Europe needs to rise to the challenge….but “Schaffen wir das”?

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With the U.S. elections looming European leaders should do their homework, to become a better and stronger partner to America. Whoever the next President will be, her or his view of Europe will be different from Obama’s in many ways. Clinton knows Europe. We can assume, that she will care a lot more about the Alliance, but she too will also most probably express some tough love. Trump on the other-hand sees Europeans as a bunch of sissies. Until he realizes the importance of the “family relationship”, he will most certainly have a “complicated” approach, to say the least. But then a renewed relationship is not just about defense spending, although that too will be high on the list of the next President. The issue is how Europe can play a big part in the Transatlantic Renewal.

First, Europe needs bold and honest intellectual efforts. In order to do this, it must leave debilitating “political correctness” taken to the extreme behind. As if everything said in the name of political correctness was the true and last word, it has become a dogma, which suffocates debate, supplants and suppresses free thinking and is stopping the search for truly new ideas in its track. The populists hit the target, when they attack political correctness, even if they draw terrible conclusions and offer dangerous solutions. Misconstrued and misunderstood political correctness has harmed our ability to think freely. It is sawing hatred, results in entrenchment of the camps. It has replaced values of intellectual freedom, curiosity and tolerance as the guiding principle and has been terrorizing us. With the adverse result of making things worse. Look at the social, political, economic and security problems some European countries have piled up in just a year, when a rational and pragmatic approach, an honest and open self-reflection to the refugee/migrant crisis is replaced by “politically correct” decisions. Those who step out of line, in search of compassionate but rational solutions, are immediately labeled racists. Political correctness has become aggressive and intolerant. It smacks of the ideological approach of communists, who would override reason and dissent by referring to ideological purity. Overcoming this is key to a new and fundamentally different, more robust approach to a number of issues including migration, to multicultural co-existence, to tolerance and acceptance.

Europe too must also rethink the meaning of wealth, the whole concept of rich and poor. The “middle class” is slowly but steadily disappearing, not just in America. Masses are living in poverty and the rich get richer. This is a global phenomenon, but Europeans should not kid themselves thinking that they are immune. Europeans need to brace for the Trump Phenomenon, which really is not about Trump. It is about the winners and losers of the tech revolution and globalization, the decline of the middle class, about the lost opportunities. It reflects the disenchantment in society. If Europe is to avoid a disaster, the difficult balance between wealth-creation and healthy competition, caring for the individual the concept of wealth must be reconsidered. But then the relationship between wealthy and less wealthy European countries, the Center [Old Europe] and the Periphery [Centra-Eastern Europe] must be reconsidered as well. The fortunate need to show more solidarity with the less fortunate, and not just in financial terms. The cynicism of the wealthier part of Europe towards declining democracy in countries like Hungary is sad. In this context a deep introspection of how EU funds have made transitional democracies more corrupt, creating a kleptocracy, while millions live under the poverty line, is long overdue. Mindless EU spending and weak oversight make things worse. This is not a question of compassion, this is a matter of survival. If the gap between rich and poor, within and among countries, is not narrowed, it will have terrible consequences to our democratic way of life.

Europeans also need to overcome or as a minimum suspend the historic left-right-liberal divide. The traditional distinction between left and right is senseless. Today the dividing line is inclusion or exclusion, openness or entrenchment. Political competition is important, but so is consensus between the main traditional building blocs of our democratic traditions if we are to revive our democracy. Left or right, conservative, social-democrat or liberal, we are in it together. Of course the possibility of choice should not be eliminated. But at the end of the day shared values, country, community and humanity must take precedence before party interests. Defending our democratic principles and freedoms should not be lost in a turf battle. The European Parliament ( and the parties dominating it) need some soul searching why it has allowed the rise of populists in their midst, while they were engaged in smallish party-political battles.

The young generation in Europe needs a future, a perspective. The lack of it is not unrelated to the absence of overall ambition of European leaders (except for their own reelection). Without a future, without the possibility of participation for young people, all will be lost and this hopelessness will breed despair and radicalism. The young generation today lives in a confused and mixed reality, where the internet provides both opportunities, but also illusions, false hopes. Those who have created the parallel world of the internet, those who have made addiction to it the new normal also need to come up with ideas how to harness the force of the young for the benefit of all. (Do you hear me Mark Zuckerberg?!) But in the end, it is politicians who bear the brunt of the responsibility.

Last but not least, the relationship between the United States and Europe must be renewed and revived. There is no alternative to it. And at this point in time in history, perhaps the Europeans need to take the initiative, which should be bold and forward looking. Just like Churchill at the outset of WW II., Europeans must convince America not to close itself to the world. Today, like then, Europe and America are in it together. When they join forces, there is no challenge we cannot face and there is no foe we cannot defeat. Divided, we will both fall. It will be a historic challenge of the next few years if we will have politicians on either side of the Atlantic to show the leadership we need. This is the moment for Europe to rise to the challenge.

But “Schaffen wir das”?

g economies, exorbitant youth unemployment were plaguing the old continent. We have not gotten wiser and we have not gotten closer to solutions. We don’t see the emergence of new visions for Europe, except for dangerous populism. The division within society and between countries is growing still. We have not gotten an iota closer to the point of turning around the process of “muddling through”. To take the big leap from just patching up the leaks to the ove