Rewriting Europe’s Narrative

Nearly a decade of austerity in member states has undermined the European Union's economic promise, strained the bonds of solidarity, and paved the way for a resurgence of toxic ideologies. If the EU is to survive, it needs a new collective identity – and the ability to intimidate others.

MADRID – When the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the European Union, was established by the 1957 Treaty of Rome, the narrative that defined it was that economic integration would encourage growth, strengthen democracy, and bury the ghosts of Europe’s violent past. In other words, the objective of inoculating Europe from the maladies of nationalism, populism, and authoritarianism was written into the DNA of the post-World War II project of European integration.

But the disarray produced by the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and the austerity measures that followed, undermined the EU’s foundational promises and paved the way for the return of toxic ideologies. If European solidarity is to survive its latest challenge, a new narrative is urgently needed.

Populism’s resurgence has no doubt been aided by the anonymity of EU institutions, in contrast to the traditional welfare-providing institutions of the nation-state. For this reason, EU policymakers should embrace more socially responsible initiatives that promote wealth distribution, welfare, and workers’ rights.

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