Can Europe Make It?

Der Himmel über Europa - weekly comments roundup


A look at this week's best reader comments on our Can Europe make it? debate.


Alex Sakalis
9 September 2013

Would the two angels who watched over Berlin in 1987 recognise the country today?

"Germany has crumbled into as many small states as there are people. Everyone carries his own state with him, and demands a toll when another wants to enter. But one can only enter each state with a password. The German soul of today can only be conquered and governed by one who arrives at each small state with a password."

This was their sober assessment at the time.

Yet today Germany is a European success story - wealthy, happy and free - and boring?

Our new section, Spotlight on Germany, begins with Juliane Mendelsohn's assessment on the "terminally, terminally boring" elections and what this says about the current state of German politics.

Intriguing as this is, perhaps the angels would have more to say about the fractious situation in Romania. Claudia Ciobanu's impassioned article on the Rosia Montana protests inspired much debate.

Viktor disagreed with the article:

This paper is exactly what would be called 'wishful thinking". The protest days gathered only dozens of protesters in those cities. It is rather far away from the hundreds gathered against the "president" basescu in 2012.

but was immediately challenged by Diana:

These figures prove only one thing - the mainstream media is not free in Romania - it is full of lies due to the fact that the gold company pays them huge amounts of money to create publicity for their project. I personally talked to a journalist who was at the protest but not allowed to report from the event. Arguments such as : "I can't - I would lose my job" is what make them silent. The majority of Romanians are misinformed by major media trusts/tv. This is why a national referendum is undesired by the opposition to the project, because it would show nothing but the level of misinformation in Romania.

while Floree wrote:

There are way too many things wrong with this project so 600 jobs is really not a reason to start exploiting Rosia Montana and put so many lives at risk.

The Rosia Montana controversy is something that will run and run, and we will continue to feature insights from those intimately involved in the situation here at Can Europe Make it?

Were you aware that this year is the European Year of Citizens? The EU's publicity department hard at work again then. Lammert de Jong and Pooyan Tamimi Arab article on European citizenship inspired this verbose comment by aguest:

I find this article a mixed bag -- probably because enlightening observations (I particularly appreciated the thoughts on citizenship and localism) and its large survey of analyses are built upon assumptions about the goals and evolution capabilities of the EU.


First of all, we will never actually know what "the founding fathers of the Union had in mind", and it is doubtful that this is even relevant: what counts is what they wrought concretely. Let us remember that the European democratic deficit has been deplored for the past 35 years or so -- but nothing substantial was ever done to address it, despite repeated opportunities offered by the elaboration of various European treaties across the decades.


It is notable that the authors use the word "narrative" so extensively to deal with the ideals, objectives and ethos of the EU: this is indicative of attempts to make an ideology (note the expression of "civilizing mission of the EU") acceptable to constituents. Changes in the narrative serve to reduce the cognitive dissonance due to the actual practice.


The authors could have adopted a comparative approach and looked at another political entity that provided a supra-national citizenship, promised peace and prosperity to its constituents, put economics at the center, and had complex, layered political institutions to deal with diversity in a large multi-national framework: the Soviet Union. By the time a dedicated leader launched a last-ditch, comprehensive effort to reform the system, the populace was so fed up with a sclerotic system and its unaccountable organs that delivered less and less, that it was ready for anything but the USSR. Supra-national Soviet citizenship be damned.


It is not the narrative that must be reformed: it is the EU. Provided it is actually reformable. The USSR was not; given its track record, the growing doubts about the reformability of the EU are understandable. 

But sometimes, it's good to be to the point, as per this comment on Yiannis Baboulias' article on a potential third bailout for Greece:



Can there be a green populist project on the Left?

Many on the Left want to return to a politics based on class, not populism. They point to Left populist parties not reaching their goals. But Chantal Mouffe argues that as the COVID-19 pandemic has put the need for protection from harm at the top of the agenda, a Left populist strategy is now more relevant than ever.

Is this an opportunity for a realignment around a green democratic transformation?

Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 22 October, 5pm UK time/12pm EDT.

Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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