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3/26/16

EU UNITY required as Brussels tragedy strikes at the heart of an already fragile European Union - by E. Reguky and M. Mackinnon

United we stand divided we fall
This week’s bombings in Brussels shattered the peace, and the sense of self-confidence, in the heart of the European Union. The Islamic State militants who carried them out may yet achieve a much larger goal: speeding the breakup of the 28-country bloc that is the grandest geopolitical project since the Second World War.

Even before the massacre, the EU – based on lofty ideals about the free movement of people, money and ideas – was reeling from a seemingly endless series of body blows. There was the refugee crisis, the spectre of Britain voting to leave and the rise of parties of extreme right and left, movements united only by their anti-EU positions. All these problems were exacerbated by Tuesday’s bloodshed.

Throw in the continent’s lingering economic malaise – symbolized by shocking jobless rates in Mediterranean countries – and an institution that was lauded just four years ago with a Nobel Peace Prize for its role in maintaining stability in Europe seems at genuine risk of falling apart.

That reality is just starting to sink into the institutional, clubby atmosphere of Brussels, a world of expense accounts, black BMWs and cushy high-paying jobs. Samir Benelcaid, a Belgian radio talk-show host who broadcasts in French and Arabic, said “people in Brussels didn’t really worry about the future of the EU” even though they were involved in shaping it.

The mentality is starting to change since this week’s bombings. “My own view is that Europe is falling down,” Mr. Benelcaid said. “The EU is facing so many issues with no responses, like migration, terrorism, unemployment. They give billions and billions of euros to young people for jobs formation and there are no results.”

The questions facing the EU post-Brussels are whether the bloc is just one, or perhaps two, more blows away from shattering – and whether the threat of disintegration will persuade the EU’s leaders and citizens that their union is worth saving.

Read more: Brussels tragedy strikes at the heart of an already fragile European Union - The Globe and Mail

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