This is an important contribution at a crucial time. The sense today in Europe is that we are no longer masters of our own fate with the tide of history moving inexorably away from us. It is a feeling of powerlessness. This breeds resignation, with calls to lay down to an inevitable Chinese-led order growing more frequent, or misguided attempts to go back to an anachronistic nationalism that does not offer solutions to the challenges of our time. The European Project is our best hope of contributing to and shaping the world around us. But to do so actual change, not merely talk of change, is necessary. Europe cannot rest on its laurels and past achievements as the basis for moving forward. It needs to evolve; it needs a positive platform; and it needs to reconceptualize itself. For all of the challenges that Brexit brings, it also necessitates a shake-up in how Europe operates, particularly in the realm of security, as highlighted in this piece. We may therefore look at this moment of discord as an opportunity for creative destruction. It is an opportunity that cannot be wasted. Continuing to muddle through will get us nowhere but further into the morass of helplessness. To avoid this, leadership, which has been so absent in Europe these last years, is necessary. Mr. Macron’s apparent willingness to step into this void after a period dominated by difficulties within France is good news for Europe.
Thank you for the link to a very good article that I hope has received the attention it deserves. From an outsider's perspective, the "big question" certainly seems to lie in your "What is the point of the European Union?"
But big ideas seem to follow from such big questions and the demands of necessity -- so perhaps we can hope that the EU will seize the moment presented by her immigration crisis. If not, perhaps Mr. Juncker's "last chance" will have been squandered and so end the experiment.
The line in your article that really struck me as most important though, was was where you wrote "Prosperity – which was initially seen as a means – gradually became the end. " This, I think, is a penetrating statement of the malaise that infects the West generally.
Thank you for your comments. Many of you have raised the point that current difficulties are not the result of nostalgia, but rather fundamental challenges arising in our societies and world. This is precisely the point. The nostalgia described in the article is a side-effect of the deeper uncertainties arising from our changing world. In the absence of new ideas it has become all too easy to fall back on old models driven by a hope that we can return to the past (and often to a past that never existed at all). This kind of sticking our heads in the sand is folly and distracts from coming up with real solutions to real problems.
Thank you all for your excellent and thoughtful comments. Underlining many of them is a sense that it is not our leaders who are really to blame, but flaws in the liberal democratic system itself that demands wishy-washiness. I ascribe to this somewhat and indeed the article makes reference to the pressures politicians are under within the context of the 24-hour news cycle which has increasingly come to define modern democracy. But we should not resign ourselves simply to shrugging our shoulders. Yes the world is unpredictable and yes there is a need for flexibility. But at the same time there is also a need for leadership and direction setting. Not to strive for some level of assertiveness is to condemn ourselves to perpetual reaction and defensiveness. This is by no means suggesting a thoughtless move forward, after all fools rush in. We must certainly leave ourselves room to maneuver. But too often thoughtfulness has been used as an excuse for paralysis. In the context of international affairs rudderlessness simply begets more unpredictability. To avoid this vicious cycle we must demand something more from our leaders---like actual leadership.