Europe Once Again Proves the Doomsayers Wrong

Support for the euro has never been higher. The economy is doing well.

European flags Brussels
Flags of the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, July 22, 2016 (European Commission)

Matthew Karnitschnig argues in Politico that the doomsayers keep getting Europe wrong.

As another annus horribilis draws to a close, he writes, “it’s difficult to deny that Europe has once again survived more or less intact.”

This matches an argument I made here two months ago: that the remarkable thing about the EU is not that it has problems, but it’s been able to muddle through despite its problems.

Reasons to be optimistic

Karnitschnig gives various reason to be optimistic.

  • Given Europe’s myriad woes, its citizenry is surprisingly upbeat. Public backing for the EU is the highest it’s been in more than a generation. Support for the euro has reached record levels.
  • Across the continent (with notable exceptions), trains run on time, health care and education are accessible to all and generally sound, the justice system is fair and cities are safe.
  • The region’s economy, though showing signs of strain, is still growing. Unemployment, though still a major challenge in some countries, has fallen to its lowest level since 2000.
  • At a time when free trade is under siege, the EU has concluded two landmark trade agreements, with Canada and Japan.

So why the pessimism?

Karnitschnig blames leaders who portray every crisis as a do-or-die event, from the Greek debt crisis to Brexit to the Yellow Vests protests in France.

I would add American and British media, which have a outsized influence on world opinion and which by and large only pay attention to continental Europe when something goes wrong.

Journalists flocked to Greece when a euro exit seemed likely, but now that the country is recovering one scarcely reads anything about it in English.

There are daily reports from the unrest in France, but how many people read that a climate march drew more people to Paris? Or that Hungarians are currently demonstrating for democracy and the rule of law?