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The Warsaw Voice » From the News Editor » January 26, 2012
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From the Editor-in-Chief
January 26, 2012   
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A relay race is a sports competition in which runners pass on an object to the next runner and the object has to make it from start to finish intact. Contestants run along a pre-defined route and follow preset rules. What would happen, however, if the route and the means of moving forward changed and the finishing line weren’t specified? Would it still be a relay?

Denmark has officially taken over the presidency of the European Union from Poland. Now for six months it will be the country responsible for moving EU affairs along. The direction could seem obvious if not for the fact that it’s so vague, and that the EU itself is beginning to look like a huge question mark.

When Warsaw picked up the baton from Budapest six months earlier, the situation was a little clearer than today. The belief that a sense of community could cement together the cracking edifice of the EU was shared by enough member states for Poland’s pro-EU approach to be considered valuable. Perhaps this is also the case today, but much more optimism is needed to stick with such an approach. Today even optimists have long faces.

Months of decisions not made are behind us, and hundreds of top-level meetings. Each of them was hailed as the last hope but each led to another meeting. We witnessed a never-ending chain of preludes, none of them leading into a finale. The keenest minds were divided. There were those who said the situation was hard to define—and you cannot prescribe a course of treatment without a diagnosis. Others argued that we know what’s going on, but we don’t know what to do. Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, created a stir when he said it’s clear what should be done, but not so clear how to win an election afterwards. Some wondered where to find extra money, others how to curb appetites. Undisguised egoism intermingled with slogans of solidarity.

Those traditionally prone to asking searching questions asked some truly fundamental ones: whether a country can be ejected from the euro zone, whether the euro zone can be dismantled and, if so, would that mean the end of the EU. Calculations were even made to get an idea of the costs. Fortunetellers appeared as well, fully aware that in such as situation a prophet of doom has a shot at five minutes of fame.

Some progress was also made in solving the problems piling up, but without any certainty that this wasn’t just leading to even bigger problems.

Among the few obvious claims one can make today is this cliché: the EU will never be the same. It has been through many crises in its history and overcome various difficult moments, but it will emerge from the present crisis a different organization. It will either become far more integrated—as Polish Foreign Minister Rados³aw Sikorski suggested in his by-now famous Berlin speech—or be reduced to a cross between a fiscal union and existing EU institutions. Or it could be something else still, something hard to predict at present.

But the basic building blocks stay the same. You can’t change human nature, get rid of politics, make egoism disappear. Competition and globalism won’t disappear; neither will freedom, democracy and human rights.
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