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2012, and Europe's high stakes

A historic year in the Arab world has also been a desperate one for Europe. But the sheer depth of commitment to Europe is a source of hope, says Andre Wilkens.
Andre Wilkens
21 December 2011

2011 feels like a year where seemingly impossible things became possible. In this sense 2011 was in two senses a historic year.

On the positive side, apparently stable Arab dictatorships were in a matter of months (sometimes weeks) swept away in a contagious revolutionary mass movement. Hardly any expert had predicted the volatility of the regimes and the force of the street movement.

On the negative side, the very basis of European integration - which had become almost a natural law and way of being for Europeans - was shaken, to the extent that it suddenly looks that Europe is not "too big to fail". Even in early 2010 the Greek crisis looked like a local and containable event. Over two years, bad crisis-management by Europe’s leaders, with new nationalistic undertones, made a Greek crisis into an existential crisis for the whole European Union. Again, few had anticipated this turn of events.

In light of these epic events, I have two thoughts on what may happen in 2012.

My hope is that awareness that the disintegration of Europe is becoming a realistic option will mobilise "armchair Europeans" - i.e., those who are and feel European and have benefited from European integration - into action. I hope this will result in a new pan-European citizens' movement which acts as a pressure-group and keeps politicians on a European course.

My fear is that the power of concerned European citizens will not be strong enough to stop the downward spiral of creeping disintegration.

Between these options I am positive, in that I see a lot of motivated Europeans who are organising initiatives to channel their anger into a progressive force in favour of Europe. So, I am hopeful that Europe will move on. It’s in our hands.

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