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.
German politics have reached an unprecedented level of incoherence and, with no clear source of leadership, the situation is likely to worsen. The Christian Democrats may survive the 2021 federal elections. However, they will need to seek new allies to govern, leaving them in poor shape to address the pressing economic and social issues that face Germany.
At the peak of the European migrant crisis, Germany and Sweden took what they considered “moral leadership” in welcoming refugees. Wedged in between its two morals-driven neighbors, Denmark made it abundantly clear that refugees were not welcome. The Danish example may serve as a crucial reminder to other European nations of how moralizing politics can obscure the vital interplay between migration and a sustainable welfare state.
The UK Conservative Party and its leader, Boris Johnson, received from British voters a clear mandate and a comfortable majority in Parliament to try to turn their political vision into reality. The list of social, economic, organizational and political challenges that the country faces domestically and in the international arena is very long. “Getting Brexit done” is but a small part of the monumental task before the undaunted Prime Minister Johnson.
When in March 2019 Italy became the largest EU country to sign a memorandum of understanding with China on its Belt and Road Initiative, it put Italy-China relations in the spotlight. Like other European governments, the leadership in Rome is struggling to balance economic interests with its security interests and values. So far, Italy has gained little from the partnership, and risks getting caught in the crossfire of U.S.-China tensions.