The European Dream is Fraying

Between Greece’s collapse and the U.K.’s withdrawal, the E.U. faces a double-fronted threat

By Emilie Oblivión

Every year since the 2008 financial crisis, the European Union has shown more cracks. Dissatisfaction in the United Kingdom and the risk of a eurozone exit by Greece are both treated like death threats. In the extreme, that is a possibility.

The creation of the E.U. has bought peace and prosperity to the region for over 50 years, and it boasts the largest single market in the world. But success draws critics, and the E.U. has its share. Almost every country in the 28-member union has a Euroskeptic party, often sitting quite firmly on either extreme of the political spectrum—on the right, Greece’s Golden Dawn and France’s National Front; to the left, the Portuguese Communist Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement in Italy. Euroskeptic parties want major reforms to or in some cases a total exit from the E.U. – often citing the view that the integration of states weakens the national state. For the most part these fringe parties don’t receive much of the vote and lack a dominant voice in the current political climate. However, fringe political parties can pull mainstream debate in their direction.

To date no member of the E.U. has left the Union or even downgraded its involvement, but at present two states are threatening to do so. Greece and the United Kingdom have both been problematic members for a long time, but their situations are coming to a head for very different reasons.

A Greek Default

Greece has been in turmoil since the financial collapse of 2008 and is now at a critical juncture. In 2010, and again in 2012, the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the European Commission (E.C.) offered bailouts to Greece after it promised strong austerity measures. The most recent installment of the rescue package, worth nearly $8.2 billion, was held back when Syrzia, the current anti-austerity government, scraped previous commitments to privatize state assets and cut welfare provisions.

Greece now cannot meet its debt repayment schedule, but its …

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