Europe and the world: The perfect storm

By Michael Lashley

Why should it matter to Canadians that Europe is falling apart? How will Europe’s storm of political, economic, security and immigration crises affect the rest of the world, including Canada?

The rest of the world cannot isolate itself from the poisonous effects of Europe’s growing disunity, its massive identity crisis and its economic vulnerably. As ill and febrile as Europe may be, it is still too important a force in the world to attempt to keep it in political and economic quarantine.

The fact is that the strong winds of disintegration are wreaking havoc on the old continent. At first it was mainly sluggish economic growth aggravated by the constant weakening of the European monetary system.

But then came the real the danger of the exit of Great Britain from the European Union (a referendum is to be held in the U.K. soon) and the somewhat gloomy message delivered by the Dutch people in their recent referendum. Their formal rejection of the proposed preferential trade agreement between Europe and Ukraine was deliberately meant to cast serious doubts about the viability of their country’s relationship with the European family of nations.

Adding fuel to the European fire, immigrant communities in countries like France became restive, the anti-immigrant political forces gained political and electoral prominence, and the flood of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa became a continental deluge that broke the backbone of the joint immigration policies that were intended to cement European integration and unity of purpose.

Last but certainly not least, the series of extremist attacks in France and Belgium drove several “iron and steel” nails into the European coffin. After dozens of deaths and hundreds of injured victims, these repeated demonstrations of the ineffectiveness and disunity of the European security services destroyed the European people’s confidence in their own safety and by extension in the political stability of Europe itself.

And yet, I do not think that we are on the brink of World War III. But I do believe that we need to take aggressive action, if we want to avoid the global economic and political meltdown that is on the horizon.

The vexing problem is that, at present, the world does not have at its disposal political leaders with the required political values and skills set.

President Barack Obama of the U.S. has the political values, the vision, and capacity to understand the nature of the world’s multiple challenges. But he will be out of the White House by January 2017 and cannot take up the task in the short time he has left.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia is unpredictable, volatile and therefore unreliable. He is a maverick. Even though he has a lot of toughness to take on the big challenge, he lacks the required political values or the vision of the stable, balanced and reasonably equitable world that we would like to see in our global leaders.

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro is aging and likely too frail of health. He no longer holds the reins of power in his country and even if he did, he would not receive much support from the world’s current crop of leaders. All of this is a pity, because he certainly does have the political values, the vision and capacity to understand the nature of the world’s multiple challenges.

While Hillary Clinton, likely to be the next U.S. president, certainly does have the toughness to face any challenge, she simply does not have the political values that can accept and fight for the vision of a stable, balanced and reasonably equitable world. She is incapable of the political flexibility needed to move away from the notion of empire in which the U.S. is the dominant player.

She is too “attached” to the current inequitable system of the “market economy” and the economic “liberalism” in which North American and European corporations rule the roost.

So, irony of ironies, the only political leader in power with the leadership skills and international influence to help lead Europe and the rest of the world as we face the globally significant peril of European implosion is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Though she does not have the political values we are looking for, at least she has the political flexibility to recognize the enormity of the threat to the European unity she cherishes. But again, her prime focus is that European unity has to survive in some form for her own country to have a good economic future. She is not in love with the idea of a balanced and reasonably equitable world.

I shudder as the European continent keeps crumbling.