The European project – always a work in progress

New dawn: Brexit was a wake-up call for Europeans to begin fighting for a project in which their future is invested

On almost every indicator that counts, Europe is undergoing a significant revival. Polls show Europeans have become more pro-European Union since Britain decided to quit the EU writes Geoff Kitney.

Another European city struck by Islamic terrorists. More evidence, for those who are looking for it, that Europe is sliding into anarchy, created by the fifth columnists of Islamic revolution.

Read some of the right-wing media, and there are dire warnings everywhere of the bleak future that Europe has been condemned to by its rapid “Islamisation”.

In the US there are now far-right-inspired “financial advisory services” offering clients products to protect themselves from looming European economic collapse being brought on by “Islamisation” and “socialism”.

The EU Endgame: Prepare for the Worst is one of them.

The latest ISIS-inspired vehicle attack on pedestrians, this time in Barcelona, is certainly shocking. No less so the knife attack in Torku in Finland, a least likely place to be a terror target. The death and injury toll is a terrible reminder that evil doers in the name of “Islam” are determined to keep striking, that potential attackers are difficult to identify and that there is very likely going to be more such attacks.

But the most striking thing about these attacks – apart from the pain and grief that they cause their victims, their friends and families and community from which they come – is the way that their impact is transitory and that communities respond with such resilience.

… Despite sporadic terror incidents, Europe has become more unified, more tolerant, more optimistic and more prosperous

The reality is that, within a relatively short time, they simply come to be seen as utterly pointless acts of violence, events at the fringe of life for the vast majority of European citizens who go on living their lives as they always have.

They are, of course, an on-going nightmare for security, police and emergency services. The response to them requires more resources, better surveillance, better protections for the public and measures that impose new restrictions on ordinary freedoms. The latter is their most significant real impact.

But if their intention is to undermine and weaken European civilisation – as right-wing commentators suggest is the case – the opposite appears to be happening.

On almost every indicator that counts, Europe is undergoing a significant revival.

In the 14 months since Britain’s Brexit vote – a result that was hailed by Brexiters as the beginning of the end of the European Union – and despite sporadic terror incidents, Europe has become more unified, more tolerant, more optimistic and more prosperous.

Europe is now experiencing its strongest economic growth since before the global financial crisis (GFC)-induced recession.

The scourge that has done much more to foster alienation, anger and resentment than terrorism – unemployment – is falling across the continent.

Populist politics appear to be in retreat in the major EU countries. The Union is responding robustly to member states like Poland where governments are adopting policies which don’t reflect “European values”.

Polls show Europeans have become more pro-European Union and more pro the euro since Britain decided to quit the EU.

Immigrant flows from the Middle East and Africa continue to be a headache for European authorities. However, the ability of countries such as Germany to manage the big rise in their immigrant populations appear to have reassured initially frightened communities.

The leader most associated with opening the welcoming doors to refugees and asylum seekers – German chancellor Angela Merkel – seems headed for a comfortable victory in the national election on September 24.

The terror and security issues appear to have had a uniting effect on communities rather than a divisive one. Ordinary people have shown resilience and optimism in the face of the on-going risk of terrorist attacks.

The US is in turmoil as the increasingly dysfunctional Trump presidency becomes more divisive and less credible. United States standing and leadership are in decline.

Europe appears to be faring better than the two countries – Britain and the United States – which a year ago were boasting that they represented the future and Europe the past.

Populism as it was expressed in the Brexit and Trump votes is not looking so appealing.

Brexit has become more a threat than the opportunity that its backers boasted it would be. The British government is measurably weaker now than it was before the Brexit vote.

The US is in turmoil as the increasingly dysfunctional Trump presidency becomes more divisive and less credible. United States standing and leadership are in decline.

The US economy is still growing, but the EU is catching up to it.

The idea that US-style economic neo-liberalism is the best model for economic policy makers to adopt and that the European “socialist state” is in long-term decline is proving to be incorrect. It has effectively been abandoned by a Trump administration that has embraced an incoherent mix of protectionism, mercantilism, deregulation and fiscal farce.

Growth rates in Europe are catching up with the US, without such a rapidly widening gulf between the wealthy and the rest of society.

Economists challenging the supremacy of the US model are gaining credibility.

The “mixed model” of liberalisation, with social protections is gaining adherents, albeit with policy makers still facing the challenge of structural unemployment that was the consequence of the GFC and of on-going technological change.

Europe, of course, still faces many challenges – structural, economic, managerial and social. As always, the European project is a work in progress.

But the mood has certainly turned since last year’s Brexit vote and, it seems, that in part is due to Europeans deciding that Brexit was a wake-up call to begin fighting for a project in which their future is invested.

The depth of that sentiment seems likely to see this latest terror atrocity – the Barcelona attack – be borne with stoicism, resolve and optimism.

 


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Headline image: Sun rising over European countries
(Elements of this image furnished by NASA- earthmap)
Credit: Johan Swanepoel/Shutterstock

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