The ideal of a united Europe is under threat. The challenges it faces are not limited to the eurozone crisis and the Greek meltdown. Although governments cannot afford to reject European unity, citizens are increasingly raising their voice in unwillingness to sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of a phantom solidarity. Not only the opposition, but also members of the political establishment, are abandoning their earlier proclaimed values. The idea of a “Europe without borders” is crumbling before our eyes. The authors of the current issue of Pro et Contra write about the crisis of the European Union and offer their insights on the possible transformation of Europe.
Europe’s Democracy Paradox
The emergence of the elite-controlled liberal democracies in postwar Western Europe made European integration possible and successful, and it is the transformation of these regimes by dint of the rise of a new populism that explains why Europe is in trouble today. The real reason for Europe’s economic crisis is that there was never anywhere near enough of a social foundation for the political and economic edifice European elites have tried to build. That is Europe’s real crisis, and it is a crisis of political culture. Everything else is a sideshow.
The Reinvention of Europe
Europe’s crisis has stripped national governments of the luxury of hiding behind the weak leaders they installed in Brussels. For too long, they have found themselves defending an unsustainable status quo rather than facing up to Europe’s short-comings and plotting a course to correct them. To avoid the fragmentation of Europe, they should now set out a radical vision for rethinking Europe which deals with the efficiency and the legitimacy crises at the same time. It requires political leadership to make these crises a source of energy rather than paralysis.
The Great Transatlantic Bargain
The biggest danger for Europe is the inability of its political leadership to recognize two fundamental truths: (1) that Europe cannot afford to lose its close alliance with the United States, and that it therefore must invest to stay relevant as an ally and become a more relevant global player, and (2) that if European Nations want to retain some of their cherished sovereignty, they need to share it with their fellow Europeans. Only more integration will make Europe a strong political player, both internally and externally.
Collective Memory—One of the Pillars of the EU?
Will the destruction of a European consensus on a collective history produce a negative effect? Partly, yes, since an emergent vacuum can be filled with a new narrative of racism and negative stereotypes. At the same time—since it is based on historical reductionism and myths—no consensus about the past can exist forever. The question is where such a crisis will lead: to a revision and formulation of a new, more sophisticated consensus, or to “memory wars” and the manipulation of history in the spirit of historical politics. As with any crisis, this is a situation with an unclear path.
Eurostate and the Integrators of Europe
Various goals or their different combinations (collective security, economic union, geopolitics) served as the basis of the European integration. It is not necessary for Europe to become a unified state in order to fulfill the first two goals. Only the geopolitical project of the creation of a powerful state presupposes prior political association. As external threats grow, the necessity to proceed with geopolitical integration based on a unified European defense industry becomes more evident. At the same time, the risk of undermining the democratic foundations of the EU and its transformation into an imperial state increases.
The Europe That We Have Not Yet Seen
In view of the uncertain economic and political situation in the US, as well as the unclear future role of Beijing, it is almost impossible to predict how the situation will change in Europe. However, the more unstable the circumstances, the more likely powerful continental states will be guided by their own interests. In search of additional support they will likely turn to Russia as it is the only nearby source of potential economic and political dividends. Russia will then have to decide what it is ready to do and what risks to take in order create a stable alliance with one of the European states.
The Lessons of 1989
The upshot is that 2011 in the Middle East is not 1989 in Eastern Europe. The Arab autocracies of today enjoy better survival prospects than did the communist autocracies of yesterday. Indeed, the contradictory results of the Arab spring so far—including authoritarian retrenchment in Bahrain, massive repression in Syria, and instability in Libya and Yemen—illustrate the paradoxical influence of diffusion in the absence of other structural changes. As long as the structural underpinnings of authoritarianism remain, diffusion is unlikely to result in democratization.
Cracks in the Wall
The failure (even partial) of electoral authoritarianism in Russia defines its current and future political agenda. The outcome of the 2011 Duma campaign was by no means inevitable and predetermined. On the contrary, this failure was a result of strategic mistakes made by the ruling elite. It based its policy on the previous successes of the policy of “virtual politics”: As it became more and more consumed with imitation of political life and decoration of the political “facade” of the country, the regime underestimated the negative effects of the Medvedev-Putin swap, which turned many voters into civic activists.
Egypt on the Edge
Yasmine El Rashidi
During what will be a period of immense pressure, the Muslim Brotherhood will most likely emerge as a mediator and perhaps the ally of the parliament’s liberal coalition. The military, for its part, will undoubtedly continue to have a hand in the country’s affairs, whether overtly through a provision of the constitution, or through tactical pacts with factions in parliament. Having waited since 1928 for this moment, the Brotherhood can be expected to wait another few years before attempting to make any drastic changes in the social and cultural life of the Egyptian state.
Ekaterina Demintseva, Alexei Arbatov, Samuel Greene