Europe needs idealism and pragmatism simultaneously

THE terrorist attacks in Brussels highlight the overall fragility of Europe, a continent affected by the worst convergence of crises since the Second World War. After Paris a few months back, the fact that bombers have now targeted the administrative capital of the European Union carries a powerful symbolic message.

Since 2010, the continent has been suffering from an economic downturn, to which policy makers have responded with austerity policies, turning the financial predicament into a widespread social disaster. Then last year, thousands of refugees began crossing European borders, triggering resentment.

The litmus test of complex systems of social organisation such as the EU is in times of stress. The resilience of this historic experiment of regional integration will, therefore, be commensurate to its capacity to adapt and evolve to deal successfully with new challenges.

A combination of idealism and pragmatism has always been a defining feature of the European integration process.

In the early 1950s, the EU’s forefathers were fully aware of the need to find pragmatic solutions to longstanding rivalries and conflicts among European nations that had caused two world wars and hundreds of millions of deaths.

But, they couched their pragmatic project in the idealistic narrative of a better Europe, founded on peace and solidarity, in which peoples would come together to build a more prosperous society.

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