However, the area is bonded by common heritage which is mainly – but not exclusively – historical and religious. Through a combination of its Roman-law legacy and Christianity, Europe developed a culture of individualism and self-responsibility. This became the basis of a free society and allowed the area’s staggering economic and scientific development over the last 300 years. As a result, the European system spread across the globe.
To facilitate analysis, we do not include the region’s northeastern flank – Russia and Belarus – in our Europe category. We do not claim that these countries are not European. However, in view of Russia’s size and the gravity of its Asian interests, we treat it as a separate entity. At the same time, we have put the Black Sea region, including Turkey and the Caucasus, in our Europe section.
Due to its – unfortunately now fading – culture of individuality and responsibility, Europe had become the most prosperous region of the world. After the horrors of two world wars, it has developed a consensus to remain peaceful. The European Union, and especially the internal market that was created as part of its forerunner, the European Community, has contributed greatly to peace and stability in the subcontinent.
Among Europe’s biggest challenges today is the excessive public expenditure states need to maintain their increasingly inefficient welfare and administrative systems. Politicians, in their need to create an illusion of security for their electorates, have increasingly turned to curbing individual freedom and enterprise with red tape.
The sovereign debt problem remains unaddressed and is made worse by insufficient provisions for retirement systems – all in a continent with low fertility rates.
In global politics, Europe needs to find a way to preserve its vital interests. The primary task is to establish a balance between Europe’s close ties with North America – the transatlantic relationship – and the Eurasian vector. The relationships with the United States and Russia must be prioritized. Another critical issue to address are the relations with Europe’s doorstep, in the Mediterranean and Africa.
Unfortunately, Europe’s ability to assert its interests globally is increasingly limited. The cause is most European countries’ political unwillingness to build a credible system of common defense. Europe’s somewhat hypocritical doctrine of a values-driven foreign policy is fading in the face of a limited financial capacity to carry it out.
A little over 30 years ago, the Berlin Wall came down. GIS expert Michael Wohlgemuth, who studied in both East and West Germany in the late 1980s and early 1990s, shares his impressions of how far the country has come economically, and the challenges it faces as a deepening political divide threatens three decades of progress.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s new approach for the Western Balkans has led the European Union to backtrack on integration, and a strategic partnership is now being considered as an alternative to full membership. Balkan countries, disappointed by this outcome, could turn to homegrown illiberalism.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline was supposed to cement Russian dominance over Europe’s gas markets while bypassing Ukraine. But as it nears completion, Gazprom’s bargaining power versus the EU appears diminished. The Kremlin’s strong-arm tactics have simply proved no match for market forces.
Germany is struggling to achieve its current environmental goals. A new policy package under consideration now is unlikely to provide a clear path forward. The taxes and subsidies it foresees contradict each other and could ultimately impede technological advancement. The proposal has proven disappointing to climate activists and economic critics alike.