Where are Europe's Optimists?

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?

Besides, where is the alleged crisis and stalemate? On the economic front, the euro-zone economy performed extremely well in 2006, and most experts predict that economic growth in 2007 will be faster in Europe than in the United States, notwithstanding Germany’s hefty increase in value-added tax.