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Decision Time for Europe

After muddling through a series of profound crises over the past decade, the EU now finds itself confronted with a political meltdown in Britain, a potential trade war with the US, and mounting security threats on its periphery. To address these and other challenges, Europe will have to make decisions it would rather continue to postpone.

STOCKHOLM – Say what you will against the European Union, but it does not lack ambitions or plans for realizing them. Almost immediately after the June 2016 Brexit referendum, the EU’s 27 other member states agreed to the “Bratislava Roadmap,” charting the course for a future without the United Kingdom. One year later, EU leaders reconvened in Tallinn and adopted a “Leaders’ Agenda” to “guide EU action up until the European Parliament elections in May 2019.” And now, the EU is preparing for a summit in Sibiu, Romania, that same month, where these blueprints will be finalized.

Still, the EU ultimately will be judged on results, not resolutions. Over the past decade, the bloc has faced two profound challenges, and it is now in the process of confronting a third. The first was the euro crisis, which could have ended with the demise of the common currency. Instead, a series of summits were held, and Europe managed to muddle through. With time, member states’ economies started to recover, and new instruments for coordinating economic policy within the eurozone were adopted.

But just when the EU was starting to regain the public’s trust, it was hit by the 2015 refugee crisis, which affected some countries far more than others, exposing glaring inconsistencies in the application of common rules concerning the movement of people. The number of asylum seekers traveling to Europe has since fallen substantially, but fears of a return to 2015 continue to haunt voters. And, more broadly, there is a growing awareness of how conflicts in the Middle East and demographic trends in Africa could threaten European stability.

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