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“Encircled” Europe: turning young and united to get out of a tight corner

The United States and Great Britain, Russia and Turkey, Syria and Libya: the world map shows an Old Continent under external pressure and internally divided. The way out is hard to identify, but it entails recovered unity along with renewed political and moral thrust

While Trump’s USA – on the migration front – and Theresa May’s UK – Brexit – appear to be undertaking the path of isolationism, Europe has no other option than viewing this new shutdown with concern. Washington has always been a privileged partner, rich and reassuring for the Old Continent. On the other hand, London – notwithstanding other considerations – is an integrating, significant part of European history and of its present times.

The political, economic, military, migratory news reports of the past years are marked by surging walls, built inside Community Europe and beyond. Putin’s Russia, light years away from the hopes raised in the post Berlin -Wall years, has definitely undertaken a threatening, occasionally belligerent path, directly (Ukraine) or indirectly (Syria and not only), impacting scenarios that involve the EU. Likewise, Turkish President Erdogan brought about a radical, anti-democratic and “confessional” drift in a Country which until then represented a bridge between the east and the west, between Europe and Asia, between Islam and “Christianity.

To the south-east, Europe is forced to face an endlessly ablaze Middle East extending from Syria to Iraq to the Holy Land: it’s hard to identify fixed points in the region’s geopolitical configuration, which war refugees fleeing from that area every day testify to. To the south, on the opposite shore of the Mediterranean, Libya is the emblem of an African continent that strives to get back on its feet: thousands of migrants desperately fleeing every month from hunger, violence and backwardness, are the peak of the iceberg of a recent and remote history expected to stir the consciences of European chancelleries, of the United States, and, the latest wreaking havoc, of China.

Moreover, small signs across the globe could lead us to see the glass half-full, encouraging hopes in a better world, represented by international cooperation, intercultural dialogue, the presence of countless, widespread peaceful religious communities, by scattered signs of economic and social recovery, thereby rekindling hope in positive developments. But indulging in optimism makes sense only if the good intentions are matched by courageous, effective and farsighted political action.

Will today’s “encircled” Europe, dumbfounded at the world’s turn for the worst, internally scarred by the recent economic crisis, by demographic ageing, by new borders, by fears of terrorism, by narrow-minded nationalism, by loud, sterile nationalism, manage to return on the path of eternal rejuvenation while recovering a dynamic, central role on the international scenario?

It was Pope Francis’ wake-up call to Europe in Strasbourg, during the visit at the European Parliament in November 2014. “In addressing you today” the Pope said, “I would like, as a pastor, to offer a message of hope and encouragement to all the citizens of Europe. It is a message of hope, based on the confidence that our problems can become powerful forces for unity in working to overcome all those fears which Europe – together with the entire world – is presently experiencing. It is a message of hope in the Lord, who turns evil into good and death into life.” He went on: “It is a message of encouragement to return to the firm conviction of the founders of the European Union, who envisioned a future based on the capacity to work together in bridging divisions and in fostering peace and fellowship between all the peoples of this continent. At the heart of this ambitious political project was confidence in man, not so much as a citizen or an economic agent, but in man, in men and women as persons endowed with transcendent dignity.” The distance separating the words of a great man of faith from political decisions is immense. But the former can inspire the latter, without interfering. There could emerge a new reunited Europe, “young”, sound, and open to the rest of the world.


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