Pulling Europe Back from the Brink

DAVOS – In 2007, the United States caught a serious – and highly contagious – economic cold. Eight years later, it is finally making a convincing recovery – so convincing that last month the US Federal Reserve raised the country’s base interest rate for the first time in almost a decade. Europe, however, remains in bad shape. Not only has it not recovered from its post-2008 cold; beset by multiplying crises, it is now on the verge of developing pneumonia.

The best defense against pathogens is a strong immune system. And that is what Europe lacks today, in the form of political leaders who provide an inspiring and forward-looking vision to their people. With political disenchantment reaching levels not seen since the continent’s darkest times in the 1930s, the risk that Europe will succumb to the destructive forces of populism looms ever larger.

But it is too soon to give up hope; on the contrary, Europe is well positioned to succeed in the long term. To secure that future, Europe’s political class, rather than struggling to cope with crises as they arise, must begin to look at the big picture, anticipate and address challenges, and inspire people once again.

Is this too much to ask? History tells us that the answer is an emphatic no. Sixty years ago, with Europe’s economy reeling from the destruction caused by World War II, Europe’s leaders lifted their eyes above daily hardships to shape a more hopeful future, underpinned by European integration. That same vision and foresight is needed today, and the European Union, with its unmatched ability to facilitate regional cooperation, will remain essential.