The European Union is dying — not a dramatic or sudden death, but one so slow and steady that we may look across the Atlantic one day soon and realize that the project of European integration that we’ve taken for granted over the past half-century is no more.
Europe’s decline is partly economic. The financial crisis has taken a painful toll on many E.U. members, and high national debts and the uncertain health of the continent’s banks may mean more trouble ahead. But these woes pale in comparison with a more serious malady: From London to Berlin to Warsaw, Europe is experiencing a renationalization of political life, with countries clawing back the sovereignty they once willingly sacrificed in pursuit of a collective ideal.
For many Europeans, that greater good no longer seems to matter. They wonder what the union is delivering for them, and they ask whether it is worth the trouble. If these trends continue, they could compromise one of the most significant and unlikely accomplishments of the 20th century: an integrated Europe, at peace with itself, seeking to project power as a cohesive whole. The result would be individual nations consigned to geopolitical irrelevance — and a United States bereft of a partner willing or able to shoulder global burdens.
The erosion of support for a unified Europe is infecting even Germany, whose obsession with banishing the national rivalries that long subjected the continent to great-power wars once made it the engine of integration. Berlin’s recent reluctance to rescue Greece during its financial tailspin — Chancellor Angela Merkel resisted the bailout for months — breached the spirit of common welfare that is the hallmark of a collective Europe. Only after the Greek crisis threatened to engulf the euro zone did Merkel override popular opposition and approve the loan. Voters in local elections in North Rhine-Westphalia promptly punished her party, delivering the Christian Democrats their most severe defeat of the postwar era. Read full article in The Washington Post…