A Quick Policy Brief by the Europe Team

The European Union was established to promote social, political and economic harmony among the states of Europe and to further encourage transparency and cooperation. Europe has been successful in recent years, among other things, in avoiding military conflict, in transferring institutions and legal know-how from member states to candidate countries, in eliminating income gaps between EU countries and in successfully integrating post-communist countries into democratic states with functioning market economies and the rule of law. However, the European Union is constantly challenged, and uncertainty seems to be the prevailing sentiment across the continent, questioning the extent to which the states of Europe are united.

We identified that the most salient and vexing challenges facing the European Union today are the rise of populist parties, and consequently, isolationist trends, as well as immigration due to the refugee crisis across Africa and the Middle East. Moreover, the instability of the Eurozone, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the devastating terrorist attacks, and the “threat” of new member nations pose various problems for the states of Europe and challenge their unity. Due to these issues, countries such as Britain, who were leaders in EU governance and stability have voted to prioritize national interests at the expense of international cooperation. Following Brexit, uncertainties have increased exponentially. Now, into late 2017, a series of referendums around the European Union have sparked heated dialogue over the role of centralized government at the national and supranational levels. Britain is joined by separatist motivations in Catalan. Northern Italians question the distribution of resources from Rome. The Fidesz and Jobbik parties urge Viktor Orban to challenge Western Europe’s liberal values. Everywhere it seems, austerity measures following the 2008 Financial Crisis have incubated divisive relations between cities, regions, and member states.

Our report examines those major developments in the European Union over the last half decade that challenge the continent’s legacy of peace, cooperation, and integrationist agenda. While it is true that each country we focus on present their current events with a unique profile, we believe that common themes emerge from each context. Through an attention to populism and migration, the following examples instantiate the political, economic, and military consequences of a destabilized European Union.

The Europe Team is led by Ioanna Krontira