As the tug-o-war pulling apart Europe’s political, social and economic cohesion plays out on the fringes – with the improbable Brexit vote on one side and the failed coup in Turkey on the other – forced solidarity is being called into question by an increasing number of once loyal countries. The once minuscule cracks in the European edifice are becoming chasms of national sentiment auguring a right-wing resurgence sweeping across the continent.
Nonetheless, with Brexit now a done deal and Turkey’s prospects of becoming a fully-fledged EU member diminishing, a leaner, right-sized EU can emerge. Financial centres like Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt are at the centre of this transformation, as they jockey to respond to economic uncertainty in the City of London and among global financial institutions. The central countries of France and Germany are ever more important to Europe’s continued integration. Critically, the ability of Europe’s political leaders to offer their citizens a vision beyond status quo is key in this debate.
The Brits, not unlike the Scandinavians to the north, have always had a degree of ‘separate but equal’ in terms of popular attitudes towards Europe’s core, as well as tepid adoption of the EU’s strictures. Proving that values matter most when they are least convenient, Europe’s fragmentation began in earnest with the onset of the global financial crisis, whereby spendthrift countries like Greece exhausted financial goodwill in Brussels giving rise to deep national sentiments. The migration crisis, which has been exacerbated by Europe’s inability to mount a principled and coherent response to its humanitarian obligations, shows the depth of these challenges. Denmark, for example, has passed a controversial law seizing migrant’s valuable articles to help finance their stay in the country. Denmark went as far as running ad campaigns in the Levant warning would be migrants that Denmark was no paradise.