Artur Niedźwiecki


Why there is no need to be afraid of Europe?


We Americans used to say that the

American Dream is worth dying for.

The new European Dream is worth living for

J. Rifkin



Nowadays Europe is considered to be a “success-story”, mainly because of its ambitious project of integration. The European Union encompasses 27 states with almost 500 million citizens, that makes it third largest after China and India. The Old Continent has developed the strong currency and the greatest common market in the world. Its technologies increasingly set the global standards. Europe is a very convenient neighbor that tries to spread its “soft power” around the world. The post-modern “European dream” differs substantially from the American type of national patriotism which tends to resemble enlightened modernism. Many less developed regions of the globe prefer the European multilateral approach rather than the American unilateralism.

The dreams of prominent intellectuals about a system which would rule out the possibility of war by the shared sovereignty finally have been realized. A number of the European countries are organized in a Union, which is based on the principle of delegation of sovereignty, supremacy of law, universal human rights and appreciation of diversity. The European Union is treated more and more like an incarnation of the idea of “eternal peace” and the “spirit of history”. Carl Bild once concluded that: “our Europe has never been as free, as prosperous or as secure as it is today. And never really means never – never in its entire history”.

It seems that the exceptionalism of Europe rests on the lack of the balance of power and the imperial urge. This kind of post-modern community is associated with the mutual interference in the domestic affairs. The order in Europe does not rely on a use of force any more. It is based on openness and transparency between mutually-dependent European states. The Old Continent managed to transform the traditional European nation-state system into the peaceful EU member state community. It created the new “political culture” which stresses the importance of the co-existence with “the Others”. It is claimed that – because of the redefinition of the traditional sovereignty – existential conflicts in Europe are no longer possible. In fact, the EU does not prioritize modern designations of the sovereignty but tends to promote for instance stability, environmental security and human rights. Moreover the new “cultural code” of Europe is connected with such values as the readiness for cooperation and intercultural dialogue, openness to the other cultures, supranational form of government, welfare state, cosmopolitan order, rationalism, international law and the secularization of states and societies. This phenomenon reduces the possibility of the return to the “state of nature”, described for example by Hobbes. Post-Cold War Europe continues to create common legal space, for which the fundamental rights are of core importance.

Despite all above-mentioned achievements, however, it should be mentioned that the European way of thinking is somehow pessimistic. Citizens of the Old Continent feel that the impact of Europe is weakening constantly. They are aware that the level of technical development does not show genuine power of civilization. The critical factor in this matter is the determination and the state of mind of people. For this reason, they often wonder themselves: how many Europeans would actually be ready to sacrifice their life for the European Union? An answer for this question, unfortunately, could reveal the lack of European patriotism. No doubt that it is often claimed that the European civilization is in a period of decadence. The Europeans no longer perceive politics as a tragic struggle between different values. In fact – due to the European integration – they have lost the most basic code of conduct in this matter which seems to be the conviction that the politics rests on the real dispute.

In fact, a sense of “the end of History” created a belief that politics is no longer a kind of drama, in which the fates of nations are combined together. That is why, the inhabitants of Europe are helpless if it comes to dealing with the “radical evil”. Moreover, the devotion to the “right cause” and the “politics of warriors” is not accepted in todays Europe any more. It seems that after the II world war substantial changes in the European culture occurred and such values as “heroism” have been replaced by “egocentric approach”. The conviction about the unremovable dramatic and heroic character of the human history has been artificially excluded. For this reason, the European culture does not educate “warriors” any more. However, the Old Continent can afford it, because the allied USA maintain military capabilities. “The History” does not seem to be interested in Europe any more and “happens” somewhere else (for example in the Middle East).

The European answer for the changing nature of international politics seems to take a form of “shallow realism”. This strategy aims at achieving the time instead of any deeper historical, moral and political outcomes. This kind of approach influences expectations of citizens towards politicians. Europe's inhabitants seem to appreciate more technocratic governance than the cultural and ideological disputes. In this manner, the time tends to have the greatest value and is treated like a political tribute payed by politicians to the citizens for electoral support. In fact, this is the very idea of “post-politics” which results from the fear, helplessness, lack of alternatives and weakness.

