Reflexions on the future of Europe

With borders being sealed in reaction to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees, high unemployment, huge debts and far-right parties on the rise, Europe's integration is grinding to a halt. Difficult elections in several member states are also taking a toll. Is this major peace project doomed to fail?

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Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

A fatal state of paralysis

An EU that allows its progress to be blocked every time a member state runs into problems faces collapse, political scientist Sergio Fabbrini writes in Il Sole 24 Ore:

“Last spring the EU was paralysed with fear at the prospect of Marine Le Pen winning the elections in France. Next it will be worrying about whether a new government can be formed in Rome. ... It is transfixed by Budapest, Warsaw and the future of Vienna. But the world does not stand still. Trump's nationalism is making a noticeable impact, Putin's aggressiveness is not waning, and neither is the pressure of the wave of refugees. ... If the politicians don't grasp soon that mixing national policies with EU policies is a fatal cocktail the EU will be condemned to implode or become irrelevant.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

We idiots are destroying our future

The EU is mainly preoccupied with harming its own cause right now, laments the Tages-Anzeiger's Brussels correspondent Stephan Israel:

“We are all Europeans, born in peace, prosperity and security like no generation before us. Europe is the desired destination for refugees, migrants and students from all over the world. Still a place where the social rifts are relatively small and the quality of life is high. But we are dismantling our own edifice, making ourselves small. The autocrats of this world will rejoice to see the Europeans tearing themselves apart. ... Perhaps we really will go down in history as the most stupid generation ever.”

De Standaard (BE) /

The Europeans' longing for politics

Writing off all criticism of the EU as populism is too simplistic, philosopher Tinneke Beeckman warns in her column with De Standaard:

“The technocratic leaders of the EU have been repeating the same message since the crises of 2008: There is no alternative. And anyone who says there is is a populist. … This paternalistic 'back to the wall' rhetoric plays right into the hands of the anti-politics movement and ignores the essence of politics: pluralism. … Democracy implies that the citizens discuss the future of society and weigh up the alternatives. If the proponents of liberal democracy offer no options, then non-liberal visions win out. The Europeans' rebellion against their governments and the EU is an expression of their burning desire for a political, respectful, pluralistic debate among opponents. The European Union is facing a crisis: this is the painful payback for the mistaken belief that the citizens would simply accept the lack of perspectives and solutions.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

For Frits Bolkestein there is no European system of values

Members of government in Poland and Hungary believe that Europe's system of values must be protected from an influx of other cultures. But there is no common European system of values, writes former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein in De Volkskrant, pointing to several studies:

“The results are both fascinating and sobering, because the differences in values are enormous. ... For example, belief in God is very important for Poles but not at all for Czechs. Respect for the authorities is viewed askance in Northern Europe, but that doesn't go for the rest of Europe. ... Those who see freedom, human rights and democracy as European values must concede that the same values are also shared in other parts of Western civilisation: North and Latin America. ... There is a large diversity of European values. But what binds the EU member states is not their values, but their various interests.”

Postimees (EE) /

Urve Eslas on the proliferation of political lies

The US elections and the Brexit campaign are exemplary of today's post-truth era in which lies have become acceptable, columnist Urve Eslas observes in Postimees:

“Believing in conspiracies means being convinced that someone who can control a considerable amount of information, money and people has a plan and the power to deceive us. In a society where people have free will, where the press is free and independent and financial transactions are monitored by the tax authorities, that would be complicated. But in view of the proliferation of political lies and mistrust, conspiracy theories and radicalism are flourishing. The upshot is that civil society is undermining itself while authoritarian and extremist parties are growing stronger. If you look at the changes taking place in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Poland, the signs of this are apparent.”

El Mundo (ES) /

The end for Europe's social democrats?

In the UK, France, Spain and many other European countries the social democrats are divided and this poses a threat to Europe's political system as a whole, El Mundo fears:

“The implosion of the economic system has led to the breakdown of the political structure in most European countries: the two-party system maintained a balance between the liberal free market and socialist immobility. The conservative parties seem better equipped to withstand this system, albeit with difficulty, but the European left is experiencing a serious identity crisis that threatens to destroy this model's stability. Incapable of offering an alternative for managing the crisis, Europe's socialist parties are suffering a process of internal division that has them balancing between radical discourse that shares the far left's rejection of the European project and the adoption of liberal values in those places where they govern. … The fall of the Berlin Wall facilitated the downfall of communism but the current crisis may disrupt the balance that has enabled the EU to make progress towards economic integration and create political security and stability”

Le Monde (FR) /

Time for a defence union, Roberta Pinotti and Paoplo Gentiloni urge

The EU must respond to the growing uncertainty among the people with a new initiative, Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti and Foreign Minister Paoplo Gentiloni write in Le Monde:

