Would anyone like to save Europe from itself? The continent is presently enduring economic weakness, an influx of refugees, rising nationalism and a general sense of insecurity. All too often, its leaders’ collective response to these multiple threats is not to take decisive action but to look around for someone else to do so, echoing the motto of Charles Dickens’ eternal optimist, Mr. Micawber: “Something will turn up.”
The range of “somethings” that might dig Europe out of its strategic hole is broad. Russia could become more moderate, easing security fears. Turkey and African states might adopt robust policies to control refugees, reducing the pressure on European Union member states to either integrate or expel them. Perhaps China can invest more in the EU, salvaging its economy. And Iran might just take steps to stabilize the Middle East in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal, with big economic and strategic benefits all around.
Last week, the Iranian option was at the forefront of many Europeans’ minds, as President Hassan Rouhani visited Rome and Paris to jumpstart economic relations after the end of sanctions. In France, Rouhani signed off on a deal to purchase 118 Airbus aircraft. This is clearly pretty good economic news, with potentially positive strategic side effects, but it highlights the ways in which European politicians are now addicted to injections of cash from their Middle Eastern and Asian partners. Britain, France and pretty much all other members of the EU are, after all, constantly vying to outbid one another for Chinese investments.