Tuesday 23 May 2017

Europeans are authors of their own weakness

Last week, Europe failed on almost every front and paid the price. The next seven days will change the continent

Queues outside a branch of the Piraeus Bank in Athens yesterday after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a referendum on austerity demands
Queues outside a branch of the Piraeus Bank in Athens yesterday after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a referendum on austerity demands
Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

A century ago, Europe led the world. Things are very different now. The continent has been in an almost uninterrupted decline ever since. Some of the decline has been merely relative - many poorer countries have been lifting themselves out of poverty and becoming more influential in world affairs. But Europe's decline has not all been relative and some of the diminution of its clout and standing globally is self-inflicted.

Wars aside, none of the self-inflicted setbacks has ever quite matched the fiasco surrounding Greece in the eurozone, which last week reached new depths in terms of the animosity it has generated among the participants. To make matters even worse, events frequently veered towards the absurd and the farcical. It is hard to be European and proud this weekend.

The rest of the world watched goings on in Brussels with a mixture of puzzlement and derision. A small sample of comments by global opinion makers over the course of the week illustrates how bad it has become.

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