Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's referendum defeat on Sunday and his subsequent decision to step down added to fears over Europe's stability and the survival of the euro. But while Rome is burning, European leaders are busy tuning their fiddles - which is why this might be a good time to start thinking about a world without the European Union.
Gone are the days of Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman and the dream of a united Europe. When people look at the old continent today, they do not see economic prosperity, cultural production or wisdom. The truth is far more difficult to stomach: Europe does not have a problem. Europe has become the problem.
The situation in Europe is deeply concerning. Forget Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban - the usual suspects, the scapegoats - for a minute. Here is how bad things really are: An openly racist politician in Austria, the country that gave the world Adolf Hitler, just won 47 percent of the vote in a presidential election and people are actually happy about the results. Next year, voters in France, Germany and several other EU member states will go to the polls not just to choose their leaders but also to determine the union's future direction. Provided that everyone's good judgement seems to have flown out the window, it is unlikely that things will take a turn for the better.
The only thing worse than the rise of populism in Europe is that the establishment desperately avoids taking responsibility for paving the way of Le Pens and Farages into the political mainstream through years of dog-whistle politics, thinly-veiled racism and discrimination. Liberal democracy is in its deathbed because you, self-righteous ladies and gents of the civilized world, have shot it in the head - repeatedly.
Ironically, it is not the Turks, the Muslims and the immigrants who will pay the ultimate price when the once-laughable village idiots occupy the seats of power in Europe - it is you guys. Members of ethnic and religious minorities have long been killed, attacked, harassed, assaulted and insulted in the old continent. They already know what it is like to be considered enemies of the state because Europe never actually welcomed them with open arms. Scratch the surface of the nostalgia for the glory days of European liberalism and you will realize that it existed only for the privileged whites. Now, it is the establishment figures that have to share their meeting rooms with Europe's homegrown barbarians.
On the bright side, the rise of far-right politicians means that mainstream voices in Europe have an opportunity to work with people in the margins of Europe that they once despised. The first step is to abandon racist romanticism and liberal idealism and embrace a realist foreign policy. A close second is to reach out to the Turks and normalize Europe's relationship with their elected leadership.
Unfortunately, the gentlemen have clearly not learned their lesson. In addition to harboring terrorists and launching coordinated attacks against Turkey, European leaders continue to adhere to double standards when it comes to Turks. Brussels endorsed constitutional reform in Italy citing the negative effects of coalition governments on the economy whereas the same people staunchly oppose measures in Turkey, designed to strengthen the executive branch and maintain political stability.