Phoenix Europe: How the EU Can Emerge from the Ashes
The old European Union didn’t work, that much has been made clear by the ongoing debt crisis. But many in Europe think there is now a clear path to a new, more integrated — and smaller — bloc. What must happen first? Greater democracy and less nation-state sovereignty.
The jogger is undeterred by the wet, foggy weather in November. Once again, Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister and eminence grise of the Green Party, has taken to running regularly through the quiet neighborhoods of Berlin’s Grunewald district. It is the kind of exercise, he says, which gives him time to think.
“While I was running,” he says, it occurred to him “how things could work in Europe.”
To stabilize the continent in crisis Fischer, an avid European, wants to see a resolute political body consisting of the leaders of euro-zone countries. They should, he believes, be outfitted with far-reaching authority and granted sufficient power by their parliaments back home.
Fischer is thinking about a rescue plan. Not just a rescue plan for the banks, for Italy or the euro, but for everything. He envisions a fire brigade of European Union government officials, and sees it as an “avant-garde of the United States of Europe.”
It is, in other words, time to stop complaining. Europe can only be saved if it is completely reinvented. The financial crisis is the turning point in the history of European unification.
The old EU is finished. The 27-member bloc has never been as unpopular as it is today. Citizens have taken note that the massive bureaucracy in Brussels clearly lacks the power to master the crisis spreading through the currency union. It has likewise become apparent that the national governments they have elected are in the process of dismantling the historic project of European unification. After all, it isn’t the European Council, the European Commission or the European Parliament that the world is relying on to pull Europe out of crisis. It is Angela Merkel.
Old Europe No Longer Exists
The German chancellor and French President Nicolas Sarkozy more or less singlehandedly implemented the bailout plan for Greece, brought down the government in Athens and placed ailing member state Italy under international supervision. The words “History is being made in Cannes” were emblazoned on posters in the city during the G-20 summit there in early November. But that’s new history. Old Europe, that construct of unity housed in imposing buildings in Brussels, that visionary collection of ideas about peace, freedom and prosperity, the Europe of big words and impenetrable treaties, the Babylonian monster that spits out tons of paper in 23 languages every day, meddles in everything and tries to spoon-feed its citizen. That Europe no longer exists.