The face of Europe is changing. How many faces and what kind of faces does Europe have? Or is Europe faceless? For intellectuals, Europe’s face is shaped more by the ideas of its thinkers or by the culture of its nations. For travelers, Europe is portrayed through its landscape and historical monuments. The image of Europe, for people around the world, is influenced by the goods it produces. And for its citizens, Europe is represented by its institutions, primarily those of the European Union. Do European institutions properly reflect Europe’s face? Do they connect with the hearts and minds of Europeans? And what about European political leaders?
European history clearly demonstrates how the longing for the single face of a leader, endowed with unchallenged authority, has always paved the road to serfdom. Plurality in political leadership, in contrast, prevents the risk of hegemony and preserves liberty. The ongoing struggle for public attention makes it impossible for anyone to become “the face of Europe.” There is no single Mr. or Mrs. Europe. The days are over when large parts of Europe were in the shadow of giant portraits of Hitler and Stalin. Europe’s freedom is secured by ongoing dialogue concerning values involving multiple faces: Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Jean Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, Viktor Orbán and Sebastian Kurz. Today’s face of Europe seems more like a Cubist portrait painted by Emil Filla or Pablo Picasso.
In this issue of Aspen Review Central Europe, we present a mosaic of views and attitudes toward today’s European challenges. In an interview, former Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda addresses both the questions of EU rules and institutions and the lack of political leadership among the members of the club. Thematic articles cover the tension between liberty and control, efficiency and accountability, the EU budget and the eurozone. The reviews of Ivan Krastev’s After Europe and Fareed Zakaria’s The Future of Freedom, two seminal books dealing with challenges to liberal democracy in Europe, place these challenges into more of a historical and global perspective.
We will continue to examine political leadership style along with the values of the free world and an open and democratic society. Stay tuned for Aspen Institute’s events and publications!
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