LONDON – The European Union stands at a crossroads. The shape it takes five years from now will be decided in the coming 3-5 months.
Year after year, the EU has successfully muddled through its difficulties. But now it has to deal with two sources of existential crisis: Greece and Ukraine.
A new Ukraine was born a year ago in the pro-European protests that helped to drive President Viktor F. Yanukovych from power. And today, the spirit that inspired hundreds of thousands to gather in the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square, is stronger than ever, even as it is under direct military assault from Russian forces supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine.
NEW YORK – By invading Ukraine in 2014, President Vladimir Putin’s Russia has posed a fundamental challenge to the values and principles on which the European Union was founded, and to the rules-based system that has kept the peace in Europe since 1945.
The sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and Europe for its interventions in Ukraine have worked much faster and inflicted much more damage on the Russian economy than anybody could have expected. The sanctions sought to deny Russian banks and companies access to the international capital markets.
Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence. Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it. I attribute this mainly to the fact that the European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008.
This is the worst possible time for Britain to consider leaving the EU – or for Scotland to break with Britain.
The EU is an unfinished project of European states that have sacrificed part of their sovereignty to form an ever-closer union based on shared values and ideals.
Last weekend’s European Parliament election and presidential election in Ukraine produced sharply contrasting results. Europe’s voters expressed their dissatisfaction with the way that the European Union currently functions, while Ukraine’s people demonstrated their desire for association with the EU. European leaders and citizens should take this opportunity to consider what that means – and how helping Ukraine can also help Europe.
The war on drugs has been a $1tn failure. For more than four decades, governments around the world have pumped huge sums of money into ineffective and repressive anti-drug efforts. These have come at the expense of programs that actually work such as needle exchanges and substitution therapy.
Parts of the following interview with George Soros by the Spiegel correspondent Gregor Peter Schmitz appear in their book, The Tragedy of the European Union: Disintegration or Revival?, just published by PublicAffairs.
Gregor Peter Schmitz: The conflict in Crimea and Ukraine has changed the shape of European and world politics, and we will come to it.
There is an important debate under way about the future of Europe and Britain’s place in the EU. I bring a pro-European bias to this debate. I am a great believer in the Union as it was originally conceived. This is a function of my personal history and of the philosophy I developed based on my life experience.