Timothy Garton Ash: European Union ... Everywhere You Look, a Crisis

Roundup: Historians' Take

Timothy Garton Ash, a contributing editor to Opinion, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and professor of European studies at Oxford University.

Like an overladen container lorry laboring up a steep hill, the European Union is close to stalling.

Greece is the most urgent part of this crisis. Between the fury on the streets of Athens and the continued disunity of decision-makers in Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt and Luxembourg, the crunch could come any day. But it's not just Greece. In Ireland, Portugal and Spain too, the anger is boiling over, as people feel that the young, the poor and the unemployed are being forced to pay for the selfish improvidence of their politicians — and of the French and German bankers, who loaned profusely where they should not have loaned at all.

Across the Continent, the legions of the indignados, as they are called in Spain, and the aganaktismenoi (the outraged), as they say in Greece, are growing

And it's not just the Eurozone. Every single major project of the European Union is faltering. France and Italy are suggesting that the achievement of the Schengen area, in which 25 European countries have removed border controls, should be chipped away, just because a few thousand people from convulsed North Africa have taken refuge on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Many European countries are already in a panic about the integration of immigrants and people of migrant origin, especially those who are Muslims. Solidarity and social justice, central values of the post-1945 European project, are in retreat almost everywhere as a result of growing inequality and spending cuts to tackle public debt.

In the Arab Spring, Europe faces the most hopeful set of events in the 21st century so far, comparable in scale and potential to 1989; but the Continent's collective and institutional response to this historic opening has been feeble...

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