To come to Ireland (and Northern Ireland where I spent the last two days) is to be immersed in a crisis that, I suspect, barely registers on the American consciousness. Europe is falling apart. I just read a book about Copernicus who lived in the time of the Holy Roman Empire. That was the last time (with apologies to Napoleon and Hitler) that much of Europe tried to be one nation. That one fell apart. Apparently this one is about to crumble too. Three factors get cited in the Irish press.
Russia. She has the natural gas and now she’s bitten off a bit of the EU (the Crimea first, perhaps soon to be joined by the Ukraine). Sweden announced today that they are bolstering their military in anticipation that they might be next on Putin’s menu. The Baltic States are petrified. But there’s no way Europe will actually fight to defend these folks. See 1938 for the last time Western Europe was asked to help defend the little countries of Eastern Europe. The more pressure Putin applies the more Europe gets pulled apart.
Migrants. The Irish are obsessed with the influx of Pakistani’s and Eritreans and others who are finding ways to wiggle into Dublin or Belfast. By American standards the numbers are laughable, a few hundred this year, but they obviously stand out physically among the lilly-white Irish. And once they get here they can drag out the litigation for years till they’ve become part of this Western nation. In Calais, where the ferries leave France for England, there is a community of several thousand migrants living in hovels. They wait for the lorries to slow down, then they hop on. Most get sent back at the border but a few succeed, enough to give all the others hope. And in Southern Europe thousands are crossing the Med to land in Greece or Italy or Spain. Two thousand died at sea last year. The problem for Europe is that the EU mandates no border checks. So once you get to Italy you can thumb your way to Calais. That angers the Germans and French and Scandinavians. If they get angry enough they will insist on reinventing those borders that the EU was supposed to eviscerate. Another body blow to the idea of a united Europe.
Grexit. That’s the new slang for Greek Exit. The Greeks, when they entered the EU in 1998, apparently went on a spending spree with all those new Euro’s they got from German banks. Money was handed out to pensioners and to the rich moguls who could buy politicians. Now they can’t pay the borrowed money back and the Germans are pissed. It looks like Greece will leave the EU and the common currency. Once that spell is broken people figure Italy and Spain will leave, too. A majority in England want to leave but PM Cameron is trying to forestall that. Will this Holey Yoeman Empire dissolve? I read one article that speculated that the Greeks (after they are kicked out of Europe) and Russians will make common cause and try to gouge out a chunk of Southeastern Europe. World War III?
I spent two good days in a small home in Belfast. The elderly lady of the house was retired from teaching. She bent my ear for hours and treated me like a long-lost relative. I ate well–too well. And she even ferried me to a local museum my first afternoon. Which was nice but also a bit uncomfortable. I decided I needed a rest from that kind of thing and found my way to a hostel here in Galway. The Atlantic is a stone’s throw from here. I hope to check it out tomorrow.