“If we want to counter the success of populists who try to take advantage of the situation to put forward anti-European arguments, we must offer efficient responses to the Europeans' growing concerns. ... One of the most insightful - which until now has hardly played a role in public debate - concerns defence. While the Brexit deprives us of a member state with considerable military capacity, it also offers new perspectives for joint defence. A restructured EU will not only allow us to boost our operational capacity in crisis zones and the fight against terrorism and upgrade the efficiency of our resources. It will also enable us to underscore our support for the project of integration - and allow us to achieve major political impact.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

More direct democracy can help stop populists' advance, Olev Remsu argues

The rise of populist politicians and parties in Europe and the US is a sign that representative democracy has failed, author Olev Remsu fears in Eesti Päevaleht:

“With Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen we see that their current position is a result of democracy. The danger that they will make a grab for power and destroy democracy like Hitler did is looming. It's difficult to defend democracy using the instruments of representative democracy. … Democracy needs changes like those that have taken place in the past. I believe that more direct democracy can stop the advance of authoritarian forces towards power. Or in those cases where they have already come to power through representative democracy and demagogy, direct democracy would prevent them from exerting even more pressure.”

Le Point (FR) /

Patrick Artus dreams of a Spanish-Italian tandem

As was the case when the European community has faced crises in the past, calls for a new German-French initiative are once again to be heard. But the two major reform countries Spain and Italy must not be left out, economist Patrick Artus warns in Le Point:

“That would be both a political and an economic mistake. Italy and Spain have introduced efficient labour market reforms that have promoted employment and can serve as examples for other countries. Spain is the most dynamic big economy in the Eurozone. Europe needs a recovery mechanism other than the 'French-German tandem'. The economic structures are very different in France and Germany, consequently the two countries have diametrically opposed economic policies. Their views on the optimal institutional organisation of the Eurozone are in stark contrast to one another (federalism versus regulations). There is no reason to exclude Italy or Spain.”

Medium (US) /

Bernhard Schneider on the unifying power of culture

Only by paying more heed to the power of culture can we bring Europe closer to Europeans, Bernhard Schneider of the network Soul for Europe writes on the online platform Medium:

“So that Europeans see and accept this project as their own, it needs to be returned to them. ... The cultural similarities are a solid basis for the legitimation of a united Europe, while simultaneously longer lasting than the then important joint projects could be, such as the coal and steel industry or the Single European Market. At the same time, cultural differences and diversity also endanger cohesion, which is why they need to receive special political attention. ... Europe’s culture is at home in the cities and regions. And among the people, the Europeans who live there. So anyone who has anything to do with culture in a city or region, be that as a citizen or as a holder of public office, is performing a European duty. Whether they know this or not, they are the protagonists of Europe from the bottom up. They need to be made more aware than previously that they have this responsibility.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

António Barreto on Europe's deformation

Terrorism is disfiguring the Europe we know, sociologist António Barreto complains in Diário de Notícias:

“Europe is no longer what it once was - and in a few years it won't be what it is today. This is the end of an era in our history and the history of the continent: a Europe of peace with open arms for all the refugees in this world. … A Europe that wanted to show it was different through its generosity, culture and diversity. … This Europe, this dream, this project, history and hope are all disappearing. … Islamist terrorism is destroying the Europe we know. And far worse, the fear of terrorism is increasingly encroaching on our lives, stimulating our protective and defensive reflexes, provoking the abuse of rights and an aggressive reaction that are disfiguring Europe. Islamist fanaticism is deliberately provoking the racism and xenophobia that Europeans have been trying to overcome for years.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Elites lack insight, says Mikael Jalving

In his blog with Jyllands-Posten Mikael Jalvin points to the "trilemma" economist Dani Rodrik already predicted the global economy would face ten years ago and criticises the elites for not having addressed it:

“Globalisation, democracy and the nation state - we can't have these three good things all at the same time. … We must choose between them or administer them in individual doses. … We still haven't understood this central trilemma; this is particularly true of the economic and political elites, whether in Davos, in the EU, in Frankfurt, Paris or Berlin. They are up in arms against all limits and norms, internal and external. But this is the same as if 30 years ago we had chosen the pop group Gnags to govern global politics. If there is something we need now it is more opposition from the people against the leaders and their fan clubs of intellectuals, media darlings and pop musicians.”

