Europe’s revolutionary experiment in political union is faltering.
A European constitution, rejected last year by France and the Netherlands, is now dead in the water. Economic nationalism and protectionism are surging: the Italian, French, Spanish, and Polish governments have taken recent steps to protect national industries from takeover. On a continent that dreamed of eliminating national borders, hostility toward immigrants—especially those from Muslim countries—is causing national boundaries to spring back to life. Meanwhile, political parties skeptical of the European project are faring all too well. In Britain, a Conservative Party long uneasy with integration into Europe is steadily gaining ground against the Labour Party. In both Poland and Slovakia, nationalistic, anti-EU parties have recently joined governing coalitions.
In short, political life across Europe is being re-nationalized, plunging the enterprise of European integration into its most serious crisis since World War II.
Europeans would not be the only losers if the EU continues to stumble. Americans might have to confront the return of national jealousies to Europe, as well as an EU that is too weak to provide the United States the economic and strategic partner it needs.
Four main forces are undermining the EU’s foundations.