2011 Reflections: Europe's ideals thrown into tumult

Seven Monitor correspondents reflect on the world's hot spots. In this installment, Robert Marquand says the eurozone crisis is undermining postwar ideals.

Europe's postwar model is stability and order, cooperation, and human rights. The image is of skilled executives meeting around Swedish-built conference tables, drinking bottled Alpine water, and making corrections and compromises on behalf of an idealistic project.

For usually placid and stable Europe, 2011 brought upheaval and austerity serious enough to challenge 60 years of these assumptions. Pushed by the winds of globalization, Europe is in an uneasy transition.

The year started with Arab revolutions shattering Europe's cozy status quo with Arab autocrats. It ended with a euro and banking debt crisis that has European capitals making contingency plans for an unsettling breakup of the eurozone if the crisis deepens.

In between came 365 days of the unexpected: The tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan shocked Germany into declaring an end to nuclear energy. Debt and banking crises and market uncertainty over Europe's resolve caused first the Irish and Portuguese governments, then the Greek and Italian ones to fall, creating fears about European cohesiveness. France and Britain (along with the United States) launched airstrikes on Libya to support the Arab Spring and preempt a massacre. Europe paused for a fairy-tale royal wedding in London.

But Paris then heard of International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lust in a New York hotel, ending his bid for the French presidency.

By May, the ripples from Tahrir Square, along with a lack of jobs and futures, brought a new kind of nonviolent youth protest to Madrid that also caught on in Athens amid fears about the future of Greece. Years of anti-Islam sentiment in Europe boiled over into a demonic shooting spree at an idyllic summer camp for the youth wing of Norway's Labor Party. London erupted in riots by have-nots who wanted to have.

To be sure, some major moments brought cheer: the arrest of Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic for genocide after years on the run, the end of the Muammar Qaddafi regime, and reviled News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch's comeuppance in a British phone-hacking scandal.

But 2011 closed with euro crisis summits and disillusioned rank and file. Can new German-engineered rules further binding the eurozone hold the monetary union together? Is there enough political and economic capital to create a new "mutuality" – the buzzword at year's end – to weather the upheavals?

Ordinary Europeans without a clear program, especially the young, started to speak in 2011. Is there a game change ahead for them at Europe's smooth conference tables, or will their new political energy be channeled into the populist pull of the far left and the far right?

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 2011 Reflections: Europe's ideals thrown into tumult
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today