According to the Daily Express “the European Union is fading away” while Germany’s Vice Chancellor Gabriel laments that “the European Union is going down the drain”. Obviously, a united Europe still has a lot of financial and bureaucratic strength and is likely to “present a united front” on global issues for years.
On the other hand, Real World “experts” laugh and say: “Go on, bury Gayrope, but be careful, who knows, maybe Siberia will break away while you’re peddling minor details, waiting for its demise.”
But when the people of the UK representing the fifth of the European economy decided (against their elite) to leave the EU, its head honchos realized that it needs “reform”.
So we can talk bravely, not about the liquidation of Europe but about the fact that “noon” in the European Union has clearly passed. Paradoxically, the EU is a comfortable format for Europe’s competitive elements to try to force each other into submission.
In other words, we’re witnessing a fight for advantage within the structure, but not for it. This means that the “modernizing leap forward” that the European Union took a quarter of a century ago was actually into a new civilizational format involving “peaceful superpowers without leaders or subordinates, whose weapon was the free market and democracy” – has hit a roadblock.
Here’s a simple explanation of why this happened:
It’s all about the fact that the EU formed in the 1980’s, signing the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and officially coming into force in 1993 – differed from today’s EU probably as much as the USSR of the 1980’s differed from today’s post-Soviet space.
People were different, as were goals and the outside world. For example, in 1990, the average European was just over 30, born and raised in a “traditional” family. He was almost totally white, religious (3/4 were observing Christians), worked in industry, and was afraid of nuclear war and a “red dawn”. He had two or more children and didn’t have a clue about depopulation.
Goals were also different, the EU having been created as a counterbalance to the Council for Economic Mutual Assistance (Comecon) set up in 1949. (In 1951, France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux created the European Coal and Steel Community, as a forerunner of the EU, which became the economic arm of NATO just as Comecon was considered an economic base for the Warsaw Pact. The EU formed in the 1980’s-and nineties was “a union of winners without firing a shot”, bringing the light of its values and brains in exchange for the resources of other countries.
It was part of a completely different world. There was a chain of fairly happy secular Arab regimes to its south and east, where it would have been difficult to imagine the ruins of today’s Libyan, Syrian and Iraqi cities, with ISIS gunmen running around the desert on machine-gun carriers.
There was the relatively peaceful (particularly if seen from a distance) collapsing USSR to the east, where everyone considered the European way of life as unattainable. There was the USA, that failed to realize that the collapse of the USSR wouldn’t be Fukuyama’s end of history or that not it, but the European Union, a peaceful family of rich democracies, was the new prototype.
The next 25 years changed everything. Today, the average European is well over forty and has far from “traditional” forms of social relations – with 1.5 times as fewer spouses and children. He doesn’t go to church, and now he no longer fears nuclear war but being killed in yet another jihad attack by interlopers among a foreign population that has grown five fold to eight or even 15%.
The idea of a peaceful global superpower turned out to be a utopia, leading to participation in new, shady undertakings, destroying the civilized states of the Middle East, and resulting in a flow of illegal migrants that appears unstoppable.
The idea of “a union of equal partners without leaders or subordinates” also turned out to be a utopia: you can see daily what intra-European equality looks like by the way Germany treats the states of eastern and southern Europe.
The values the EU brought to the world a quarter of a century ago also turned out to be a utopia. Its leaders officially buried “multiculturalism” about five years ago – but without proposing any alternatives. Now, they are dangling in a bizarre space between “respect our lifestyle” and “we won’t let the far right come to power”. The latter was relatively marginal in the 1990-s, but now it comes second or even first in European elections, amid hysterical cries of “stop Nazism”.
Finally, the outside world also changed. There is a “land of war” southeast of the EU – from Libya to Ukraine. Russia has stood up, with its pipelines, Armadas, Russia Today and other cruel weapons in the place of the harmless and compliant Soviet Union. And the “old-fashioned” USA, despite its domestic problems, takes bigger initiatives, unlike “advanced” Europe.
Europe may continue to live happily in this world for some time (if it’s lucky). But it must no longer fancy itself either a “new ‘City upon a Hill’, or a prototype of tomorrow’s world, and it’s questionable whether a system that went from messianism to clutching its values for a quarter of a century, can survive much longer.