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Europe’s Age of Humiliation

The European Union is ending 2019 seemingly helpless and resigned in the face of its biggest challenges. If this stagnation continues, the only question is whether Europe will become a satellite of the United States or of China.

WARSAW – In 2004, the American economist Jeremy Rifkin wrote a bestselling book, The European Dream, in which he proclaimed that the twenty-first century would belong to Europe – and even would depend on it. In Rifkin’s view, a Europe held together by the idea of “unity in diversity” would be the most effective answer to globalization. Europe was supposed to represent a new “global awareness” and “freedom from the slavery of materialism,” which would be “replaced by empathy.”

We all know how that turned out. The materialistic United States, which Rifkin expected to be eclipsed by Europe, was better able to weather the financial crisis. Brexit, the crises in Greece and Catalonia, and the implosion of liberal democracy in Central and Eastern Europe have highlighted the shortcomings of unity in diversity. And European societies’ hostile reaction to the wave of migrants fleeing wars and hunger demonstrated that empathy has failed to overcome materialism.

The error was not Europe’s, but Rifkin’s. Europe was not, and is not, bound to succeed. In fact, as 2019 comes to a close, the European Union is seemingly helpless and resigned in the face of its most important challenges: completing the economic and political integration of the bloc, creating a common defense policy, and even safeguarding basic standards of the rule of law.