Goodbye to Europe as a high-ranking power, says Richard Haass in a column in the FT. The European project is failing, he writes. The euro could break apart. Greece is the immediate problem, but the sickness has spread much wider.
Even before this economic crisis, Europe was weakened by a political crisis. Many Europeans have been preoccupied with revising European institutions, but repeated rejections of the Lisbon treaty demonstrate that a united Europe no longer captures the imagination of many of its residents. Lacklustre leadership of European organizations is both a cause and a result of this loss of momentum.
Lacklustre leadership? I’d say Europe got into this mess because its leadership was far too lustrous for much too long.
When did a united Europe ever capture the imagination of many of its residents? The European project was an elite-driven, top-down affair from the outset. Its leaders took the view, often explicitly, that Europe’s voters did not know what was good for them and would have to be led to enlightenment. There was never any willingness to let public indifference or outright hostility moderate the pace. For the most part, voters were not consulted. When they were, and voted No in the occasional referendum on further transfer of power to Brussels, governments resolved to keep on asking until voters got it right. Germany adopted the euro despite a sustained majority opposed to monetary union. (Surely this helps to explain German anger over the bail-outs. “We were against this in the first place. Now see what’s happened.”)