I’m a bit late with this, for which I apologize.
Two weeks ago, the Economist published a survey of the European Union. The survey ended with a rather delightful long-term prediction of what Europe will look like in 2057 for its 100-year anniversary (readers of mine might notice by now that I like reading predictions). Some excerpts follow:
A centenary celebration, 2057
The EU is celebrating its 100th birthday with quiet satisfaction. Predictions when it turned 50 that it was doomed to irrelevance in a world dominated by America, China and India proved wide of the mark. A turning-point was the bursting of America’s housing bubble and the collapse of the dollar early in the presidency of Barack Obama in 2010. But even more crucial were Germany’s and France’s efforts later in that decade, under Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy respectively, to push through economic reforms.
These reforms produced a sharp fall in unemployment just as Europe began to enjoy a productivity spurt from the spread of information technology. The eventual result was a growing labour shortage, which was not resolved until the arrival of Turkey and Ukraine as full members in 2025. The accession soon afterwards of the first north African country, Morocco, helped to prolong Europe’s boom.
The other cause for quiet satisfaction has been the EU’s foreign policy. In the dangerous second decade of the century, when Vladimir Putin returned for a third term as Russian president and stood poised to invade Ukraine, it was the EU that pushed the Obama administration to threaten massive nuclear retaliation. The Ukraine crisis became a triumph for the EU foreign minister, Carl Bildt, prompting the decision to go for a further big round of enlargement. It was ironic that, less than a decade later, Russia itself lodged its first formal application for membership.
At the same time politicians in Brussels and Washington, grappling with the blocked Middle East peace process, had a eureka moment. EU membership had worked, eventually, in Cyprus, which was reunified in 2024; why not try it again? So it was that Israel and Palestine became the EU’s 49th and 50th members.
The big challenge now is what to do about Russia. Its application has been pending for 15 years. Some say that it is too big, too poor and not European enough to join. But now that the tsar has been symbolically restored, Russia has an impeccably democratic government. A previous tsar saved Europe from Napoleon nearly 250 years ago. It would be apt to mark the anniversary by welcoming Russia back into the European fold.