Funny what a couple of crises can do for a continent’s reputation. LastJune, following Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU seemedlike a dead man walking, hobbled by its decade-long institutionalparalysis but unable to find its way forward. But the Georgia War andthe financial bailout have demonstrated that not only is it possible for the EU to be an effective actor on the global stage, it is necessary.
Combined, both crises will go a long way to convincing Europeans thatdespite its sometimes burdensome complications, the Union gives them acomforting weight that they otherwise would not have. I haven’t seenany polling data, but I’d be very surprised if the Union’s approvalratings across the continent weren’t significantly higher now than theywere four months ago.
As importantly, the Union is being taken seriously again, despite the long odds against the Russia-Georgia mediation bearing any fruit,or the bailout succeeding. In both cases, Europe and the world had aclear image of what things would look like in its absence,and in both cases, things looked a whole lot better with the Union inthe picture.
The EU can sometimes be tragic, and sometimes comic, as this EU Observer piece illustrates well. But as Polish President Lech Kaczynski put it, citing Nicolas Sarkozy, “[I]f the Poles can agree with each other, then so can Europe.” And that’s a good thing for everyone.