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Occupy Europe: How a generation went from indifferent to indignant

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Yet the European dream is suddenly in question. Under-30s have more doubt than optimism. It is the first generation since the 1950s that feels few thrills about a Europe project. The 17-nation eurozone is debt-ridden. Ugly splits are manifest between northern- and southern-tier states. The cohesion brought by a Franco-German relationship bent on keeping Europe whole and vibrant has frayed or become exhausted.

"For a long time, I believed in Europe. I thought it was magnificent," says Olivier, 27, who studied philosophy but now works for France's National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies. "It was brilliant, especially in terms of its historical configuration. But today I am not satisfied.... I would love a strong Europe that speaks with one voice," but Europe is increasingly directed by Germany, says Olivier, who, like some of the others interviewed, would give only his first name.

The Germans built a competitive export economy and don't want to pay for what they see as the irresponsible fiscal policies of southern "siesta economies." Greece (twice), Ireland, and Portugal have needed bailouts, and it isn't over. Spain and Italy are not out of the red-ink woods. Youth riots in London this summer may have been a singular, compulsive event, but they hold a warning.

Europe's political elites are under attack from radical right populist parties that target Muslims and immigrants; mainstream politics accommodates views seen as extreme a few years ago. "Inward looking" is a popular phrase for Europe-watchers. New global powers like Brazil and China aren't necessarily taken with European models of international conduct. The broad vision of Europe's postwar leaders seems in short supply.

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