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Europe’s Terrible Start to 2016 - Carnegie Europe - by Judy Dempsey

Open borders in Europe are all but dead. During the first week of 2016, several EU countries imposed border controls and checks at train stations and other crossings. The bridge linking Denmark and Sweden is no longer an open gateway to the Nordic region after a new Swedish law came into force demanding that travelers from Denmark show identity documents.

Other countries have built fences to keep out the refugees fleeing the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Germany’s open-door policy, which Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended, is under threat too. The reported assault of many women by groups of men, allegedly of North African or Arab backgrounds, at the New Year’s Eve celebrations in the western German city of Cologne will vindicate those who believe Merkel’s generosity has been misguided.

The influx of refugees has been manna for populist movements and Euroskeptics. They want to see an end to the Schengen system, which did away with most border controls across the EU, even though reinstating such controls would have serious economic consequences for the free movement of labor and goods.

This populism is being translated into something that is eroding the very fabric of the EU. It is a patriotism based on a nationalist agenda that contradicts everything the EU was supposed to represent. Plans by Poland’s governing conservative Law and Justice party to introduce a media law that will promote patriotic values is symptomatic of the deep crisis now affecting Europe.

Europe is divided, vulnerable, and maximally insecure. Governments are going their own way, a trend most obvious in new alignments of Europe’s three major powers in new (and opposing) directions,” according to the Top Risks 2016 report, which has just been published by Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.
Divisions are nothing new for the EU. Indeed, it is remarkable that despite its differences, the bloc has so far managed to remain united in keeping the sanctions that were imposed on Russia for its March 2014 annexation of Crimea.

But today’s divisions are different and much more difficult to overcome than previous ones. This is because they represent a profound lack of confidence by publics across Europe in the EU and in the merits of globalization. This lack of confidence coincides with the dangerous and persistent waning of the transatlantic relationship. Both trends are undermining—indeed damaging—the liberal Western order that emerged after 1945. That is the greatest threat facing Europe as it enters 2016. 

Note EU-Digest: the remedy to all these problems facing the EU could be solved by some very precise utopian actions, to include: 1) Put Assad back in charge of Syria, tied to a framework of measurable democratic changes, and stopping all military activities in Syria, 2) Forbid all international weapon sales to all countries, including every country in the Middle East 3) Turn the Middle East (including Israel) into a Nuclear free zone. 4) Abolish all global military pacts, including NATO and replace them with economic development Agreements 5) revoke the EU/US  embargo against Russia and have the Russian minority in Ukraine vote in a referendum where they want to belong 6) Earmark 1 % of all global national budgets for research and development towards developing alternative and clean energy resources.

Read more: Europe’s Terrible Start to 2016 - Carnegie Europe - Carnegie Endowment for International Pe

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