The Europeans often can observe that the critical decisions concerning their future are being taken somewhere else. The ability to control global processes by Europe is constantly declining. The model of European society, grounded in humanist values, is jeopardized by the growing international competition. It is claimed that Europe seems to be like a small boat in a stormy sea of global developments. No doubt that the democratic norms are severely tested by the autocracy nowadays. In fact, the difficulties in ratification of the Lisbon treaty underline the weak position of Europe and its insecure future.

It is believed that the low level of self-confidence among European is connected with the negative experiences. Indeed, Europe was home to communism, fascism and colonialism. Today, the Old Continent is still trying to reach the consensus on the shared history. The substantial difficulty in agreeing upon the common past definitely influences the basic inability to define the position of Europe in the present world. Moreover, it seems that the growing economic competition is another main reasons for the European melancholy. In fact, Europe is badly prepared for facing global competition since the foreign investors demand more flexible markets with lower salaries and reduced lifetime job security. Furthermore, it is widely perceived that Europe’s diminishing share in the world population, will lead to the decline in its power and influence. In the near future the European countries will not be able to improve demographic data.

For this reason, the Europeans are no longer the focus of the world’s attention. The Old Continent can have a significant impact on the international affairs only if all members of the European Union act in a common manner. That is why, the inhabitants of Europe are not in the position to exert power and have limited means to defend their interests, so the EU is incapable of taking up the crucial challenges. Moreover, an expansion the European project is doubtful because the European public opinion is less and less enthusiastic about the new rounds of enlargements.

At the same time, there is a strong uncertainty among the Europeans about the political project of Union. In the last 20 years the European organism experienced substantial shocks: collapse of the Soviet Union, reunification of Germany, Eastern enlargement or the disputes with the USA. Nowadays there is a struggle to build “political Union” that creates the competition among EU member states. Unfortunately, it can results in the plausible fragmentation of the European project. No doubt that the egoism of the greatest European players seems to be harmful for the Old Continent. Each of the EU members takes care of its own national interest. Moreover, a crucial economic disproportion between the Western and Eastern EU states can be observed. Indeed, for the post-communist Europe, an idea of the “united continent” looks distant, because there is no readiness to give up newly won sovereignty so easily. In fact, a lack of internal consensus and common strategic culture of Europe results in a harmful disability to speak witch one voice in the foreign affairs by the EU as a whole.

According to the prominent experts, a low level of the democratic control over the process of European integration is particularly worrying. This “deficit of democracy” results form the lack of European demos with strong identity. Europe still could not be described as a polity which citizens would share the overwhelming feeling of community. The bureaucracy from Brussels is very often criticized for its attempts to create the European patriotism in an artificial manner. In fact, the attempts to homogenize the culture by social engineering are not appreciated by the Europeans. Moreover, the European elites are alienated, so inhabitants of the Old Continent are not eager to follow their ideas of strengthening the European integration. The European project is not present in everyday life of the European citizens.

It is very often stated that the crisis is influencing on the European culture. All meaningful visions of intellectuals and artists are very pessimistic in this matter. Such words as decline, turning point, decay, catastrophe or breakdown are very common nowadays. Nihilism, hypocrisy, ethical relativism and the lack of solidarity tends to undermine European identity as well. There is a growing conflict between many different systems and hierarchies of values. According to some influential thinkers, this moral and spiritual crisis results in the demoralization of the European citizens. The European system of values, which are the basic ingredients of the European identity, is endangered. The crisis in European culture is connected with the overwhelming uniformity and egalitarianism.

According to some prominent theologians, the major source of the European crisis lie in the rejection of the religion and the acceptance of the cult of technique. In fact, the secularization is the fundamental cause of the crisis in the European culture. That is why, the evangelism practices should become the genuine remedy in this matter. For the Catholic Church, the Europeans are affected by the destruction of moral values. Nowadays, the Old Continent does not accept its own culture and at the same time it is opening wide for the values of “The Others”.