Upsala Nya Tidning (SE) /

Mats Wiklund warns of the destructive power of breaking taboos

The danger that right-wing populists claim is looming over Europe and its nations is nothing more than the populists themselves, writes Mats Wiklund in Upsala Nya Tidning:

“Bring back our country! one nationalist after another is now shrieking. ... In such a mood it is all of a sudden possible to say what was hitherto unthinkable: Build a wall! Shoot refugees! Don't let any Muslims in! Regain control over the country! The truly dangerous thing - and in many places this point has been reached - is that people are getting used to the simplifications and violent messages of extremists and demagogues. The un-normal is becoming normal. ... It is no exaggeration to say that the underlying values that hold Sweden and other European countries together are threatened. The real danger, however, comes from all those who are doing their utmost to destroy the mutual trust that forms the basis of liberal and open societies.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

Democracy is too complicated for Europeans, Evgeniy Daynov argues

Democracy is on the wane in Europe, political scientist Evgeniy Daynov fears on news website Dnevnik:

“Turkey is rapidly moving away from the fundamental imperatives of the modern age - equality, tolerance, freedom of expression and religion, the rule of law, separation of powers, the separation of church and state. … The Russians have already embarked on this path in their orgiastic allegiance to Putin. … The Hungarians, Poles, and Slovaks are testing whether they would prefer to change course and return to the anthill in which everyone is the same, everyone has a boss and dissenters are fed to the others. To a certain extent the temptation to do this is understandable. People have difficulty finding their way through the complex tangle of institutions, division of powers, laws and regulations for everyone and everything, above all when on top of that they're told: 'You have all options open to you - work your life out for yourself.' It would be much easier if all this didn't exist and everyone was equal under the leadership of a wise chief according to the motto: 'One people, one religion, one leader!'”

Causeur (FR) /

Give the power back to the people, Emmanuel-Juste Duits demands

Political decisions in Europe should be made by the people once more, author Emmanuel-Juste Duits writes on the debate portal Causeur:

“The EU is at a crossroads: either it continues its headlong rush to remove the power from the people and transfer it to experts who are able to navigate the increasingly complex and opaque structures, or it returns the decision-making to the people of Europe via new mechanisms. The goal, then, is to create the missing link in the chain, namely a truly democratic instrument of debate that finally allows citizens to make reasonable decisions. Such effective debating methods have already been developed: for instance the deliberatorium experiment in the US and the consensus conferences. If we don't manage to create a new systematic and enlightening instrument of debate we can kiss goodbye to the democratic ideal - to the power of the people for the people - and we will experience an unimaginable regression that puts all power in the hands of those new kings of philosophy embodied by the experts and jurists of the European institutions.”

Právo (CZ) /

Visegrád no good for Czechia, Jiří Pehe warns

The Czech Republic suffers because of the poor reputation of the Visegrád countries, Jiří Pehe writes in Právo:

“V4 was once a good brand, as long as it pursued common goals. Recently, however, the differences of opinion arising from the differences in mentality, size, ambitions and history have intensified. ... Nevertheless the Czech Republic is viewed as an inseparable member of the V4. Even the fact that we showed more reserve vis-à-vis the EU on the question of migration than the other three members who enjoy hammering their fists on the table from time to time has done nothing to change that. ... The fact is that the V4 countries are seen as a group that takes an ever more disparaging view of democracy. A group that has nothing against taking from the rich EU countries, but then answers with a lack of solidarity. From a historical point of view too, it would be better if the Czech Republic allowed itself to be guided more by its German-speaking neighbours than its neighbours to the east and the north.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Paolo Rumiz sees Balkan-style EU collapse looming

The EU is in the process of Balkanising itself, author Paolo Rumiz fears in La Repubblica:

“What is this sound of crossbars being slid shut and barriers being erected, of locks snapping into place and creaking gates closing? It can be heard throughout Europe, from Britain to Greece, from Catalonia to the Russian border. What is this banalisation of language that has befallen us? This spread of brutal alternatives behind harmless-sounding IT-like keywords like 'In/Out', or 'Leave/Remain'? Where does the deathly aggression in obscene acronyms like 'Brexit' and 'Grexit' come from, catchwords that strip events of their complexity? And what to call the illusion that makes states believe they're better off alone? ... We have a word for it, one that has been at our disposal for the last quarter of a century. ... It's called Balkanisation. I know, few people are keen on comparisons with the Balkans. They prefer to believe that the Balkans are a trouble spot of tribalism to which 'civilised' Europe is immune. But the dream of Europe could be shattered. ... And collapse in perfect Balkan style.”

