The Irish “no” to the European Union’s modernization blueprint has fueled a new round of skeptical American commentary about Europeans’ real ambitions. “In Europe, a Slide Toward Irrelevance” was the title of an opinion piece in the Washington Post by Robert Kagan, a foreign-policy adviser to Republican presidential candidate John McCain. “The danger of this latest blow to European confidence is that our allies, including Britain, could gradually sink into global irrelevance,” Kagan wrote.
When then-Prime Minister Tony Blair went to the podium of the European Parliament in June 2005, he spoke at one of the darkest hours in the history of the European Union. The assembly was reeling under the shock of seeing the draft Constitution repudiated by voters in France. When Blair finished speaking an hour later, the parliamentarians rose to their feet in applause, galvanized by the British leader’s apparently undimmed enthusiasm for the potential of European unity to help Europeans safeguard their societies. Blair did not disguise his formula for success: governments needed to change and liberalize their economies or else see their societies succumb to extremism as they suffocated under the pressures of globalization.
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