Europe faces major challenges in eurozone policies, immigration, racism, Islamophobia and a growing sense of irrelevance in global affairs. European leaders disagree more than they agree on key issues of foreign policy, economy and immigration
As the eurozone faces pressing challenges from Greece to Spain and Italy, the fate of Europe is at stake again. On several occasions since 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leader of the biggest and strongest economy of Europe at the moment, warned: "If the Euro fails, Europe fails." In fact, if the euro fails, many other things would fail. This economic reasoning has a lot to show about the idea of Europe. Much of what keeps Europe together depends on the strength of its currency.
To be fair, Merkel was making a larger point with important repercussions for the future of Europe. Referring to the eurozone crisis and Germany's role in it, she said: "In the long term, Germany cannot be successful if Europe isn't doing well too." This seemingly simple statement reveals an important truth about the checkered relationship between modern nation-states and their need to be more than a nation-state for their security and prosperity. Germany is a typical nation-state, but as a member of the EU, it is more than that - a fact that holds true for all members of any powerful club.
Adopting this political line, Gordon Brown, the former prime minister of the U.K., maintains that "the true patriotic course for Britain" is to remain part of the European Union and to "lead from within." Brown is referring to last year's referendum on Scotland and makes a plea to the British people to keep Europe together, with Britain in it. Europe faces major challenges in eurozone policies, immigration, racism, Islamophobia and a growing sense of irrelevance in global affairs. European leaders disagree more than they agree on key issues of foreign policy, economy and immigration. Europe's intellectual and cultural horizon seems to be narrowing rather than expanding. Any major economic crisis will turn Europe more inward looking than ever and create deep divisions within the social and political map of Europe.
In an alarming voice, Timothy Garton Ash wrote: "Europe is being torn apart" as far as the eurozone crisis is concerned, but "... the torture will be slow." This means that the economic crisis, if not managed properly and swiftly, will "continue to cause suffering and divide the north from the south." This debate, political and economic at once, is not limited to how the Greeks or Italians see themselves treated by the north of Europe. It also concerns Turkey. Turkey is part of European economic territory as it has over 45 percent of its foreign trade with Europe. The recent hike in the dollar against other currencies, including the euro and Turkish lira, presents challenges to the economic equilibrium of both Turkey and Europe. Any hiccup in the European economic zone will trouble the economies of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. On the political front, the relevance of Europe to the key global challenges of the world will again become a matter of controversy in regard to energy security, the crisis in Ukraine, the war in Syria, the ever-expanding number of Syrian refugees, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) terrorism and the Palestinian peace process. As I discussed here before, the devastating consequences of weak and failed states around the world will pose serious security challenges to Europe and its allies.
At the end of the day, what Europe can or will do depends on what it thinks of itself as a world power. The birth of Europe is coterminous with the rise of the "idea of Europe." Europe was born when it became conscious of itself as a distinct entity with a particular identity. According to Federico Chabod, the Italian historian who wrote one of the first books on the "idea of Europe" in 1947, "the concept of Europe is formed by counter position to all that is not Europe, and it acquires its characteristic ... through a confrontation with what is not Europe."
In its long history, "Europe" has constructed an identity for itself in opposition to "others," for example, "barbarians," i.e., non-Greeks; Persians; Asians; blacks; "Saracens," i.e., Arabs and Muslims; Turks; Indians; Chinese and so on. This uneasy relationship with the "other" as an oppositional identity goes a long way in the history of the idea of Europe. It has an interesting place in mythology as well.
According to a famous story in ancient Greek mythology, the name "Europe" comes from the dramatic kidnapping of Europa, the daughter of a Phoenician king ruling over parts of Mesopotamia and the Levant, by the love-stricken Zeus, who had appeared in the form of a white bull to seduce and ravish the beautiful princess. Zeus takes Europa to Crete where she is forced to become the mother of what came to be known as Europe. The first self-conscious history of Europe thus begins in Asia with the abduction of a Phoenician princess.
One should not read too much into mythology. The story of Europa, however, says something about the uneasy relationship between Europe and Asia. Until the modern era, "Europe" was not seen as a separate continent. Rather it was considered an extension of the Asian landmass. This brings us to another meaning of "Europe."
The word "Europa" is derived from the Greek words "eurys" meaning wide or broad and "opsis" or "optikos" meaning eye, sight or vision. Literally, "Europe" means one who sees far, it refers to someone "far-sighted." Since the idea of Europe was crystallized in opposition to others that represented non-Europe, the "far-sighted" Europe is both ironic and suggestive. Be that as it may, Europe needs a far-sightedness vision more than ever.
About the author
Presidential spokesperson for the Republic of Turkey