Novinar (BG) /

Alexander Tomov puts his hopes in liberal Germany

Nationalism and populism are becoming more widespread in Europe, and of all countries Germany is best placed to keep them in check, columnist Alexander Tomov writes in Novinar:

“Amazing that I have lived to see this day: Germany embodies the liberal spirit of Europe, while the spirit of fascism is haunting the erstwhile Allies. Britain, for example, wants to leave the EU, without a care for the wounds that would leave in the joint European project that it was so keen to help establish. And why? Because of a few dumb populists who have swarmed in like mosquitoes, sucked the people's blood and then disappeared. ... The spirit that once brought Hitler to power is once again making the rounds in Europe, and - what irony - Germany of all places is one of the few reasonable voices that could stop it. Hope is not lost as long as Germany is strong and the Germans do not abandon themselves to propaganda.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Jesper Beinov on how EU criticism has degraded to a national sport

The leader of the Danish Social Democrats, Mette Frederiksen, has accused the EU of leaving its citizens in the lurch. The daily paper Berlingske calls for a more nuanced debate:

“Criticising the EU has become a national sport for politicians. … Membership of the EU obliges us to give up some of our sovereignty, but ultimately we gain more influence. From a global point of view we must be interested in joining our path with those whose values we share in a world in which many major states equate power with entitlement. … Clearly we have neglected the EU debate. And it's easier to attack the EU verbally than to admit that it is an arena for power struggles - just like domestic politics. Naturally we shouldn't say yes and amen to everything Brussels sends our way. But the politicians have left the EU in the lurch. Badmouthing the EU could be deeply damaging for Denmark in the long run.”

Český rozhlas (CZ) /

Petr Holub rejects apocalypse scenarios for Europe

To judge by the reporting on Europe you'd think the continent was on its last legs, commentator Petr Holub writes on the website of the public broadcaster Český rozhlas:

“Disaster scenarios sell well. At least as far as Czechs go. Maybe it's just the thoughtlessness with which media owners and journalists diffuse the news of Western agencies. But when hysterical voices from abroad are broadcast here without any context, you'd think Austria was seeing the rise of a Nazi threat the likes of which once destroyed Europe. And all because presidential candidate Hofer has exploited the Austrian people's dissatisfaction with the grand coalition. ... And the same goes for the vote in the UK. The rise of the far right need not necessarily lead to a Brexit. But it can bring the elites to take an interest in the people's concerns. Europe is not facing an Apocalypse. It's just solving more serious problems than it faced before.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

László Csizmadia on the dawn of Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe has a vital role to play in the renewal of the European project, journalist László Csizmadia writes in Magyar Hírlap:

“Today the driving force behind the revival of the Union is found in the countries that suffered under Soviet rule, and which as a result appreciate the value of freedom. The decline of the West evoked by [German cultural historian] Oswald Spengler is now being followed by the dawn of the East. ... The majority of Europeans still want European unity. Just not in its current form, where no one knows whether they're coming or going. Politics take priority in the EU today, followed by the economy. The interests of society take third place. ... The people of Europe, however, want the order to be reversed. ... The alliance of European states will only last if the sovereignty of its nations is respected. Eastern Europe supports just such a policy, and with any luck it will be able to push through its view in the face of the prevailing forces of Western Europe.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

How Thomas Piketty wants to get the EU back on track

To get back in shape the hard core of the EU must sign new treaties, French economist Thomas Piketty writes in La Repubblica:

“Refugees, debts, unemployment: Europe's crisis seems never-ending. Consequently, for a growing section of the population withdrawal seems to be the simplest solution: we leave the community and return to the nation state and everything will be as it should be. Faced with this illusory promise - which however has the advantage of being clear - the progressive camp is dithering: yes, the situation is not great, but we must stick it out and wait for things to improve. ... This fatal strategy must come to an end. It is time for the principle countries of the Eurozone to seize the initiative and form a hard core able to take decisions and revive our continent. ... Parallel to the existing treaties it would be entirely feasible to conclude a new intergovernmental treaty among those countries of the Eurozone that wish to do so.”

El País (ES) /

For Daniel Innerarity Europe needs a new concept of solidarity

If Europe wants to survive as a united community it must develop a new concept of solidarity, philosopher Daniel Innerarity advises in the daily El País:

“A 'moralist' concept of solidarity gives us to understand that the political agents are not acting out of self-interest and that society can be regulated through generosity. … On the other hand we have what could be called the 'cynical' concept of solidarity that underlines the supposedly 'natural' limits of solidarity so as to not have to take account of the interests of the others. … I propose that we consider a third concept of solidarity as 'reflexivity', which we would understand as the institutionalisation of 'enlightened self-interest', or of the long-term interests of Europe beyond the altruist concepts that seem to evoke a generous self-annihilation and beyond the cynical ones that prevent us from understanding that sometimes our immediate interests don't correspond to our true interests.”

