The European Union is suffering such doubts about its course that its future suddenly appears to hinge on an issue that is not in crisis but could bring down the whole European project.
“Europe faces many challenges, but that of migration could become the make-or-break one for the EU,” Chancellor Angela Merkel declared on Thursday, at the start of a two-day summit meeting in Brussels.
Her own political future hinges on whether her conservative coalition partner in Germany will be satisfied with the outcome of a summit to which many leaders have come with diverging positions and ambitions.
Furthermore, European leaders are worried about the United States, the superpower that had guaranteed their security. “Despite our tireless efforts to keep the unity of the West, transatlantic relations are under immense pressure due to the policies of President Trump. Unfortunately, the divisions go beyond trade,” Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, wrote to EU leaders on the eve of the summit.
A senior EU official, speaking to the Guardian, added that there seemed to be a pattern emerging “of an American doctrine in which there are no friends, only enemies.” The Europeans are afraid that Trump will use the NATO summit on July 11-12 to undermine the West’s supreme military alliance, just as he did to the G7 at the recent summit in Canada.
However, while Trump insults and worries US allies and lavishes praise on Vladimir Putin, his government’s official policy is diametrically different. Testifying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on Europe, Assistant Secretary of State A. Wess Mitchell was unequivocal: “Both Russia and China want to break the West: Russia wants to splinter it and China wants to supplant it.
One place where they are especially aggressive is in Central and Eastern Europe. Our first priority here is to check Russian aggression.” (Two days later, the White House announced a Trump-Putin meeting on July 16.) Regarding our specific region, Mitchell said: “We are constructing a long-term strategy to bolster the US presence in the Eastern Mediterranean.
We are cultivating Greece as an anchor of stability in the Mediterranean and Western Balkans and working to systematically strengthen security and energy cooperation with Cyprus.”
Coming weeks will show where Europe is headed, what Washington’s policies really are, and what all this may mean for Greece.