A united Europe has been an idea for some time now. A single identity, culminating, for all intents and purposes, into a single entity based on the idea that all of Europe is one. Indeed, having faced the dangers of nationalism which laid the continent waste twice and resulted in nearly 89 million deaths; the thought of a united Europe, a single identity over and above the national pride has been a welcome school of thought in a world in perpetual state of war. The facts are impressive – with 28 member states, which came together to form the second largest market, home to over 500 million people, with 24 official languages and a total land area of over 4.5 million km2. Indeed, a quote attributed to Churchill sums it up well –
“We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think of being a European as of belonging to their native land, and…wherever they go in this wide domain…will truly feel, ‘Here I am at home.”
Many see Europe as the cradle of modern civilisation. Many of the principles and institutions upon which we base the concept of a nation have been taken from the example of Europe. Democracy, unity, leadership – the list is long. Over the course of time, the nations of this continent have either ruled, or influenced most of the world as it is today. This union, which started in 1957, was just the first step in a long process to a federation of Europe.
Fast forward to present day and time, to a Europe under attack. Whether one looks at the economy or security, the dangers it faces are enormous. The immigration of refugees from the war zones of the Middle East has put stress on the individual governments, if not in terms of resources at least in the form of voter sentiment. Attacks in Brussels and Paris have shaken the faith of people. The 2008 economic downturn has left member economies gasping for breath with other members being dragged down along with them. A saturated market and a slowly ageing population are now showing themselves in terms of stress across the land.
With the latest development, a new silent threat now stands exposed as it threatens Europe and all that it came together for. With the UK pulling out and an unclear fate of other countries, the reaction of the continent has been astonishing, to say the least.
Whether it is in UK or the rest of Europe, hate crimes have seen an upswing while the EU is talking about dropping English as one of its official languages. At the same time, the British populace (at least a section of it) takes perverse pleasure in telling Europeans to go back to their land. One of the most affected, the Polish community, which has been facing a large brunt of these attacks stands shocked at the treatment meted out by the same country they helped defend a few decades ago.
This show of pettiness from all concerned just goes to highlight the stress inside the Union. Both sides, the EU and the UK, have had a perceptible negative reaction to each other post the historic vote. A vote, which was felt across the world with economies taking a hit and people taking to the social media to express the variety of emotions, from exultation to despair; has changed the world in a decisive way.
Can Europe, UK included, grow beyond the trifling emotions which threaten to rip them apart on the very grounds they came together? Or are we in for a show of how the one of the greatest attempt at unity (second, maybe, to the feat achieved by Sardar Vallabhai Patel) as Europe tears itself over the differences between the 500 million souls which call this place home?
Whatever be the case, we have to wait and watch carefully as to how this “divorce” plays out. One can only hope for better sentiments to prevail before it is too late and Europe, as we know it, ceases to exist.
Ranveer Raj Bhatnagar