2017: identity crisis or new harmony?

Macron's election victory in France, the Brexit negotiations and the Catalonia conflict have dominated Europe's debates over the past year. The EU is struggling with an identity crisis and threatens to lose touch with the rest of the world due to its "garden plot nationalism", some journalists write. Others are delighted to see a new sense of unity and the defeat of right-wing populists.

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Kurier (AT) /

Europe missing the boat

Kurier diagnoses an epidemic of narrow-minded nationalism in Europe and warns that only a united EU can counter the rapid rise of China and India:

“It's absurd to believe that the Czech Republic or Austria can stand up to the Asian tigers or the American superpower on their own. Only a united EU stands a chance in this global race. Yet it is anything but united. Germany, also the Union's political locomotive, is running on its reserves for lack of a proper government. Some eastern member states, in particular Hungary and Poland, are treating the Union like a mangy dog. And even Brussels is all wrapped up with itself - to say nothing of the fact that the Brexit negotiations are taking up a lot of energy.”

Contributors (RO) /

On a collision course

The year now coming to an end has shown that Europe is suffering from a crisis of identity, Romanian political analyst Valentin Naumescu comments on the web portal Contributors:

“We are torn between the liberal option which is currently in free fall and the new 'stars' of European politics - the nationalistic and protectionist option. What's more: the crisis will escalate in the coming years and spread to other states beyond the Visegrád Group. (The first candidate here is Romania.) ... Central Europe is hurtling towards a major political and social confrontation.”

The Economist (GB) /

Populists defeated by a vision of openness

The country of 2017 was France - because of the rise and politics of Emmanuel Macron, concludes The Economist:

“Mr Macron campaigned for a France that is open to people, goods and ideas from abroad, and to social change at home. In six months he and his party have passed a series of sensible reforms, including an anti-corruption bill and a loosening of France's rigid labour laws. … Mr Macron's movement swept aside the ancien régime and trounced the ultra-nationalist Marine Le Pen (who, had she won, would have wrecked the European Union). The struggle between the open and closed visions of society may well be the most important political contest in the world right now. France confronted the drawbridge-raisers head on and beat them.”

Delo (SI) /

Brexit has united the EU

The Brexit was one of the major topics in 2017. But the new sense of unity among the other EU member states has been too often overlooked, Delo writes:

“The triggering of Article 50 of the EU treaty created an interest-based consensus among the other 27 member states. They agreed that the key precondition for extending negotiations with Britain must be finding solutions to the basic questions regarding the separation: sufficient progress on financial compensation, the role of the European Court of Justice and the EU courts in safeguarding citizens' rights, and the future of the Irish border. The members didn't budge an inch on these issues, and this unity had a lot to do with their performance at the negotiating table.”

De Tijd (BE) /

EU is a prison for the separatists

In De Tijd political scientist Bart Maddens looks back at the Catalonia crisis and how it is influencing separatists in the rest of Europe:

“The Catalans have done what many Flemish nationalists dreamed of: they unilaterally proclaimed independence. It turned out better than one had feared. ... Catalonia didn't set a precedent as some had hoped. On the contrary: the EU turned out to be Catalonia's biggest enemy. Juncker and co. seem determined to define the internal borders for good. They want to protect the established state interests at all cost. The EU is not a safety net for the peoples but a prison. Should the prison be pulled down? The separatists can no longer avoid this question.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

An unjust world order

For Daily Sabah it was a year of global injustice:

“Now the year ends with an agenda that is focussed on the Jerusalem crisis, the rise of the far right in Europe and social injustice. ... In many European cities there is no room for refugees - and no serious plan for offering shelter to the homeless. The threats of [US Ambassador to the United Nations] Nikki Haley [about the US remembering the names of those countries that criticised the decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem] are a symbol of an unjust world order - humanity has certainly taken note. Just as it takes not of the oppression in the Middle East, the rise of the right-wing populists and the freezing homeless on Europe's streets.”

Večernji list (HR) /

All hope has been destroyed

Many people lost their faith in politics, Večernji list concludes:

“Politics as a profession is both popular and scorned. Some like politicians because they can help them to realise their ambitions. Others despise them because of this very same opportunism. The year 2017 has widened the political space in which resignation already prevailed - a numbed coming to terms with one's fate. ... People no longer see any point in demanding changes that won't ever be made. Although it wasn't the worst year one is left with the impression that 2017 destroyed all hope.”