Incredible Shrinking Europe: The Continent’s Grand Unity Project Is Failing; And Its Global Influence Is Fading;”The Rotten Heart Of Europe”
The title above comes from an Op-Ed in today’s (Feb. 12, 2019) Wall Street Journal (WSJ) by Walter Russell Mead. According to his Wikipedia biography, Mr. Mead is the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College; and, previously taught foreign affairs at Yale University. He is also Editor-At-Large of The American Interest Magazine, and a columnist for the WSJ.
Mr. Mead begins, “Last week offered fresh evidence that the most consequential historical shift of the last 100 years continues: the decline of Europe as a force in world affairs. As Deutsche Bank warned of a German recession, the European Commission cut the 2019 Eurozone growth forecast from an already anemic 1.9 percent, to 1.2 percent. Economic output in the Eurozone was lower in 2017 than it was on 2009.” “Over that same period, gross domestic product grew 129 percent in China, 96 percent in India, and 34 percent in the U.S.,” according to the World Bank.
“As its economy lags behind, Europe is becoming more divided politically,” Professor Mead reminds us. “Brexit negotiations have inflamed tempers on both sides of the English Channel; Central European Countries like Hungary and Poland are alienated from the West; much of Southern Europe remains bitter about the aftermath of the Euro crisis; and the EU political parties continue to gain support across the bloc. A recent report from the European Council on Foreign Relations projects that anti-EU parties from the right and left are on course to control enough seats in the near European Parliament that they will be able to disrupt the EU and weaken it further. This wasn’t supposed to happen,” Mr. Mead notes. “The EU was founded to stop Europe’s decline, not reflect it.” Though to be fair, the EU was also formed in part because the continent had germinated two world wars; and, no one wanted a third.
“As Europe’s founders saw it, two factors contributed to the continent’s geopolitical decline in the 20th century,” Mr. Mead writes. “One was inevitable,” he contends, “as technologies of the industrial heartland spread to Asia and the Americas; the wealth gap between Europe and the rest of the world necessarily narrowed. The diffusion of medical innovations — which also often originated in Europe — contributed to population explosions in the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Europe, the first continent to industrialize, was the first to experience decline in its birthrates associated with urbanization and affluence.”
“The second factor in Europe’s decline was internal division and nationalistic animosity,” Mr. Mead wrote. “This was the problem the EU’s founders sought to cure. Two world wars left much of Europe impoverished and in ruins. If the Continent could unify under a single set of values and political institutions, future wars could be averted. The unification policies began with Franco-German reconciliation after World War II. As the Cold war ended, and Germany was reunified, European leaders launched an ambitious program to broaden and deepen transnational cooperation.
“The union would expand to the east,” Professor Mead wrote, securing democracy in the former Warsaw Pact countries. Economic cooperation would deepen with the development of a single market, the establishment of a common currency, and the adoption of common economic principals. Diplomatically, the Europeans would seek a unified front in their dealings with the outside world. Building a new Europe that could compete on equal terms with the United States and China in a post-Cold War world is Europe’s overarching goal.”
“It’s become increasingly apparent that this grand project is failing,” Professor Mead argues. “An uneven; and perhaps overambitious expansion weakened — rather than strengthened the EU. The Euro was both an economic and political failure; and, diplomatic unity remains a distant dream.”
“Neighbors like Russia, Turkey, Israel, and the Arab states flout the EU’s wishes at will,” Professor Mead wrote. “European influence in Washington, already declining in the Obama years, has reached a nadir under POTUS Trump. Neither Moscow, nor Washington showed much regard for Europe’s interests when suspending the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which limits missile deployments in Europe. China takes Japan and India more seriously than it takes the EU; and, neither the U.S.nor China has been particularly concerned about what Europeans think, as they negotiate bilateral trade agreements that may redefine the world trade system.”
“One European initiative did work,” Professor Mead notes: “the single market. Europe remains formidable as a consumer bloc, and the EU’s ability to regulate the conditions under which foreign companies like Google and Gazprom operate inside its wealthy market is the most important card in its hand.”
