Europe may be on the cusp of a nightmare, but it’s not too late to wake up

 

The sleeping pro-Europe majority must be mobilized to defend its values, George Soros says
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A man stands with an EU flag during speeches at a demonstration against recent legislative measures introduced by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest.

 

MUNICH, Germany (Project Syndicate) — Europe is sleepwalking into oblivion, and the people of Europe need to wake up before it is too late.

If they don’t, the European Union will go the way of the Soviet Union in 1991. Neither our leaders nor ordinary citizens seem to understand that we are experiencing a revolutionary moment, that the range of possibilities is very broad, and that the eventual outcome is thus highly uncertain.

Most of us assume that the future will more or less resemble the present, but this is not necessarily so. In a long and eventful life, I have witnessed many periods of what I call radical disequilibrium. We are living in such a period today. The first step to defending Europe from its enemies, both internal and external, is to recognize the magnitude of the threat they present. The second is to awaken the sleeping pro-European majority and mobilize it to defend the values on which the EU was founded. The antiquated party system hampers those who want to preserve the values on which the EU was founded, but helps those who want to replace those values with something radically different. This is true in individual countries and even more so in trans-European alliances. The EU’s dominant country is Germany, and the dominant political alliance in Germany — between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU) — has become unsustainable. The alliance worked as long as there was no significant party in Bavaria to the right of the CSU. That changed with the rise of the extremist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). In last September’s länder elections, the CSU’s result was its worst in over six decades, and the AfD entered the Bavarian Parliament for the first time. The AfD’s rise removed the raison d’être of the CDU-CSU alliance. But that alliance cannot be broken up without triggering new elections that neither Germany nor Europe can afford. As it is, the current ruling coalition cannot be as robustly pro-European as it would be without the AfD threatening its right flank. In the United Kingdom, too, an antiquated party structure prevents the popular will from finding proper expression. Both Labour and the Conservatives are internally divided, but their leaders, Jeremy Corbyn for Labour and Theresa May for the Tories, are so determined to deliver Brexit that they have agreed to cooperate to attain it. The public is also becoming aware of the dire consequences of Brexit. The chances that May’s deal will be rejected on Feb. 14 are growing by the day. That could set in motion a groundswell of support for a referendum or, even better, for revoking Britain’s Article 50 notification.
Italy’s predicament Anti-European forces may look good in comparison: at least they have some principles, even if they are odious.
Europe’s interests It is difficult to see how the pro-European parties can emerge victorious from the election in May unless they put Europe’s interests ahead of their own.