On the other hand, it should be mentioned that Nietzsche was criticizing the European civilization for its illusions and lack of sincerity. For this influential philosopher, the “God was dead”. The religion or any other spirituality no longer was a crucial source of any wisdom. Heidegger understood this part of Nietzsche's philosophy as death of metaphysics. Indeed, if metaphysics is dead, the world is completely senseless. For this reason, the life of Europeans is illusion. For Nietzsche, the depreciation of the European civilization was connected with a lack of the ability to deal with reality.

However, according to Habermas, the trends of the European culture which tend to treat a human like an animal without dignity are very dangerous. In this sense, rationalism and uncontrolled modernization with dubious genetic engineering is becoming harmful. Moreover, the return to the private life, consumptionism and the lack of engagement in the public issues are the factors that should be seriously analyzed. For Habermas, the decomposition of ties between ordinary citizens results in the decline of the democratic public opinion in Europe.

Many intellectuals underline the fact that the European integration is in danger of the reduction of its momentum. More and more Europeans have the feeling of losing the possibility to control their own lives. Citizens of the Old Continent feel lost and confused because of the speed of the global events. The mechanism of exploitation of their fears is actually being in use by right-wing politicians. In fact, they are offering a feeling of belonging an a guarantee of security in the confrontation with “the Others” (immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers). Their old-fashioned rhetoric in focused on the blood, soil and territory. Indeed, many observers see growing xenophobia, nationalism and racism. The creation of the “enemy” is actually being performed by the leaders who tend to exploit xenophobic sentiments. Electoral successes of the right-wing nationalistic and anti-European parties seem to be dangerous for the European project, since their activists prefer the  mobilization of the defensive mechanisms and the isolationist politics.

If it comes to geopolitics, it should be stressed that the European Union has to cope with the growing assertiveness of the Russian Federation nowadays. Kremlin perceives the European integration as a major threat to the Russian interests because of the post-modern nature of the European politics. In fact, Moscow treats the European Union as a power with unsettled borders that intends to expand its principles and institutions. Moreover, it views the European policy of exporting democracy as the major source of instability in the post-Soviet space.

The European Union which promotes human rights and democratic values is at odds with Moscow's “sovereign democracy” project. For Kremlin, European policy resembles the nightmare of ethnic and religious tensions and the territorial disintegration of the Russian Federation. In fact, Russia feels threatened by the nongovernmental organizations. The Kremlin would like to prevent foreign interference in its domestic politics. In fact, the endorsement of democracy by Brussels is treated as the destabilization and marginalization of Russia.

For this reason, Russia is reluctant to cope with the European Union as a whole. In its politics the European Union is treated as a temporary phenomenon, so Moscow stresses the importance of bilateral relations with the greatest member states. In this manner, Kremlin undermines the unity of Europe by implementing the strategy of strengthened relations with the most important sovereign nation-states of the Old Continent. According to some experts, Moscow actually succeeded in “splitting EU member states into Trojan horses, new cold warriors, strategic partners, and friendly or frosty pragmatists”. Russia's reliance on the balance of power and energy geopolitics stimulates the re-nationalization of the EU community. Furthermore, Europe is losing its monopoly on the globalization process nowadays, so today the general belief in Moscow is that “Russia is up, America is down, and Europe is out”. From this perspective, it seems that Europe does not posses enough strength to infect its Eastern neighbors with the “virus of liberty”.

The emancipation of Europe in the aftermath of the American invasion in Iraq is also problematic. In fact, it resulted in the break of the ties between the USA and a number of EU member states that caused the reduction of the role of Europe in the global politics. The dispute about the identity of the Old Continent divided intellectuals and politicians at that time. The cultural and psychological elements of mass identification, which would be contained in a word “we”, have not been realized in Europe. Defining the anti-American approach as the cornerstone of the European identity seemed to be doubtful. When crowds of Europeans protested against participation in the Iraqi intervention, Derrida and Habermas wrote about the births of European identity. However, the American hegemony was not criticized by all member states of EU. Today, Habermas claims that the European identity still is a kind of a myth, mainly because of the substantial viability of “national ghettos”. In fact, the authoritative and premature creation of the European consciousness has been contested. Moreover, the proposal to create the European “hard core” of integration, which would be surrounded by the concentric rounds, underlined dangerous division between the center and periphery of the European integration. According to Habermas, nowadays a degree of inertia influences on the whole Europe. The greatest problem of the EU still relies on the lack of the democratic participation of its citizens in this project.