Mandiner (HU) /

Maciej Zięba on Europe's multiple personality disorder

The Polish theologian, physicist and former Solidarność activist Maciej Zięba explains why refugees are perceived as a problem in Europe:

“Firstly we should note that the postmodernism that plays a dominant role in European culture today calls all values into question. Secondly, three cultural layers have established themselves in Europe: Christianity, the Enlightenment and postmodernism. These layers are in conflict with each other and undermine each other. In view of Europe's multi-dimensional identity which is based on these cultural layers, the continent is suffering from what can be seen as an autoimmune disease in which the organism is attacking itself. From a psychiatric point of view we are dealing here with a multiple personality disorder which leads to a profound conflict of identities. … Therefore the refugee problem in Europe is not a problem with the refugees but a problem with Europe.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

Jochen Bittner on Europe's democracy dilemma

In view of the Brexit vote in six weeks' time, journalist Jochen Bittner explains on Zeit Online what is really ailing the EU:

“Why did the British tip the first domino? Because, in a word, they no longer believed in the added value that a hyper-complex federation of states can offer to a self-assured nation state. And because they felt that the EU has been ignoring their criticism of its deficits in terms of efficiency and goals for the past forty years. ... The truth is that you can't have democracy, harmony and efficiency all at the same time. You can't pass majority resolutions with 28 governments in Brussels without curtailing the national parliaments' right of co-determination. ... Anyone who wants an efficient EU that can speak with a single voice in the global debate must to a certain extent be willing to forego traditional nation state democracy. But the question of whether Europeans are ready to do that has never been put to them. It has been concealed. This lack of a basic consensus is what is now causing the EU to falter.”

Trud (BG) /

Vasil Prodanov sees EU in a dilemma

To counter the growing Euroscepticism not less Europe but the strengthening of the European institutions is imperative, writes political scientist Vasil Prodanov in the daily paper Trud. But because of the widespread distrust of the EU he sees little chances of this happening:

“More integration and the strengthening of common borders and institutions means more military, social and economic security. To achieve this Europe would need not just a common currency but also a common financial policy. That, in turn, would require a drastic increase in the EU budget and redistribution by the EU institutions. At the moment the EU allocates just one percent of the total GDP of its members. By comparison the US earmarked 22.51 percent of its GDP for its 2016 federal budget. However, in view of the attitude of the political elites and the growing Euroscepticism Europe is unlikely to adopt this course.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Xenophobia a spectre haunting Europe

Europe Day on May 9 is a state holiday in Kosovo. The rest of Europe doesn't even want to honour its core values, Večernji list criticises:

“In 21st century Europe a spectre is once more haunting the continent. It is not fascism or communism but xenophobia, the fear of the foreign. And the far-right nationalist parties are pouring fuel on the fire. Not to protect their people as they claim, but to win votes and get their politicians elected. For a handful of votes they're ready to sell the European ideals which are the envy of the rest of the world and the foundation of democracy. ... On Europe Day we must heed the words of Pope Francis, who has called on Europe to wake up and remember the values on which it is founded.”

Kainuun Sanomat (FI) /

No one defending Europe's values

Not since the end of World War II have the values of the European Union been as endangered as they are today, the daily paper Kainuun Sanomat comments:

“Human rights, democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of movement, mutual solidarity - where have all these values and principles gone? Open racism, selfish nationalism, violations of minority rights, restrictions on press freedom, distortions of history - all these phenomena can be observed in many places. It is symptomatic that nationalism, xenophobia and ethnic division are flaring in former totalitarian communist states which are now refusing to assume responsibility for refugees even though the EU has generously supported reconstruction in these countries. But the same trends can be observed in the so-called Old Europe. … It is alarming to see the weak and bland reactions of the Europeans politicians. Who is defending Europe, its values and its goals, today?”

Trud (BG) /

Lyubomir Kyuchukov warns of a return to nation states

The desire of a growing number of EU countries to return to being sovereign nation states endangers the European integration project, warns Lyubomir Kyuchukov of the Economics and International Relations Institute (EIRI) in Sofia in the daily Trud:

“A backward-looking policy can hardly solve the problems of the present. But it could certainly place obstacles in the EU's path towards the future. It is an expression of the nostalgia people feel for the stability they were once accustomed to (but which no longer exists). The balance has gone - within the member states, in the relations among the member states and between the EU and the rest of the world. There is a lack of vision for the future of the EU, a lack of solidarity among EU countries and of security within these societies. If Europe doesn't want to marginalise itself the EU must find its way to the next phase of its integration.”

Jornal de Negócios (PT) /

Harold James sees generational war in Europe

Europe's younger generation is being left empty-handed in the fight for resources, writes Harold James, professor of history at Princeton University, in Jornal de Negócios:

“As populations in Europe age, the demographic pyramid is rapidly inverting – and a war of generations, rather than of classes, is emerging. ... The war is fought primarily at the ballot box - old people win elections, while young people stay home - and the spoils lie in the national budget, in the balance among education, pension, health-care, and tax regimes. With this clash, the intergenerational pact that long underpinned social and political stability has been broken. ... For now, the safety valve provided by labor mobility may rule out a youth revolt against the selfishness and complacency of the elderly. The question is what will happen when opportunities abroad are no better than those at home.”

