With the EU still struggling to reclaim lasting financial stability and restore economic growth, European elites and publics alike remain preoccupied with issues of debt, bailouts, and jobs. This focus on economic issues is as it should be; the Eurozone crisis, which is not yet definitively over, has the potential to bring down the European Union.
Nonetheless, this focus on the economy is distracting attention from another issue in need of urgent attention: the worsening condition of European defense capabilities.
The Eurozone crisis is taking a serious toll on the EU's aspirations to become a more capable actor on security issues. Austerity has contributed to steady declines in defense spending. Since 2008, defense expenditure among EU members has declined by some 10 percent. Most EU members fail to meet the NATO benchmark of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense.
Of even greater negative impact on the prospects for European progress on defense has been the political renationalization spawned by the financial crisis. The fabric of European solidarity has badly frayed as national publics angrily pull away from Brussels and from each other. According to a recent Pew poll, "positive views of the European Union are at or near their low point in most EU nations, even among the young, the hope for the EU's future."