The European Union is widely considered by students of international relations to be the most successful experiment in international cooperation in human history. According to this view, the EU has demonstrably fostered unprecedented peace, prosperity and power on the European continent. The award of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the Union, on the grounds that it had “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” vindicates this view.
Yet, the Union is also the subject of increasingly vitriolic criticism by populist parties across Europe, who have made political gains—sometimes meteoric ones—by attacking the EU as an elitist, overinterventionist, undemocratic albatross. A Pew research poll published last month found that faith in the EU among Europeans has fallen to an all-time low. According to Pew, the European Union itself is the new “sick man of Europe.”
The yawning gap between views in the academy and those of average Europeans makes one think of the Dire Straits song in which it is observed that when two men claim they are Jesus, one of them must be wrong. But which one?