Cyprus Mail (CY) /

Repair Europe - a guide by Hans-Gert Pöttering and Androulla Vassiliou

Hans-Gert Pöttering, chairman of Germany's Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, and former EU education commissioner Androulla Vassiliou discuss in the Cyprus Mail how Europe can be made strong once more:

“The basis for this is a unified EU: the division into East and West, North and South which we are currently witnessing, represents a danger to us all. It is therefore of utmost importance that the United Kingdom remains a part of the European Union. And we should never forget that it is our common European Union values that connect us: human dignity, freedom, democracy, peace and the rule of law. We should not waste our energy focusing on our divisions, but concentrate on making Europe as a 'community of fate' work again. We have no doubt that Europe can succeed in this.”

15min (LT) /

Ainius Lašas bids farewell to Christian Europe

There is no reason to lament the diminishing importance of the Christian faith in Europe, writes columnist Ainius Lašas on news website 15min:

“The heralds of conservatism rightly criticise certain trends, for instance exaggerated tolerance at Western universities or problematic aspects of the integration of migrants. But this doesn't make their exhortations to return to Christian values any more attractive. The majority of Western Europeans no longer believe in divine creation but see the human side instead. So it is naïve to appeal to the word of God or absolute truth. Such ambitions are more problematic than certain postmodern trends, like the moral relativism the conservatives so despise. This relativism is indeed problematic and self-contradictory, but what is the alternative? The blind advice to close our eyes to reality and live according to values sent down from heaven? We already lived through such an era and still refer to it today as the 'Dark Ages'. That is where a pretty large section of the Islamic world is still stuck today. Do we really want to go back to that?”

Sme (SK) /

For Matúš Krčmárik, Europe is losing its humanity

In the spring of 2016 refugees in Europe are no longer seen as individuals with private destinies and that blocks their chance for a future, commentator Matúš Krčmárik laments in the liberal daily Sme:

“Today fear predominates on both sides. The fear felt by the refugees, who sense the Europeans' growing hatred, and the fear of the Europeans that these people will destroy their normal lives. … But the refugees are not numbers. They have their own stories and until recently their own future. If they are sent back as a result of the EU-Turkey deal all they can do is wait. The children will lose whole school years, the adults the sense that they are working, and ultimately their dignity. … If these desperate people fleeing war receive no sympathy, Europe loses a chunk of its humanity.”

Delfi (LV) /

Jurijs Sokolovskis on the Old Continent's new rivals

Jurijs Sokolovskis, a former member of parliament for the Latvian Russian Union, sees Europe losing influence and plagued by power struggles on the Russian-language online portal Delfi:

“For a few centuries Europe dominated the world. But history moves on. We must get used to the fact that the EU is just one of many strong players now. Europe is losing its position of dominance. Its share of the global economy and its influence are dwindling. Its inhabitants are growing older and its populations remain steady only thanks to migration. The economy is shrinking. Meanwhile countries like China or India who want to overtake Europe have young and growing populations. Thanks to globalisation this generation has access to modern technologies, good education and capital for investments. … The new leaders want their share of power at organisations like the UN or the IMF. But as we know from the past, the redistribution of power always involves war and a realignment of zones of influence. The war goes on until a new order emerges that reflects the new balance of power.”

Lietuvos žinios (LT) /

For Jūratė Laučiūtė the lack of identity generates terror

Europe has lost its identity, columnist Jūratė Laučiūtė writes in the conservative daily Lietuvos žinios with an eye to the attacks in Brussels:

“Although Europe largely ignores its Christian roots, church bells are still to be heard. Sometimes they announce the miracle of Christ's resurrection. Sometimes they sound the death knell. And today they increasingly ring to bid farewell to terror victims. ... Terrorist attacks pull the rug out from under the people in the West, in the truest sense of the term. And in a wider sense the same is done by Western politicians and lawyers, whose heads have been turned by the tolerance and political correctness of left-liberal human rights activists, philosophers and intellectuals. Only crackpots value citizenship over nationality. The responsible politicians are now yammering because they must face up to the fact that 'Belgians' are killing other Belgians. A Europe that has lost its national, cultural and religious identity will soon be on its deathbed.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Nicolas Baverez calls for fresh start after Paris and Brussels

Europe must defend itself against terrorism, the French social scientist Nicolas Baverez urges in the centre-left daily La Repubblica:

“Europe, which dreamed of going down in history, doesn't want enemies and it doesn't want to recognise anyone as its enemy. But with Islamic State it is confronting an enemy that has declared total war on it and wants to destroy its values and civilisation. … The tragedies of Paris and Brussels must not go unanswered. They represent a unique opportunity to rethink Europe. Those who want to destroy it because of the values it embodies are inadvertently reinforcing its identity and its common destiny. We must now find the courage to defend our democracies by ensuring the people's safety and not just securing the existing norms. … Let us not retreat in the face of barbaric acts. Let us fend off weariness and fear. Let us fight radical Islamism with the heroism of reason, without hatred but nonetheless relentlessly until it has been defeated.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Miljenko Jergović on Europe as a continent of refugees

