Between Laughter and Despair

Colm Tóibín

by Colm Tóibín

The European Union, it seems, can withstand anything except a crisis. When the former Yugoslavia began to break up in the early 1990s, and in the recent economic turmoil, most countries within the Union reverted to their nineteenth-century type. The stuff about us ‘all being Europeans now’ ceased. We all went back to our own countries with their gnarled histories and their individual desires. There were no more inspirational speeches from our European masters. The national interest seemed more pressing than community building. When the European leaders met, we had a sense not of the shared European good being advanced, but of clashing concerns, of nation states forged in the past making arguments based on narrow, local issues, sometimes focusing on nothing more than immediate political gain. 

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