Ever since the American elections of November 2016, at least, things have become clearer.
England has drifted back into its dream of empire, nineteenth-century style; America is seeking to become great again, post-war style, with sepia photos, as in 1950. Europe – continental Europe – now finds itself alone, weak and more divided than ever. Poland is dreaming of an imaginary country; Hungary now wants only »pure-blooded« Hungarians to live in it; the Dutch, French and Italians are struggling with parties that seek to shut themselves away behind equally imaginary borders. Scotland, Catalonia and Flanders wish to become states. Meanwhile, the Russian Bear is licking its chops and China is finally fulfilling its dream of becoming the »Middle Kingdom« yet again, while ignoring the interests of its fringe populations.
Europe is being dismembered: it counts less than a hazelnut in a nutcracker. And this time around, it can no longer rely on the United States, now controlled by a new Lord of Misrule.
So maybe this is the right time to reconstruct a United Europe. Oh, not the same one as the founding fathers dreamed up just after the war, based on iron, coal and steel, or more recently on the deluded hope it might escape from history via common rules of standardization or the single currency. No: if Europe must reunite, this is because of threats just as grave as those of the 1950s – though the continent now needs to take its place in a history utterly different from that of the twentieth century.