A profound analysis of the emergence and evolution of the European Union in the past five decades, and its position as the guarantor of human rights and the sustainability of the world.
The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream is a book that is more optimistic regarding the future of Europe than even the European Union, now in a moment of great internal convulsion after the rejection by France and Holland of a Constitutional referendum prompted by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and other veteran European leaders.
The influential Jeremy Rifkin, professor at the Wharton School of Business and veteran advisor of governments and influential companies during the past two decades, failed to predict a failure of the European Constitution before it was even born, when he published the book, in September of 2004.
Despite having misjudged the European Union with its short-term forecasts, The European dream promotes its economic power and intended integrationist goal, backed up by plentiful data and solid documentation.
In spite of the fact that the large economies of the Euro (Germany, France and Italy) report the lowest indices of growth of the large developed economies, and although Turkey is continually given more conditions to enter the EU while Eastern European expansion has culminated, with the entrance of Romania and Bulgaria, the EU continues to be the land of a new dream, The European Dream.
It’s not a joke, especially regarding the state of crisis of the omnipotent “American Dream”.
In the book, Rifkin describes the emergence and evolution of the European Union during the past five decades, as well as the fundamental differences and increasingly larger gap between American values and those of the old world.
In the opinion of this American thinker, Europe is not only the main world economy right now, with almost 500 million inhabitants and a larger GDP than that of the U.S., but it is seen as the main hope for a world that can no longer envision a future in which success and wealth can be measured as the basis for uncontrolled economic growth, despite the consequences for the quality of life of its citizens, the environment or other parts of the world, affected by our actions.
The United States of Europe are, in the opinion of Rifkin, a new center of attraction and a laboratory to rethink the civilization that has arisen since the Industrial Revolution.
The Europe that Rifkin doesn’t see in The European Dream
The EU is the main exporter and the major internal commercial market of the world, although what the author especially values is that Europe has a greater life expectancy, lower poverty and crime rates, less urban deterioration, long holidays and short commutes. Overall, Europe is beginning to appear ahead of the US in the main determinants of quality of life.
Rifkin does not talk at all about the profound European disagreement on the politics of immigration (Europeans are aging, but, with France leading the cause, they don’t want to discuss immigration), caused by the pressure of thousands of people arriving at the southern border of the EU.
Neither is there constancy in Rifkin’s work, again due to a certain optimism in his vision of Europe, from the French failure to integrate its minorities, often third generation, that live in residential zones not too different from the worst neighborhoods of New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington or Los Angeles.
Many banlieues lack the basic social services that are one of the major guarantees of the welfare state.
The integration of minorities in European societies, above all the Muslim minorities, has come to a head in other European countries, like the United Kingdom and Holland, where xenophobia has reached levels thought to have disappeared from the Continent.
Holland continues with their private crisis due to the establishment of immigration politics that have managed to expel from the country even a diplomat of Somali origin, now exiled -paradoxically- in the United States.
Another aspect that escapes the author is the disappearance of European universities, except for a few renowned British institutions, from the indices of university excellence in the world.
France’s universities have disappeared from the map of academic competitiveness, Germany is not any better and Spain has never been in the rankings.
The EU also suffers problems reconciling moderately coherent energy policies, which simultaneously confirm its dependence on countries like Russia (natural gas and petroleum) or Algeria (natural gas). The rhythm of the development of alternatives energies, despite community aid for the different governments, doesn’t convince the individual leaders. France continues launching nuclear power plants even though, beyond needing energy, it exports it.
Javier Solana, Mr. PESC, or head of the common exterior defense policy of the EU (that, beyond him, does not exist, for lack of an army or of coordination among countries, as remained clear in the Photo of the Azores), has received the Charlemagne Prize for 2006 “for his contribution to peace”.
Neither the CIA flights in Europe nor the European failure in the Middle East seemed to matter to the Charlemagne Foundation of Aquisgrán at the moment of granting the prize.
In Favor of Jeremy Rifkin’s book
The author doesn’t hide facts or use slanted speech, but his fundamental argument (to present the favorable case for the EU to become the guarantor of human rights, quality of life and environmental sustainability) doesn’t consider the numerous agitators at the head of the EU, whose 25 members have maintained their right to veto any legislation, as convenient as this might be for the majority of European citizens.
The European Dream is a worthwhile read: for the capacity for argument of one of the most influential thinkers of recent years and for the power of suggestion of an idea- that of a strong Europe, capable of integrating all its communities, respecting human rights and advancing toward a sustainable world- that would please us all.
It is easy to agree with the author, when he argues that in the 21st century the European dream, with its sustainable, common values that respect human rights will surpass the obsolete ideas upon which the Constitution of the United States is based, built from the ideas of classic capitalism: radical individualism, pursuit of happiness as a right and the guarantee of private property.
Of the presumed values of “respect for human rights” with which Rifkin credits the EU: there is no mention in the book of the action of the EU countries regarding the illegal CIA flights on European territory, transporting kidnapped people. Of course, these happened post-publication, but they’re missed in a reading of the book in 2007.
At risk of dying in the intent, as Rifkin clarifies in his book, the Europeans are attempting to overcome their tendency for paralysis of large ideas due to officials, paperwork, forms, guidelines, formalities; a very French, Italian, German or Spanish problem.
And Jeremy Rifkin points out that it’s important to try to keep the United Kingdom in Europe, without leaving aside their role as ambassadors to a more progressive United States friendly to permanent dialogue with Europe.
- Title: The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream
- Author: Jeremy Rifkin
- Publisher: Tarcher
- Genre: Non-fiction
- Pages: 448
- Year: 2004