once accepted democracy as the only legitimate form of government could become more open to authoritarian alternatives.’ 14
Despite these problems, not all hope is lost. Although the Great Recession and the crisis of the Eurozone have been traumatic, they have not yet fulfilled the criteria of repeated, violent delegitimation of the existing system that I laid out as the preconditions for rupture in chapter 1 . In fact, the dangers Europe faces at the start of the third millennium pale in comparison to those of the interwar years; in spite of everything, a third
The Eurozone crisis, Brexit, and possible disintegration
Peter J. Verovšek
veneer of the ‘European spirit.’ While the actual threat to European security posed by these conflicts is minor, the façade of the classic narrative of integration has already started to crack as a result. The differing cognitive, motivational, and justificatory resources that emerge from treating 1989 as a rupture instead of (or in addition to) 1945 has thus ‘extended the EU’s memory agenda and posed a number of new challenges to the Union.’ 7
The onset of the Eurozone crisis in 2010 caused these cracks to widen into broader fissures that threaten the structural
The development of the European Union as a community-based project of integration with decision-making powers outside the constitutional architecture of the nation-state is the most significant innovation in twentieth-century political organisation. It raises fundamental questions about our understanding of the state, sovereignty, citizenship, democracy, and the relationship between political power and economic forces. Despite its achievements, events at the start of the twenty-first century – including the political, economic, and financial crisis of the Eurozone, as well as Brexit and the rise of populism – pose an existential threat to the EU. Memory and the future of Europe addresses the crisis of the EU by treating integration as a response to the rupture created by the continent’s experience of total war. It traces Europe’s existing pathologies to the project’s loss of its moral foundations rooted in collective memories of total war. As the generations with personal memories of the two world wars pass away, economic gain has become the EU’s sole raison d’être. If it is to survive its future challenges, the EU will have to create a new historical imaginary that relies not only on the lessons of the past, but also builds on Europe’s ability to protect its citizens by serving as a counterweight against the forces of globalisation. By framing its argument through the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, Memory and the future of Europe will attract readers interested in political and social philosophy, collective memory studies, European studies, international relations, and contemporary politics.
-utopian’ section of this book are situated within the shadow of the crisis of the Eurozone and the spread of far-right populism across the continent. The economic problems of the EMU and the return of nationalism feed off each other as part of a broader attack on the postwar European project. In fact, the latter is increasingly preventing the resolution of the former, as the rise of populism is preventing the cross-border cooperation necessary to repair the ‘flaws in the construction of the single currency.’ 2 These disputes have a decidedly tragic quality, as there is broad
EU appeared to be ‘a paragon of international virtues: a community of values held up by Europeans and non-Europeans alike.’ 6 While the European project experienced some difficulties along the way, chapters 2 and 3 of this volume detail how community-based integration succeeded during the postwar period by building on the shared, collective memories of the rupture of 1945.
In the aftermath of the combined crises of the Eurozone and the increased flow of refugees from Africa and the Middle East during the second decade of the twenty-first century, this
Eurosclerosis (1959– 84) and the second phase of integration (1985– 2003)
Peter J. Verovšek
transition from one occupation to another; from Nazi rule to Soviet rule. It is the beginning of two full generations of communist rule, which for most people was no experience of political progress.’ 107 Although most of the massacres of the Holocaust had taken place in eastern Europe, their importance to the inhabitants of this region was overshadowed by the events that followed.
The onset of the Eurozone crisis in 2010 further eroded the classic narrative of integration. In addition to building on the past, the classical view of history ‘has always appealed to some
Eurozone,’ affecting not only the states that share its common currency (the euro), but also the EU as a whole. 4 Far from spurring further cooperation, these issues have caused citizens across the continent to turn inward, away from the EU and back towards the seemingly safe harbour of the nation-state.
The problems radiating from the so-called Great Recession arguably reached their zenith on 23 June 2016, when the United Kingdom, driven by English nationalism and neo-imperial dreams of a ‘Global Britain,’ as well as a backlash against the austerity imposed by the
leading nation states. What appears much more realistic is that some
nation states might go it alone or that some might cooperate, at least
if these states are relatively strong with a stable government, a strong
economy and a stable, convertible currency. Regional solutions within
economic blocks are most likely in the Eurozone, less so in the US or
Japan. Currently, the best possible solution