So why there is no need to be afraid of Europe? Bronisław Geremek, the former Polish Foreign Affairs Minister, already answered this question: “because Europe is afraid of itself!”.


         J. Rifkin, The European Dream: how Europe’s vision of the future is quietly eclipsing the American dream. Penguin, 2004.

         M. Kala, Estonia in the European Union: From the margins to the centre, “The Estonian Foreign Policy Yearbook 2008”.

         For example I. Kant or J.J. Rousseau.

         Foreign Affairs Minister of Sweden.

         A. D. Rotfeld, How Europe is starting to set global rules, “Europe's World”, Spring 2008.

         Summarizing Europe's consensus, British diplomat Robert Cooper wrote: "What came to an end in 1989 was not just the Cold War or even the Second World War. What came to an end in Europe (but perhaps only in Europe) were the political systems of three centuries: the balance of power and the imperial urge" [From: I. Krastev, The crisis of the post-Cold War European order, “Eurozine”, ( – accessed 20.08.2009)].

         M. A. Cichocki, Suwerenność i Europa, “Nowe Państwo”, nr 1/2008.

         For instance terrorism or autocracy.

         R. Kaplan, Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, Knopf, 2003.

         P. Sloterdijk, Teoria czasów powojennych, (from: Z. Krasnodębski, Dobrzy sąsiedzi Niemiec, “Rzeczpospolita”, 26.12.2008).

         R. Kagan, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, Knopf 2003.

         M.A. Cichocki, Urlop od historii, “Rzeczpospolita”, 13.10.2007.

         M. Gorbaczow, Nowy start, “International Herald Tribune”, 12.06.2008.

         M. Brachowicz, Deficyt demokracji w Unii Europejskiej, “Pressje”, (from: “Teologia Polityczna”, – accessed 20.08.2009). See more: T.G. Grosse, Europa na rozdrożu, Warszawa 2008.

         Raymond Aron once stated that: „there is no such animal as the European citizen. There are only French, German or Italian citizens”.

         According to Bartłomiej Dobroczyński “it is unquestionable truth that the Western civilization is in a deep and serious crisis. This crisis is not a new phenomenon. It was heralded by such prominent philosophers as Kierkegard and Nietzsche. In the XX century the crisis was described in the essays of Husserl and Szestow. It is necessary to underline, that the symptoms of crisis are visible not only in the sphere of morality and intellect, but in all domains of life, not excluding such bastions of the European civilization as the family, language or education”.

         For example Nietzsche, Heidegger or Witkacy.

         J. Staniszkis, Kryzys gospodarki, kryzys władzy - przypadek Unii Europejskiej, „Europa”, 07.08.2009.

         O. Spengler, Historia, kultura, polityka, Warszawa 1990.

         J. Ratzinger, Europa - jej duchowe podstawy wczoraj, dziś i jutro, a speech delivered on 28th of November 2000 in Berlin, during the conference on the European identity, “Niedziela Akademicka”,  nr 41, 2001 r.

         L. Kołakowski, Nietzsche, “Tygodnik Powszechny”, 10.03.2006.

         “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” (from: F. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra).

         S. Drakulic, Who's afraid of Europe?, “Eurozine”, ( – accessed 20.08.2009).

         I. Krastev, The crisis of the post-Cold War European order, “Eurozine”, ( – accessed 20.08.2009).

         The metaphor of Emil Cioran.

         J. Trenkner, My, Europejczycy, “Tygodnik Powszechny”, 27.07.2003.

         J. Habermas, J. Derrida, Europa, jaka śni się filozofom,“Gazeta Wyborcza”, 10.06.2003.

        J. Habermas, Europę ogarnia pośmiertny bezwład, “Europa”, 12.02.2009.


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