The Europe of Melancholy
Article published in The Federalist.
At this odd moment in Europe's history, marked by both anniversary celebrations and a persistent atmosphere of crisis, I warmly recommend this article by Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa. Mr Padoa-Schioppa's observations are pertinent and moving, lucid and yet full of hope. He describes the melancholy into which European society seems to have sunk: loss of faith, inaction, loss of interest the outside world, a withdrawing into itself, and low self-esteem. He maintains that this melancholy was not caused by the current crisis, but rather vice-versa; that the phenomenon seems to be a very European trait; and that understanding it can help us to overcome it.
In contrast to the feeling of crisis, constantly played up by the media, Mr Padoa-Schioppa points to several examples of a new "literature of success" which has sought to counter the prevailing pessimism. These recent works emphasise the originality and the many successes of European integration, and talk of the potential role of Europe in the 21st-century world. Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa recognises the limits of this "success literature", however : the problem of depicting the ongoing European project as a finished process. He reminds us that Europe is not at peace, but rather enjoying a long truce, and that the EU will never be a real Union as long as "staying together" is not considered a crucial criterion in member states' choices - including those on whether to renounce rights of veto. Mr Padoa-Schioppa warns against the dangers of incomplete integration. Europe, he says, holds the key to meeting the challenges and the threats facing today's world; and the only possible world peace is pax europea.