*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.
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 takes readers on a tour of European capitals, diagnosing the fractures he says still threaten to pull the EU apart.
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.”
Barack Obama lobbied Angela Merkel to stand for a fourth term as German chancellor | Steffi Loos/Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump’s disdain for Europe and for multilateralism has piled a huge burden of leadership on the weary shoulders of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to whose inner circle Drozdiak enjoyed unrivaled access as the former longtime head of the American Council on Germany. Each of Europe’s overlapping crises has placed new demands on the EU’s reluctant hegemon.
The insider anecdotes Drozdiak recounts highlight Merkel’s lonely responsibility at the peak of the crises, as she rushed from negotiations with Vladimir Putin in Minsk over Russia’s destabilization of Ukraine to an all-night summit in Brussels on Greece’s debt crisis and then talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron on how to avoid a British exit from the EU.
He reveals how reluctant Merkel was to stand for a fourth term and how intensively former U.S. President Barack Obama worked last November to convince her she had a responsibility to the West to run again after the shock of Trump’s election.
Her biggest frustration in battling the multiple crises has been the lack of strong partners in Europe. She could never rely on Cameron, a hostage to Euroskeptics in his party, and was frequently disappointed by French Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, unable to reform France’s bloated state and shackled economy.
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.
* 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
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