A new generation does not share the old idealism about Europeby Larry Siedentop / June 22, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
Tunisian refugees arrive in Italy on 7th March—but what kind of welcome will they find, with the EU in crisis from immigration and debt?
Is the EU mortally wounded? Can it survive the twin crises in the eurozone and the Schengen free travel area? Most speculation turns on an assumption that the threats to the EU are of recent date—the result of the banking and sovereign debt crisis and immigration pressures following the uprisings in north Africa. But the truth is that a deeper threat to the future of the EU antedates these events.
A nationalist reaction has been gathering in Europe for at least two decades—a predictable reaction to the process of integration. But it has been much aggravated by the failure of the EU to anticipate the problem and begin to deal with its root cause.
That root cause is simple. The process of integration has reached the point where it ceases to touch merely interests and begins to touch identities. In that sense the root cause is moral, a crisis of belief. Are Europeans willing to shed national identities? They have discovered that integration is not a cost-free process. It threatens their sense of empowerment as the citizens of nation states. They have come to feel that integration is not something they are doing, but rather something that is happening to them. This is not bleak nationalism, but a concern for self-government.