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2011 Reflections: Europe's ideals thrown into tumult

Seven Monitor correspondents reflect on the world's hot spots. In this installment, Robert Marquand says the eurozone crisis is undermining postwar ideals.

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Europe's postwar model is stability and order, cooperation, and human rights. The image is of skilled executives meeting around Swedish-built conference tables, drinking bottled Alpine water, and making corrections and compromises on behalf of an idealistic project.

For usually placid and stable Europe, 2011 brought upheaval and austerity serious enough to challenge 60 years of these assumptions. Pushed by the winds of globalization, Europe is in an uneasy transition.

The year started with Arab revolutions shattering Europe's cozy status quo with Arab autocrats. It ended with a euro and banking debt crisis that has European capitals making contingency plans for an unsettling breakup of the eurozone if the crisis deepens.

In between came 365 days of the unexpected: The tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan shocked Germany into declaring an end to nuclear energy. Debt and banking crises and market uncertainty over Europe's resolve caused first the Irish and Portuguese governments, then the Greek and Italian ones to fall, creating fears about European cohesiveness. France and Britain (along with the United States) launched airstrikes on Libya to support the Arab Spring and preempt a massacre. Europe paused for a fairy-tale royal wedding in London.

But Paris then heard of International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lust in a New York hotel, ending his bid for the French presidency.

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