The Norwegians are sending a reminder flare to their continental neighbours: In the throes of today’s crisis, please remember, the Euro may have been a mistake, but the European Union must be preserved. The EU must be preserved not only as the obviously beneficial trading area that it is, but also (yes) as an ideal.
It’s an inspiring thing to visit the German-Polish border and see — not barriers, not legacies of old hatreds — but goods-laden trucks whizzing past as casually as if they were crossing the North Carolina-South Carolina state line. It’s an inspiring thing to visit Alsace and see this territory that was contested in three terrible wars arrive at peace via the simple proposition: If you want a house in Alsace, buy one. Who cares which sovereign delivers the mail?
The European Union presents every member nation with a magnificently attractive vision: A Europe at peace with itself, a Europe of rising prosperity, a Europe in which Europeans can move freely to live and work. When extremist forces arise in European countries — as they are rising now in Greece and in Hungary — they are met with the answer, “But if we yield to these forces, we’ll put ourselves outside Europe. No more right to work in London. No more aid from Germany.” The desire to qualify for Europe has powerfully pulled countries such as Serbia and Romania along the democratic path — and in years to come will exert the same force upon Belarus and Ukraine.