A united Europe faced many new challenges. First was the cost, in particular the absurdity of the two parliaments in Brussels and Strasbourg. The senseless waste and the extravagant expenses were described to us by Jimmy Goldsmith, our friend who was elected to the European Parliament. Then there were the competing centripetal and centrifugal forces at play. Countries were tugged between regions that want their independence. Curiously, these movements affected monarchies much more than republics, Spain and Catalonia, England and Scotland, Belgium and Flanders, as if monarchy itself posed an impediment to unification, which is probably true.
Two decades ago, I was convinced that the future of European monarchies was assured. Popular and democratic, there were no impending threats. Then came the death of Princess Diana and the shock to the English monarchy, the most solid of them all, followed by the crisis within the Spanish monarchy, and a few other mini crises from left to right. The crucial question is what role monarchies can and will play in a politically united Europe. Hypothetically speaking, it is easier to get rid of the presidency of a republic than it is to erase the monarchy with the stroke of a pen, as these families have ruled for centuries and are living symbols of the nation itself.
Personally, I resent the evolution of these dynasties. Previously, European dynasties were related, forming a more or less solid clan. In marriage or death, no distinction was made between ruling dynasties and those that had ruled, to have made such a distinction would have been seen as impolite. Then there was the introduction of queens and princesses born outside this inner circle, which automatically interrupted family relations and kinship. What was formerly a union by blood became a union through profession. Current ruling dynasties stick to themselves, forming a united front. The former dynasties, largely ignored and forgotten by those still ruling, remain among themselves.
Europe is threatened. Adversaries and competitors have begun to appear, most notably the five great emerging nations. They are much more dynamic, they have more energy, fueled by incalculable resources, are positioned much more advantageously than the West. They are young, the West old.
However, the West finds victories through exporting materialism, McDonalds and Coca-Cola. The Third World countries have so far guarded their traditions and cultures, they are known for incorporating modernity and tradition. Will they be able to maintain this balance in the face of an increasing “cultural” invasion from the West? Or will they too suffer the decay of materialism like the West?
The West is constantly confronted by new problems and questions posed by the Third World. Often the West is without a solution. Take for example the current immigration issue, never before has the West experience such pressure at its gate, resulting from wars and revolutions in addition to the general, abominable mistreatment and lack of employment opportunities the populations face.
Then there is the twofold question of energy. An increasingly thorny and uncertain situation in the Middle East leaves doubts about the oil reserves in this part of the world. On the other hand, there is the question of renewable resources. Are they in themselves sufficient? Will they be applied? Can the West move towards and thrive in a post-oil economy?
Europe is in crisis. The common currency in doubt and being questioned. Certain countries want to exit. Political union isn’t advancing. There are also the institutional errors and mistakes, the increasingly heavy decrees issued from Brussels that, the product on a dictatorship of anonymous civil servants making decisions on their own. The result is a bloated bureaucracy and unbearable constraints. Will Europe remain united? Many fear the union will unravel. As for myself, I don’t think that History will backtrack.
Photographs by Justin Creedy Smith