Europa, I think we can say with certainty however, is and long has been much more than a place on a map, contrary to Bismarck’s note in 1876 (‘Qui parle Europe a tort. Notion géographique’). Certainly, we can take Metternich’s foreshadowing of this comment in 1847, with the assertion that Italy was purely a geographic notion, as a sign that Germans are apt as misjudging political and social developments on this continent.
The European Union is among the most profound achievements of the last century; in many ways, it has changed the face of Europe and its place in the world, from one of violence, strife and oppression, to a beacon of ‘peace…democracy and…prosperity’. By the fin-de-siècle, commentators were hailing the ‘New European Century’ and a ‘beacon of light in a troubled world’. The latter commentator also argued that Europe’s aim was to seek ‘harmony, not hegemony’. This raises a key question, namely, the nature of Europe’s relationship with Imperial power.
We are at a crossroads in Europe; we have long since reached one of those decisive moments in history where we have to make decisions about the direction our societies are going to take, what are the forces which will be driving them and what will be the political context around them. Our commitment to a united Europe is chief among those questions. It is the defining political question of our time.