In an op-ed in today's New York Times, Beppe Servergnini, a former correspondent for The Economist in Italy, writes about his 97 years old father who "adores the European Union", but who "is in a minority these days", as "anti-Europe parties are gathering momentum across the continent".
"The list is long", says Severgnini:
Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy. Nigel Farage’s U.K. Independence Party. Alternative for Germany. The Danish People’s Party. True Finns. The Sweden Democrats. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front.
As the Eurobarometer, which monitors the European public opinion, shows that a record 60 per cent of Europeans "tend not to trust the EU",
The European Commission is worried. […] But rekindling enthusiasm for Europe with new banking regulations, which is where the big focus within the union lies today, is like attempting to boost libido by reading the instructions on a packet of condoms: possible, perhaps, but something of a challenge.
All bleak on the European front, then? Not necessarily. If a political storm is on its way, that is good news: Europe needs a good fright to find its courage. The European Union functions by transforming fear into energy. When things go quiet, Europeans tend to sit back and bellyache.
Now another Europe-bracing scare looms. Those Euroskeptic parties are likely to do well in European parliamentary elections in May, which will serve to concentrate minds. Do we care about Europe? Then let’s say so, loud and clear.
The so-called Erasmus generation […] have a duty, and a privilege, to stand up for Europe.
It cannot be left to Ukrainians protesting in favor of integration with the West, or Africans risking their lives on rickety migrant boats, to tell us that Europe is a nice place to live because the rule of law is upheld and its welfare-protected citizens can enjoy agreeable cities set in lovely countryside. We take all this for granted, but we shouldn’t.
In 1919 William Butler Yeats wrote, in The Second Coming, that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” Anti-Europeans are not necessarily evil people, yet their passion is driven by regrettable intentions. They are out to dismantle what we, and our parents, have put together.
My father, who is older than Yeats’s poem, has seen Europe disunited and united. That’s why he likes the European Union, and he won’t give it up without a fight.