Where are Europe's Optimists?

The European Union at 50 should be celebrating its economic success rather than lamenting the failure of political unification. Indeed, as long as some Europeans choose to keep their resources in social welfare programs, strategic dependence on the United States will preclude a common EU foreign and defense policy.

The European Union has been so successful that you would have thought there would be dancing in the streets at its 50th anniversary. Alas, there has been only persistent talk of failure – to achieve political union, to adopt a constitution, to exercise global leadership and vision, to implement economic reforms, and the list of laments goes on. “The EU is on autopilot, in stalemate, in deep crisis,” claims Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister and an important voice in Europe.

But this angst and hand-wringing simply is not convincing. Consider Germany. After World War II, it was a beaten and devastated nation with a history of dysfunctional nationalism. Today, a totally rehabilitated Germany is as thoroughly European and democratic as any other EU nation – indeed, under the leadership of Angela Merkel, Germany has earned its place as Europe’s most important country.

The EU deserves great credit for this transformation. After the War, it was a prime EU objective to moderate nationalism and promote regionalism in Germany, a feat that was accomplished to the benefit of all Europeans. Shouldn’t they – and others – be celebrating this major success instead of becoming bogged down in defeatist talk of crisis and stalemate?

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