Hopes for a Europe united by democracy from west to east are fading. They are being erased by the ongoing, if not expanding, Balkan war, unusually high sustained unemployment, and a loss of faith. Five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, European nations are united only by their identity crises: they share narcissism, self-doubt, and a weariness with democracy. In former Warsaw Pact countries, with the notable exception of the Czech Republic, ex-communists have regained power, although they are more "ex" than communist. In western Europe, with the notable exception of Germany, scandals have tarnished the public's belief in democratic principles.
Since the Pyrrhic victory of the Maastricht referendum in France in 1992 (an acrimonious campaign that left the country nearly deadlocked, 51 percent for the treaty, 49 percent against, and aroused skepticism among prospective member nations), Europeans seem more afraid of what they may lose to the European Union (EU) in terms of sovereignty and identity than comforted by their prospects for more opportunities and influence in the world. West European governments seem mired in technocratic, soulless discussions of ways to build on the three pillars of the EU -- institutional reform, economic and monetary union, and common foreign and security policies. Fixated on how to "do" Europe, they have lost sight of the moral values and fundamental cultural and political objectives that constitute the "why" of it.
Europeans are painfully aware that their priorities are increasingly divergent. Around France, countries to the south are looking across the Mediterranean to
- Full website and iPad access
- Magazine issues
- New! Books from the Foreign Affairs Anthology Series