Europe’s Trial by Crisis

BERLIN – Some 2,500 years ago, the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus concluded that war is the father of all things. He might have added that crisis is their mother.

Fortunately, war between world powers is no longer a realistic option, owing to the threat of mutual nuclear destruction. But major international crises, such as the current global financial crisis, remain with us – which might not be an entirely bad thing.

Just as in war, crises fundamentally disrupt the status quo, which means that they create an opportunity – without war’s destructive force – for change that in normal times is hardly possible. To overcome a crisis requires doing things that previously were barely conceivable, let alone feasible.

That is what has happened to the European Union over the last three years, because the global financial crisis has not only shaken Europe to its foundations; it has assumed life-threatening proportions.