“Leaders in France and Germany remain firmly committed to the European project, but with Britain on the brink of secession, Italy and Poland mutinous, and Hungary left defiant, the outlook is dimming,” Professor Mead observes. “if Paris and Berlin could devise a program to reignite European growth, secure its frontiers, and satisfy the nationalist emotions now ruling the bloc, Europe could arrest its decline. So far at least, such an outcome seems unlikely.” he notes.
“Some on the nationalist right in the U.S. welcome Europe’s demise,” Professor Mead wrote. “This is a mistake. A strong Europe, even if it is sometimes cantankerous and disagreeable, is better for the U.S. than a weak Europe — that can neither secure its own neighborhood, nor contribute to global stability. But, the U.S. must deal with the Europe we have; and, the Europe we have….isn’t doing well,” Professor Mead concludes.
Bernard Connolly, Author Of “The Rotten Heart Of Europe: The Dirty War For Europe’s Money”
I have felt from the beginning that the European Union and the Euro. as currently conceived — was doomed to failure. I wonder what took Mr. Mead so long, as I deeply respect his intellect and grasp of history. In 2014, Rick Santelli of CNBC had a fascinating and thought provoking interview with Bernard Connolly. Mr. Connolly an Oxford educated British economist who is known for his pessimistic outlook for the Euro and the European Monetary Union, provided a sobering but thoughtful assessment of the European Union.
Mr. Connolly’s book, “The Rotten Heart of Europe: The Dirty War For Europe’s Money,” is a sobering, but realistic assessment of the consequences and pitfalls that plague the Eurozone — as a consequence of pursuing a continent-wide monetary union. And Mr. Connolly should know, he was there for the “birth” of the Euro and was partly responsible for where Europe is today. Depression and recession are widespread across the continent as toxic nationalism and profound unemployment — especially among the youth are pervasive.
Mr. Connolly contends that the monetary union — which is at the heart of this grand Euro experiment — is rotten at its core. Indeed, Mr. Connolly contends that this destructive pursuit is making the economic situation in Europe worse than it would otherwise be; and, this “forced harmonization” is engendering “distrust, resentment, ridicule, contempt and even hatred,” amongst and between the people’s of the European continent. Yet Mr. Connolly notes, “the people who put this together (some of whom are in leadership positions today) hail the EURO and EU as a success.” “They call Spain a success and they have 27% unemployment. Greece is called exceptional; and yet, youth unemployment there is a staggering 67%.” He calls this belief in the promise of a monetary union either crazy or disturbing. Those who originally proposed a European Union thought this was the path to prevent a third European civil war. The reality Mr. Connolly says, is a reversal of the post-WWII economic revival. “We have an elitist, bureaucratic, corrupt, authoritarian, repressive institution and leadership on one side and, a demoralized, lost generation of youth who see an “unaccountable, undemocratic, illegitimate and ultimately repressive super-state” that is digging Europe and themselves into an even deeper hole. Not surprisingly, he sees ultimate failure for the European Union and even disaster, the longer those in charge in Europe pursue this feckless endeavor. A deadly cocktail of unintended consequences. You may or may not agree with Mr. Connolly; but, it is hard to dismiss, or ignore him and his thesis — would be a failure itself.
Divorcing oneself from this unworkable union will not solve Europe’s economic woes — not by a long shot. Over-excessive and oppressive regulation, onerous taxation, and the migrant crisis will still haunt the continent. But, being miserable in one’s own country is more tolerable that being miserable for some disconnected, faceless entity.
POTUS Obama and his national security team were on the wrong side of history. A country and its citizens cannot subordinate its sovereignty to an unaccountable, sclerotic, bloated bureaucratic entity in Brussels. That is why Brexit passed; and, a vibrant, continent-wide nationalist movement took hold. The demise of the EU and the Euro as currently conceived — is doomed to failure in my view; and it is only a matter of when — not if — IMO RCP, fortunascorner.com