There has been a great deal of focus on Britain leaving the EU in recent months, but where does that leave Europe at the moment?

Prophetically we expect to see the independent western countries surrender their power to a centralised government. This is spoken of in Revelation 17:12-13 where we read of the ten horns of Western Europe giving their power and strength with one united purpose to the beast, or the reformed Holy Roman Empire.

At present we are seeing a dysfunctional and fractured continent. The Spectator ran an article by Ashoka Mody from Princeton University on 18 February 2020 entitled: “The EU is in trouble and Ursula Von der Leyen is the wrong person to rescue it”. Here are some excerpts from that article which indicate that something dramatic needs to change to bring Europe in line with the requirements of Scripture.

Ursula von der Leyen

“Ursula von der Leyen was an unloved choice to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as the next president of the European Commission. She emerged from a ferociously contentious process as a last-minute compromise and she promptly fell into a storm of criticism. Even members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) shellacked her. In the thankless role of German defence minister, she was unable to overcome the handicaps imposed by Germany’s postwar pacifism and mindless fiscal stinginess, while a former defence minister blamed her for the “catastrophic” state of the German army. A member of the Bundestag mockingly said: “It’s good for the army that she’s going.” Von der Leyen’s ministry was tainted by charges of unseemly cronyism in the awarding of consulting contracts. Chancellor Angela Merkel, her former boss, even abstained from the final vote for the Commission president to placate her angry coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SDP), who were furious because their preferred candidate was passed over.

Von der Leyen received the European parliament’s endorsement by the narrowest of margins. Casting secret ballots, the most pro-European members of the parliament, the Greens, made known that they voted against her. To get over that final hurdle, she needed the votes of anti-immigrant, eurosceptic ruling parties in Poland and, especially, Hungary.

The acrimony and opportunistic horse-trading in Von der Leyen’s appointment were a microcosm of a deepening European malaise: the inability to act with a common voice in the common interest. Von der Leyen is a product of that system. She is adept at its rhetoric and street-fighting tactics. But to now succeed, she must miraculously find common ground if she is to do better than she did at the German defence ministry. A shrill debate is raging on the size and allocation of EU’s next budget. And with member states staking out their national interests, the EU’s strategic agenda is in disarray.

The budget: “blood will flow”

Von der Leyen has rolled out a trillion-euro “European Green Deal,” to be paid for with funds from the EU’s next budget cycle, running from 2021 to 2027. “The blood will flow,” a senior EU official darkly pronounced after von der Leyen left the European Commission’s new year reception party. The previous EU budget, running from 2014 to 2020, clocked in at one trillion euro, just about one per cent of the EU’s GDP over this period. The next budget begins with a 94 billion euro hole in it following Britain’s departure from the EU. Yet the “net contributors” – the northern states – have ruled out opening their wallets any further; the “net recipients” – the southern and eastern member states – are fighting to retain their fiscal benefits. The knives are out as the effort begins to raise spending by, at best, a trivial one-tenth of one per cent of GDP.

The EU spends its ossified budget wastefully, even egregiously. Over 40 per cent of expenditures are for agricultural subsidies. In a shocking expose, the New York Times reported that the agricultural subsidies “underwrite oligarchs, mobsters, and far-right populists.” The corruption resides at the very top: “national leaders use the subsidies to enrich friends, political allies, and family members,” the paper reported. The European parliament is complicit. It summarily dismissed the latest effort to roll back some of the payments doled out. Simply put, too many influential power brokers have their privileged hands in the till.

The “geopolitical” fantasy

Von der Leyen has promised to lead “a geopolitical” European Commission. European leaders love to coin new phrases, raising the stakes from “an ever-closer Union,” to “a political union”, to Emmanuel Macron’s favourite “European sovereignty”. Now its Europe as a “geopolitical” force. The swagger of ‘the European Project’ is comforting because the substance is maddeningly elusive.

The differences among European member states on strategic and policy issues is endless. Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform warns that France and Germany are increasingly operating unilaterally, each pursuing its national interest. “Germany,” he points out, “did not consult its EU partners over its support for the Nord Stream 2 Russian gas pipeline, although it will increase the EU’s dependency on Russian energy and cause tensions with the US.” On the contentious involvement of Huawei in European networks, Grant notes that “in March 2019, Merkel kept the French in the dark before saying that she would allow Huawei to compete for contracts in parts of Germany’s 5G network; she ignored the French view that Huawei was a potential security threat and that there should be a common EU response to the Chinese company.”

Macron believes what is good for France must also be good for Europe. He vetoed the start of the talks on North Macedonia’s accession to the EU, although that aspiring country had made a huge preparatory effort – including accepting a controversial change in name – to reach the threshold set for the talks. Macron’s veto came as a shock, especially to Germany because of its strategic interest in the Balkans. Macron also alarmed other member states with his surprise overture to Russia, hinting at a new relationship with the EU.

Together Macron’s nixing of the North Macedonia accession process and extending his hand to Russia added to the tensions between France and the Visegrad countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Macron has made it a habit to antagonise these countries. Right after he became president in May 2017, he pushed the European Commission

to restrict the posting of Eastern European workers in France. These workers – such as the fabled Polish plumber – were a form of “social dumping,” Macron charged. Looking for political brownie points at home, Macron’s was a mean-spirited move since the numbers of posted workers is small in relation to the French labour force.

A fragmented continent in decline

Von der Leyen airily talks of a United States of Europe. “All member states will have to be ready to contribute to deeper integration,” she says, without explaining why member states – deadlocked on fiscal, foreign, defence, and migration policies – would abandon their conflicting national interests to move forward on the path to greater integration.