Almost all the peoples of Europe emerged with the influx of refugees, Croatian author Miljenko Jergović points out in the liberal daily Jutarnji list:

“From the 7th century on all Europeans have migrated here from the East - the Celts, the Illyrians and the Basques may be the only exceptions. There was a time when we were attracted by Europe's civilisation, and hunger brought us here during the Barbarian Invasions. In recent centuries the idea of freedom and everything associated with it has made Europe attractive. This is why people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are coming here today to start a new life and become Europeans themselves. Their goal is not to make us like them but to assimilate. … And as Europeans we should be conscious of another factor: emigrants can't be divided into two groups as Germany, incomprehensibly, has done: those fleeing war and those fleeing to make better lives for themselves. Both are pursuing the same strategic goal: that of settling down in a new country and starting anew. … This goal hasn't changed since the 7th century.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Martin Ehl on Europe's lack of leadership and strategy

The established parties of Europe are in a profound crisis, populist groups are gaining ground and the continent lacks effective leaders and a strategy, comments Martin Ehl, foreign affairs editor of the liberal business daily Hospodářské noviny:

“In the German parliamentary elections the populists led by Frauke Petry may set the agenda even if the majority of voters support Angela Merkel's open-doors policy, as the three regional elections have shown. In the Netherlands the right-wing populist Geert Wilders is calling the tune and in Slovakia a stomach-turning government is forming. … The politicians in Brussels and other European capitals are simply reacting to results and doing nothing to steer developments in the direction they want them go. … Despite economic growth they are lapsing into pessimism, something populists and extremists are trying to cash in on. If things don't change other politicians will start setting the agenda, like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.”

Blog Pitsirikos (GR) /

Pitsirikos sees Europe drifting towards fascism

The EU has no plan for dealing with the refugee crisis and is becoming more and more fascist, blogger Pitsirikos comments:

“The countries of Europe are violating the Geneva Convention which they all signed, and with a few exceptions Europe's citizens are all asleep. Fascism and racism are on the rise in Europe, and not because of far-right governments but because of centre-right governments and social democrats. Some European governments are spreading fascist views to prevent fascists from coming to power. But if they themselves become fascists, the fascists will certainly take control. This is not difficult to grasp, although many European leaders are having difficulties understanding it. Those who truly love Europe must cry out that Europe is becoming fascistic. And they must do it now because if they don't it will be too late.”

Lrytas (LT) /

Tomas Čyvas demands a new Iron Curtain

Europe must resort to drastic means to protect itself against refugees, journalist Tomas Čyvas writes on news portal Lrytas:

“Western politicians like Angela Merkel are acting irresponsibly and have no clue how to deal with gangs of very questionable 'refugees' who simply feel like destroying Europe. … There is no strong-willed but at the same time sane politician who would say that we need another Iron Curtain (and we do, urgently). Skilled narrators of left-wing propaganda are keeping the majority spellbound with sentimentality and photos of dead children. … Yes, the West and Lithuania need a good few things: an Iron Curtain and a return to European values like equality before the law - even when that means revealing your face or casting off religious rags. … But unfortunately the will to do this is lacking.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Bernard-Henri Lévy sees Europe's salvation in German-French axis

The EU can only survive if it follows the Berlin and Paris's lead in the refugee crisis, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy warns in a guest commentary for the centre-right daily Corriere della Sera:

“Either we allow the obscene and opaque every-man-for-himself mentality to prevail and national anger to bury the European dream. ... Or the 28 EU states will come to their senses and decide to follow Angela Merkel's course. ... On the question of Syria they must follow François Hollande, because the conflict and the dual barbarity that have depopulated the country and driven millions into exile are the true cause of today's tragedy. The two politicians must listen to each other and examine each other's view of the truth. Only the whole truth can lend body and soul to the German-French axis, without which everything will be lost. Then and only then will Europe have a chance of survival. Never before was the choice more clear: Europe or barbarity.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Wolfgang Münchau sees EU in danger

In a guest commentary for the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera economic journalist Wolfgang Münchau outlines what will happen in the coming weeks and months and sees the EU in big trouble:

“The EU special summit with Turkey on March 7 won't bring any results. Angela Merkel won't change her stance on the refugee crisis and will continue to push for Turkey's support. The unilateral moves by Austria, Hungary and certain Balkan states will create new obstacles and bottlenecks in the region. The refugees will be left stranded in Greece. Many will try to reach Italy across the sea. The flood of refugees heading for northern Europe will dwindle while the situation in the south escalates. If the UK votes to leave the EU on June 23 this could trigger referendums in Sweden and Denmark too. Right now the idea of a Brexit is frightening for the majority of Europeans - including me. But if it does come to that everyone, even those who want to prevent it, will see it as a truly democratic decision.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Europe losing its soul in the refugee crisis

