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.
The UK Parliament’s moves to block Brexit from occurring without a deal on October 31, 2019, has prompted some to say that Europe has reached “peak populism.” As the British case shows, though, societies remain polarized and democratic rules continue to be bent. What happens next in the UK may indicate what direction politics in Europe will take.
An unexpected alliance between Russia, the United States and the European Union helped broker a political breakthrough in Moldova – sending corrupt local oligarchs packing. There is no reason to discount the latest developments in Chisinau, which could prove a new dawn for Europe’s poorest country. Yet the West has fallen for fresh-faced reformers before – in 1990s Russia, and during two “color revolutions” in Ukraine – and each time the love affair ended in disappointment.
Six years after President Mikheil Saakashvili lost power to his archrival, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia has kept its pro-Western course in foreign and economic policy. Yet Russia continues to block the South Caucasus nation’s EU and NATO aspirations, and Georgian voters are growing frustrated. Now, a millennials-based protest movement could insert generational conflict into Georgia’s clannish politics.
The opposition victory in Istanbul’s mayoral election was seen widely as a defeat for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose illiberal, centralized system is much criticized in the West. Yet Mr. Erdogan’s detractors underestimate the challenge of adapting to Turkey’s changing geopolitical circumstances, where the Kemalist principles of secularism and isolationism no longer suffice.