We are currently witnessing a great battle for the soul of Europe. The European Union was never the typical superpower with military and geopolitical ambitions. It has nevertheless been a global leader in terms of soft power. Aside from its economic leverage, which is not negligible, the EU has served as a role model for democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
This is what made the rest of the globe – including Greece on the southern edge of the Balkans – look up to Europe. Greeks, for example, endorsed the European vision of late statesman Constantine Karamanlis after the end of the 1967-74 military dictatorship because they saw in Europe a haven of stability and security. The same thing happened in Spain, Portugal and other countries that emerged from lengthy dictatorships.
Now the haven is in storm, however. Recent developments in Poland and Hungary show that the European model, as we knew it, is being challenged. There are strong centrifugal forces and they are fueled by social media as well as global events.
Can Europe stand the pressure? Experience shows that the old continent has a strong survival instinct and that, eventually, it manages to overcome its crises, even if that takes a fair deal of back-and-forth and compromise.
A tough battle is being waged in the countries which lie at the center of this latest crisis; but the European vision is not without its supporters. However, if a country were to leave the bloc for ideological reasons, the whole European integration project could begin to unravel. This would be bad news for the West given that the United States has had to deal with a crisis of its own.
Developments in the EU always affect all countries – including Greece. Europe has gone through the longest period of stability, democracy and peace in its history. The not-so-distant future will show if Europe will once again be haunted by demons past, if the European project was made only for the easy times.