical reassessment of the economic, political and cultural situation. If the citizens remain passive, if they fail to ask hard questions about the very meaning of a united Europe, their story will be written without them. And, for the time being, the story is looking dark indeed.

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