Pan-european Polycrisis

Europe‘s Vertigo Moment

Climate change, migration, war. Europe is reeling. Pushed to the brink by more than a decade of crises, the continent is at a tipping point.

Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia.
Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia.Nathan Murrell

Vertigo is something other than the fear of falling,” wrote Milan Kundera, the great Central European sage who died last year. “It is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.” The European Union is paralysed in a similar vertigo moment, squeezed between “no longer” and “not yet.” The current debates about the inclusion of Ukraine and the Western Balkans in the Union and the growing demands for treaty changes are the best proof that the European Union is on the edge of a radical change. Both its final borders and its institutional architecture are being put into question. While no major political party advocates an exit from the Union anymore, one-third of Europeans fear or hope that it will disappear within the next 20 years. Europe’s future has ceased to be a political project. It now is defined by a stream of projections; rising temperatures, Europe’s declining share in the global GDP, the increasing proportion of non-European-born residents in Europe, rising inflation, and a growing list of military conflicts.

„The five ... crises dancing on Europe’s roof have ... reshaped political cleavages.“

Ivan Krastev

The never-ending crises looming on the old continent over the past decade and a half are mostly responsible for this new European mindset. The climate crisis forced Europeans to imagine a world without them. The global financial crisis made them doubt that their children would live better lives than their own generation. The migration crisis triggered a panic over national identities. The pandemic exposed the dark side of globalization while making many Europeans believe at the same time that we are entering a new authoritarian age. The war in Ukraine shattered the illusion that a major war was no longer possible on the European continent and that the EU’s security could be taken for granted.

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