Europe’s Toughest Hour

Dec 06, 2011 by
Europes Toughest Hour   eurozone
Image Source: The Olive Press. 

The crisis in Europe intensifies. The headlines are desperate: Italy accepted new austerity measures; today, "The [Italian] minister in charge of pension reform broke down and cried as she tried to spell out the detail of the changes." Old Europe is dead, and EU advocates say a new United States of Europe, "a single, robust Brussels government for all EU countries — or at least for the euro zone," must rise from the ashes. Merkel and Sarkozy are unveiling a euro rescue package this week that will likely require members of the euro zone to relinquish economic sovereignty through changes to the EU treaties.  The Guardian expects that a number of EU countries will drop out of the union. The FT is thinking the unthinkable on a European breakup. The Economist reports that the chance the euro will disintegrate in the coming weeks is alarmingly high. The UK has told its European embassies to brace for riots if the euro collapses. The Telegraph is talking about "Eurogeddon" and says that Britain should close its doors to European immigration. The Dow Jones FX Trader has prepared an EU crisis roadmap for key milestones ahead.

This is "Europe's toughest hour since World War II." There is panicky talk of deeper integration – a new Reich – or conflict?  I have long wondered why Continental-wide empire or the spectre of war are Europe's default alternatives. Couldn't the powers in Europe simply, for the first time in over two thousand years, choose not to invade their neighbours, euro or no euro, European Union or no European Union?  How many non-Europeans died in the twentieth century for the sake of saving Europe from itself?  And how many Europeans died in those conflicts and as well before that, in the fourteenth and fifteenth, sixteenthseventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries? And now we hear hints that nothing has been learned on that score? There's a big difference between an EU striving unsuccessfully to apply federalistic American or Canadian models – and a neo-Roman empire conceived at best in Bonapartistic dreams. Speaking of the EU as the New Rome was once the specialty only of religious eschatologists.  Yet it slouches toward Bethlehem to be born.

This is not just a crisis of the economy and political power.  It is a crisis of values and ideals.  What does Europe stand for?  I have seen some pro-EU blogs talking of the potential loss of Europe's singular greatness, encapsulated symbolically in Beethoven's 9th as the Continent's cultural touchstone.  There was always some hubris and misdirected envy of America in the EU project. The choice of EU anthem made Daniel Hannan recall A Clockwork Orange It's a sin, using lovely Ludwig Van like that.

Philosopher Jürgen Habermas, labeled the 'last European' by Der Spiegel, defends the European idea against evil market forces and inept politicians.
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