Democracy or Bust in Europe

BERLIN – “Europe will be democratized or it will disintegrate!” That maxim is more than a catchphrase from the manifesto of the Democracy in Europe Movement – DiEM25, the group I just helped to launch in Berlin. It is a simple, if under-acknowledged fact.

Europe’s current disintegration is all too real. New divisions are appearing seemingly everywhere one looks: along borders, within our societies and economies, and in the minds of Europe’s citizens.

Europe’s loss of integrity became painfully evident in the latest turn in the refugee crisis. European leaders called upon Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to open his country’s borders to refugees from the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo; in the same breath, they chastised Greece for letting the same refugees into “European” territory, and even threatened to erect fences along Greece’s borders with the rest of Europe.

Similar disintegration can be seen in the realm of finance. If an American citizen won some lottery jackpot, she would not care whether her prize dollars were deposited in a bank domiciled in Nevada or New York. This is not so in the eurozone. The same sum of euros has very different “expected” value in a Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Dutch, or German bank account, because banks in the weaker member states are reliant on bailouts from fiscally stressed governments. That is a sure sign of the single currency’s disintegration.