Europe is a continent rapidly declining in economic and political clout, as Jean-Claude Juncker underlined. Famous for occasionally imbibing an extra drink, the truth-telling Juncker brutally noted that Europe’s share of global value added, will fall from 25 per cent now to about 15 per cent in the next generation; by then, no European country is likely to be a member of the elite G7 group of countries. And as Europe’s shrinking populations also become older, it will be ever harder to stem the downward slide.

One consequence of the economic and political decline is the increasing social anxieties and political alienation within member states, leading to domestic political fragmentation. Italy is the classic case of economic coma, precarious work options and dysfunctional politics. Germany, dangerously poised at an economic tipping point, is tearing itself apart politically. Inescapably, fragmentation at the national level is mirrored in the European parliament, where euro-sceptic parties have gained ground and so have the Greens at the expense of the traditional conservative and social democratic parties.

Political fragmentation creates a trap. Nation-states struggle to articulate their priorities. At the European level, compromises to achieve forward-looking policies become harder. Unilateral actions and gridlock become the norm on sensitive issues impinging on core national sovereignty. Economic decline persists. European evolution stops. The obsession with process and ceremony becomes the norm.”

Europe’s Post-Brexit Future Is Looking Scary

Foreign Policy ran a similar type of article on 6 February 2020 by Stephen M Walt (Professor of International Relations at Harvard University) entitled: “Europe’s Post-Brexit Future Is Looking Scary”. Here are some excerpts.

“Although a few pundits claimed it would never actually occur, Brexit did in fact happen. The full ramifications won’t be known for some time, but the EU slogan of “ever-deeper union” clearly took a hit on Jan. 31.

This setback is the latest in a series of body blows that the EU has endured over the past two decades.The first was the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, where the EU proved unable to handle the conflict without calling in the United States. The next blow was the protracted eurozone crisis, which led to severe economic hardships in several countries, fueled considerable resentment between creditor and debtor nations, and ate up vast amounts of time and political capital. The third was the 2015 refugee crisis, which exposed deep divisions within the EU and gave far-right nationalist movements and illiberal leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban a major boost.

Brexit came next, followed by U.S. President Donald Trump, whose hostility to the EU and repeated threats to leave NATO have sent shock waves through European capitals. Past U.S. presidents have complained that NATO members weren’t pulling their weight, but none of them ever made a credible threat to actually withdraw from the alliance. Trump is different: nobody in Europe is completely sure he won’t get up some morning and decide to take the United States out of NATO.

Then there’s Europe’s policy toward Russia. French President Emmanuel Macron is increasingly worried about China, and he seems to want to mend fences with Moscow to wean it away from Beijing. This is sound geopolitics from France’s perspective but anathema to Poland and some nations in Eastern Europe. How can Europe have a “common foreign and security policy”when it can’t even agree on its approach to a strategically important neighbour?”

More Europe

Merkel recently acknowledged, “Europe is no longer, so to say, at the centre of world events. The United States’ focus on Europe is declining – that will be the case under any president.”

Her solution is “more Europe” – progress toward banking union, efforts to catch up in digital technology, renewed initiatives to streamline decisions in Brussels, etc. But these and other reforms will not solve the fundamental problem: None of Europe’s separate states are true great powers anymore, and their relative position will erode further as their populations age and shrink. A truly united Europe would be a formidable agglomeration, but the EU is simply not fit for purpose when it comes to developing either a unified foreign-policy vision or acquiring the capabilities needed to stand up to strong powers or to shape events in Europe’s immediate vicinity.

Europe’s future marked out by the prophets

The Scriptures speak of the “strength of the iron” dominating the ten toes (Dan 2:40-43). This iron strength is the influence of Roman religion and jurisprudence which endured the invasion of the barbarians during the 4th and 5th centuries AD.

We have yet to see the full resuscitation of the iron influence in Europe. All we witness today is the divisive squabbling amongst the toe-kingdoms. It is a divided dominion, just as Daniel predicted, but we expect to see Europe develop into a “fourth beast” arrangement in which power is shared between the civil administration and the religious in a resurrected Holy Roman Empire scenario (Dan 7:23-25).

This means that the Papacy must stage a comeback from the assaults of populism and regain its influence in Europe once more. This iron authority will need to be exerted to heal the rifts within the EU. This is why Pope Francis always hearkens back to the aspirations of Europe’s founding fathers. Men like Jean Monnet said this: “There is no real peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on a basis of national sovereignty. (…) They must have larger markets. Their prosperity is impossible, unless the States of Europe form themselves in a European Federation.”

Another EU pioneer, the Italian politician Altiero Spinelli, was convinced that Europe would be healed and returned to the great course of history only through union, and that union could only take place through a federation.

French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, was responsible for proposing the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community (the forerunner of the current EU). Schuman was a devout Catholic who was a member of the Catholic Society Unitas. His belief was that to avoid another European conflict, an economic union, followed by a political union, was essential.

These sentiments are constantly echoed by Francis; especially the need for “dialogue” at every level instead of war and division, and the need for social justice for all. In December 2019 he said,“The thinking must be “Europe first, then each one of us.” “Each one of us” is not secondary, it is important, but Europe counts more. In the European Union, we must talk to each other, confront each other and get to know each other. Yet sometimes we see only compromise monologues. No: we also need to listen.” Also, “Europe cannot and must not break apart. It is a historical, cultural as well as a geographical unity. The dream of the Founding Fathers had substance because it was an implementation of this unity. Now, we must not lose this heritage.”

At the moment the Papacy is perceived as a moral beacon only. We wait for the time when it will fulfil its awful destiny as the woman riding and steering the beast towards its destruction at the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.