Overcoming the refugee crisis is far more critical for the EU than the issue of whether Britain leaves the EU or not, the liberal daily Le Soir argues:

“More than the question of a Brexit, Europe's destiny depends on whether it - the people as much as their leaders - can come up with adequate solutions to the crisis posed by the refugees and migrants seeking a better life. The Brexit has briefly allowed us to forget the moral, political, organisational and decision-making decline of our rich continent and its 500 million inhabitants, faced with a million refugees and migrants looking for a decent life. It's there, between the Aegean Sea and the Balkan route, and not on the banks of the English Channel, that Europe is now putting its soul - and its greatness - on the line.”

Libération (FR) /

Only a united Europe offers protection against war

Verdun's Memorial Museum reopened its doors on Sunday, exactly 100 years after the devastating Battle of Verdun. Only a united Europe can prevent a repetition of such atrocities, the centre-left daily Libération warns:

“We believe that peace is ensured and we forget war. Before our very eyes, however, just a few hundred kilometres from Paris, the nationalism born of the fall of communism ravaged the Balkans twenty years ago and has sparked a war in Ukraine that is still raging. War is impossible? Anyone who knows their history will know that this idea is dangerously naive! It is irresponsible to allow the idea of Europe to perish under the pretext of difficulties which looked at from a distance are transitory indeed, such as the refugee or euro crises. Souverainism is criminal. We must never stop repeating: the unity of the continent is our only protection against the violence that is inherent to societies and nations.”

El País (ES) /

Joseph S. Nye urges US to focus more on Europe

Because the EU is facing several crises and a strong Europe is in the US's best interests US foreign policy may focus on the Old Continent once more, political scientist Joseph S. Nye speculates:

“In 1973, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, following a period of American preoccupation with Vietnam and China, declared a 'year of Europe.' More recently, after President Barack Obama announced a US strategic 'pivot,' or rebalancing, toward Asia, many Europeans worried about American neglect. Now, with an ongoing refugee crisis, Russia’s occupation of eastern Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea, and the threat of British withdrawal from the European Union, 2016 may become, by necessity, another 'year of Europe' for American diplomacy.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Sergio Fabbrini bemoans the EU leaders' lack of stature

The EU faces major decisions on its future but its leaders lack the political foresight to make the right choices, political scientist Sergio Fabbrini comments in the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore:

“True European leaders, instead of messing about with a bad negotiation, would have agreed long ago to a constitutional distinction between a single, open market with a basic regulation and a tightly knit monetary union supported by a political union with the means to support expansionary policies. Authentic European leaders, instead of arguing about how many Syrian refugees they will host in their respective country while eyeing the next elections, would have long since agreed on a common immigration policy with a common budget (supported by a European tax that would replace national taxes for emergencies), managed by a common political authority. Hopefully, important decisions will allow for the emergence of great leaders.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Criminal cash flows a threat, warns Roberto Saviano

It is naive to believe that the reintroduction of borders will increase security in Europe, author Roberto Saviano writes in a commentary published in Le Soir and several other European papers:

“Above all because it has been shown that criminal organisations don't need to use illegal channels: they can operate in any country, regardless of the flow of refugees. ... How were the terrorist cells able to emerge in Belgium? With funding that came from Dubai, Saudi-Arabia and the Middle East through various routes. France has Luxembourg. Germany has Liechtenstein. Spain has Andorra. Italy has San Marino. The entire world has Switzerland. We're not talking about tax evasion, but about centres that attract criminal and financial strategies to the heart of Europe. ... Europe is paying an extremely high price for not being able to bring cash flows and money laundering under control. This poses a serious threat to Europe's security.”

L'Express (FR) /

For Jacques Attali Europe and Russia are in the same boat

In view of the huge economic, social and environmental challenges we face today the Europeans and Russians should develop joint projects instead of attacking each other, economist Jacques Attali writes on his blog for the weekly magazine L'Express:

“This tragic spiral must be stopped. Because since the Munich security conference the worst case scenario has become possible. Against the will of the people. And despite the fact that we could achieve so much if we could only be retain a sense of reason. The West and Russia are engaged in the same fight against terrorism and economic crisis. Together the Europeans must construct a united continent in which everyone has a vested interest in the success of the others. To achieve that, all Europeans - East and West - must convene at a major conference on the future. ... They must keep a cool head, and work out joint projects and strategies against their common enemies.”

More opinions

El País (ES) / 09 May 2016
  Europe shows its mettle in times of crisis (in Spanish)
Der Tagesspiegel (DE) / 16 March 2016
  Norbert Blüm sees refugee crisis as Europe's acid test (in German)