EUROPE UNDER FIRE
Over the past century, Europe has transformed itself from a cacophony of diverse, at times violently confrontational nations and principalities, into a single, immense union stretching from the shores of the Atlantic to the foothills of the Urals. It’s served as a catalyst for the heights of creativity and the depths of depravity, all the while acting as a magnet—attracting millions of the world’s most desperate and disadvantaged, seeking the solace of democracy and the prospects of opportunity. But Europe today is becoming increasingly bleak, if hardly lacking for excitement and wealth. Armies of unemployed youths, crushing tax burdens, and anemic or negative growth has left large stretches of this continent gasping on life support. It is the nature of this urban, suburban, and rural landscape that we set out to explore in the Winter issue of World Policy Journal.
Europe is in the throes of a crisis of identity springing from deep economic distress in many of its member states and political divisions both within and without. World Policy Journal asked a European panel of experts—from France to Bulgaria to Sweden—how this crisis is affecting their corner of the continent and what their countries need to remain viable.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)—the European Union program of agricultural subsidies that aims to maintain viable food production—comprises 40 percent of the EU’s total budget. But not all policies are created equal. World Policy Journal has identified the biggest winners and losers of the recent CAP reforms.
Many Russians living under President Vladimir Putin’s rule believe the Kremlin has not adequately addressed their needs and desires. From his oppressive regulations to his mismanagement of the economy, a growing segment of the Russian population believes his administration is hindering their personal and professional growth. World Policy Journal examines the emigration patterns of Russians throughout Europe and the implications of Russia’s current ban on food imported from its Western foes.
The European Union, formed as a political alliance, is now struggling to maintain unity within its member states. Political and social strife, coupled with an economic downturn and weak leadership, has left many members of the Union in a precarious position. However, Patrice de Beer, senior editor of the French daily Le Monde, prefers to view Europe as a lame duck with a shot at redemption than as a failure with no hope for the future.
EUROPE UNDER FIRE
Europe’s social and electoral map is in period of tremendous flux as a resurgent, Eurosceptic right-wing populism accompanies disenchantment with European integration. Josse de Voogd examines how European politicians are navigating an increasingly complex political landscape sewn together by a patchwork of class loyalties, old traditions, and historical and religious affinities. We follow his overview with individual snapshots from four corners of Europe—Sweden, Italy, Scotland, and Russia.
The xenophobic party Sweden Democrats is the third largest group in the Swedish Parliament. The party has won support of low-income and struggling Swedes by harping on the fact that taxpayer money is being allocated to support immigrants and asylum seekers—a major point of contention for native Swedes. This frustration is creating a disoriented environment, and Jonathan Ewing, an investigative journalist in Stockholm, suggests the government and big business are complicit in the rise of the right-wing party. He argues that moral and diplomatic clout now shadows the historically neutral country.
Europe’s most Eurosceptical country is facing a political and generational divide. From reformists to radicals, Italians across the spectrum have taken to the streets in hopes of swaying the policies of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Francesco Galietti delves into what it would take for Renzi to please old and young Italians alike, the key to keeping political tensions at bay.
While Scotland recently lost its referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, the unlikely dual forces of a freshly galvanized Scottish nationalism coupled with a pro-European regionalism continue to threaten the country’s unity with Britain. Steven Erlanger examines how pressures from the wealthier, more conservative political elite in London have polarized a more left-wing, collectivist Glasgow.
When Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea in March 2014, he challenged Ukraine’s sovereignty. In blatant defiance of Europe at large, Russia left her Western neighbors to question the true intentions of their oversized counterpart. Andrey Babitskiy, Russian journalist and war correspondent, compares the EU’s weaknesses to Russia’s strengths, yet argues that Europe’s shortcomings may well save the continent from the brink of collapse.
Mário Soares, former president and prime minister of Portugal, deeply believes in the longevity of the European Union and the euro. However, as a fervent socialist, he blames the economic burdens of the EU on Germany’s current domination. He pleads for the respect of each country’s culture and turns directly to President Barack Obama for assistance, even inspiration.
We are delighted to welcome back poet-in-residence Eliza Griswold—a National Magazine Award winner, whose unique vision of the world continues to illuminate our every issue. In her poem, “Games,” Griswold vividly captures a scene from the Roman Circus Maximus.
Thousands of members of the Tunisian underclass, shortchanged on the promise of the Arab Spring revolution that culminated in the ouster of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, struggle to satisfy basic living needs with scant economic opportunities. Photographer Nicholas Linn and writer Sam Kimball capture this stark reality in pictures and words as they follow Mansour Hebchi, a squatter in a decaying Ottoman palace, as he forages for bottles to earn a livelihood for his family.
Feeding the rapid rise of the Islamic State, Tunisia provides a prodigious number of recruits to jihadist movements and activities in Iraq and Syria. Simon Speakman Cordall examines the social and intellectual appeal of jihad in Tunisia, tracing its historical development within a national and global context and positing that the current U.S.-led air campaign targeting the Islamic State may only be fueling its appeal.
Western Sahara is rich in phosphates and natural resources, a main reason Morocco has summarily annexed it. In doing so, however, Morocco has ignored the rights of the Sahrawis, fighting a silent war for independence over the last 40 years. Hannah Rae Armstrong examines how Morocco has illegally exploited the territory for its resources and argues that if the international community does not respond, the Sahrawi may be forced to take up arms once again.
Mikhail Vdovchenko, a native of Simferopol, Crimea, is a mild, if somewhat outspoken Ukrainian activist who was taken as a political prisoner and held for nine days by pro-Russian militants. Mike Eckel, a Washington D.C.-based writer, captures Mikhail’s harrowing tale of kidnap, torture, and eventual freedom.
Beijing ignited a revolution this year when it denied Hong Kongers the right to free and open elections for their top leader in 2017. Alvin Y. H. Cheung, a Hong Kong lawyer and visiting scholar at NYU’s US-Asia Law Institute, uncovers the spark behind the protests, and argues that both Beijing and Britain will need to work with natives of Hong Kong to create a democratic system that all parties can rely on.
Many who struggle to find economic stability in African and Islamic countries have settled in Brazil, whose immigration regulation “is one of the most draconian statutes in the Western Hemisphere.” Fernanda Canofre explains the implications of Brazil’s outdated immigration laws, and follows the stories of three immigrants hoping to find better lives for themselves in Nova Araçá, a small town in the south of the country.
Even though the current economic crisis threatens all corners of the globe, Europe has proven particularly vulnerable. The transformation and scaling of the continent have failed to keep pace with the external forces preying on its weaknesses. World Policy Journal editor & publisher David A. Andelman examines the extent of the European crisis, its echoes abroad, and the challenges it must surmount to survive.