A snapshot of European capitals frozen amid turmoil, from Berlin to Athens.
What former Washington Post chief European correspondent Drozdiak sees as the noble European experiment of a united democratic order since the end of the Cold War—undergirded by the three initiatives of the expansion of NATO, the creation of the euro, and passport-free travel within Europe—seems now to be imploding from within. What happened? A revanchist, nationalist stance has emerged in many countries, a North-South split due to Germany’s economic predominance versus the south’s debt-heavy load, and the influx of refugees from Africa and the Middle East are challenging the social and economic order. Indeed, the fracturing has already occurred with Britain’s stunning vote to leave the European Union after more than four decades of membership. Drozdiak cites “scare tactics about unchecked immigration” as being a major reason, compounded by an “antiglobalization backlash.” In France, growing class conflict led to the rise of Marine Le Pen’s far-right party, which underscores the need “to restore respect for law and order, curtail Muslim immigration, and revive French national identity.” These themes continue to play out in other capitals. Angela Merkel’s bold decision to open Germany’s borders to refugees led to enormous criticism, while overall, Europe is feeling helpless to halt the influx as well as impotent to restrain Russia’s territorial aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere. In Spain, unemployment is very real, especially among young people; the country suffered through a crippling economic recession, while the “Catalan question” has taken on new strength. Hungary has erected wire fences along its border to obstruct refugee crossings, and Matteo Renzi, Italy’s youngest-ever center-left prime minister, boldly stood up to challenge Merkel’s austerity programs. Drozdiak pursues policies in Warsaw, Copenhagen, Riga, and Ankara, and he explores how Europe must deal with Moscow’s “traditional paranoia about being encircled by the West.”
A timely, useful study of how the new reality of a “post-Washington Europe” may revive old demons of nationalism.