Europe: Does It Exist?

Well, sure, as a continent. But serious “Europeans” want their continent to be a country. A few years ago I was flying to London and before takeoff, a flight attendant engaged a fellow passenger in conversation. She innocently asked the passenger what country he was from; he said “Europe.” She hadn’t gotten the memo, and reacted with puzzlement, but he stuck to his story–he was a native of “Europe.”
In bad times, of course, fissures appear. Thus today’s news story: “Greek rescue in danger as deputy prime minister attacks ‘Nazi’ Germany.” This is one of those headlines where you don’t really need to read the article, but here goes. The context is the current Greek financial crisis, with Greece begging for a bailout from its fellow Europeans, which is to say, mostly, Germany:

Theodoros Pangalos, deputy prime minister, said Germany had no right to reproach Greece for anything after it devastated the country under the Nazi occupation, which left 300,000 dead. “They took away the gold that was in the Bank of Greece, and they never gave it back. They shouldn’t complain so much about stealing and not being very specific about economic dealings,” he told the BBC.
Twisting the knife further, he said the current crop of EU leaders were of “very poor quality” and had botched this month’s crisis summit in Brussels. “The people who are managing the fortunes of Europe were not up to the task,” he said.
One banker said the situation was surreal. “How can they call the Germans incompetent Nazis and still expect a bail-out?”

Good question! Europe has been a source of cataclysmic conflict for a long time, and I don’t think the continent has quite entered into the idyllic future where German lions lie down with Greek lambs.