Twin crises and rising populism threaten the European Union.
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EUROFUDGE is melting under the heat of a threatened euro, failing immigration policy, and rising populist parties. You can, after all, fudge some of the facts some of the time, but not all of the facts all the time. Poland, the biggest and most important in geopolitical terms of the EU’s new Eastern European members, senses this. Rather than rushing to join the eurozone as expected, it is warily demanding better fiscal rules and crisis management before giving up its zloty and groszy for the dubious charms of the single currency.
The question is whether this is only a temporary crisis or whether the crumbling foundations of “Europe” signal the beginning of the end of the European Dream. Even the Eurocracy itself is beginning to have its doubts. A recent survey of European Commission staff in Brussels revealed that 43 percent thought European integration had “evolved negatively” over the past 10 years, while a convincing 63 percent said “the European model has entered into a lasting crisis.”
What is certain is that, with Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel more interested in their own political problems and upcoming elections, no major European leader today is energetically promoting integration the way French and German heads of state did from the 1960s to the 1990s. As the Financial Times suggests, “We may be witnessing a generational change in European political dynamics. Traditional left-right divisions have narrowed.… It may spell a new, unprecedented challenge to the European project.”
Right now “Europe” is bobbing and weaving and playing for time. José Manuel Barroso, a president with no real power over anything, implores EU heads of state to resist what he calls the “populist temptation” created by rising regionalism, nationalism, and anti-globalism. But, while suffering what looks like the slow-motion collapse of the European Union in its present form, the real challenge to Eurocrats may be to salvage the things they do best. Like saving hamsters.
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