European Union Parliament

Europe’s Last Straw?

Europe is overloaded by crises – so overloaded, in fact, that many claim it is too weary to respond effectively to new challenges as they arise. But addressing multiple crises simultaneously can make them all easier to resolve, by increasing the scope for tradeoffs.

PRINCETON – The European Union is facing a truly terrifying array of crises. After prolonged euro and sovereign-debt crises polarized and radicalized the continent, creating a deep north-south rift, the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees has pitted east (plus the United Kingdom) against west. Add to that numerous other divides and contradictions, and the EU’s collapse seems to many more likely than ever.

Consider the wide variations among EU countries’ energy policies, beginning with incompatible energy-pricing structures that run counter to the idea of a single internal market. Countries have also adopted incompatible solutions, making it extremely difficult to integrate national energy networks.

For example, whereas France derives the majority of its electricity from nuclear energy, Germany rushed to close all of its nuclear power plants after the 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima plant. Now Germany, along with Spain, is focusing on renewables like wind and solar – but remains highly dependent on fossil fuels when there is no wind or sun.

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