Perhaps it’s a crude way to view it, but the essence of the European Union’s current crisis is captured in the photo of German Olympic discus thrower Robert Harting celebrating his recent gold medal. Take a glance at the photo and look past Harting, his proud smile and taut, powerful core.
Look at the flag.
Notice: Harting isn’t cloaked in the EU flag.
We all know why. It’s because Harting views himself first and foremost as German, not European. In Germany, there’s no doubt 80 million Germans celebrated Harting’s victory as a German accomplishment, not a European accomplishment. The same goes for all the other European athletes and fans in London for the Olympics. No one bats an eye when the Spaniard celebrates by proudly raising the Spanish flag, the Dutchman a Dutch flag, the Englishman a Union flag. Seriously, does anyone sincerely believe Harting ought to toss aside the German national flag, replace it with the EU flag, and then together with 80 million Germans proudly sing the EU national anthem? That would be silly, inappropriate, totally unreasonable.
Yet, when it comes to the far more significant issue of European unification, that’s exactly what European peoples are expected to do.
Even if you’ve only caught 10 minutes of the Olympics, you’ve surely noticed the omnipresence of the flag. London is covered in flags of every size and color, from the national flags of Guam and the Solomon Islands, to Old Glory, to the Union Jack. National flags are painted on the faces of tourists, emblazoned on jerseys, shirts and backpacks, fluttering in stadiums, on cars, and on the backs of beaming medalists. Every European country is represented, from mighty Germany all the way down to Macedonia and Albania. Every European flag, that is, except for the national emblem of the entity that is supposed to unite them all: the European Union.
The photo of Robert Harting captures the essence of the Olympics: that it’s one giant, all-consuming, once-every-four-years celebration of patriotism, of national pride, of the love on one’s own nation.
More than any other event, the Olympic Games is a celebration of pure, untarnished, unchecked, nationalism.
And this is why the EU doesn’t work.
The EU is struggling for the same reason European athletes never proudly fly the EU flag: because the citizens of Europe’s nation-states are unwilling to surrender sovereignty to the EU!
Many analysts lament the fact that Brussels lacks the fiscal authority to deal conclusively with Europe’s debt crisis. It lacks authority because sovereign states have yet to fully relinquish control of national budgets and economies. What’s the cause of the sovereign debt crises? It’s that the euro was created primarily to serve the interests of Europe’s largest economy. What about the riots and protests? The social unrest in Greece is essentially a rebellion against what Greeks consider the subjugation of the national rights and cultural personality of Greeks. (Even though Greeks living within their means would benefit the EU.) The reason Germans choke at the thought of rescuing their southern neighbors is because they fear such measures will jeopardize the health and well-being of the German state, and the German people. (Even though assistance from Germany would likely benefit the EU.)
Ultimately, Europe’s problems are a result of Germans and Greeks and Italians and French simply being human.
This is where politics and philosophy intersect. The primary love of every human is self. The supreme purpose of human life, to people today, is the preservation and promotion of self. First, there’s the local self, the preservation of a person’s mind and body. Then there’s the “empirical self.” The empirical self, as Herbert Armstrong explained, is comprised of “what most closely is owned by the self—as human society would recognize ownership—starting with your own clothing, your home or place of abode, your wife or husband, children, your automobile, your home furniture and furnishings, gadgets, other property located farther away—all those people and things one regards as belonging to him! In one’s mind and heart, they become a part of self.”
In international relations, the preservation and promotion of self manifests itself as Greeks putting Greece first, Germans putting Germany first, and the English putting England first. This is the nature of human beings (at least for now). Ultimately, this inherent selfishness explains the financial mess, the political paralysis, the ongoing struggle for integration.
As long as European states are unable to set aside the national flag and proudly raise the EU flag, long-term, sustained European unification is a pipe dream!
In fact, we should expect the nationalist sentiment to only get worse. This is because setting aside patriotism and pledging allegiance to an EU superstate is easier to do on a full belly, when you have a job, when the economy is growing, your government is stable, and your children’s future looks bright. But when the job (or social welfare) is taken away, when food prices skyrocket, when economic and political uncertainty creep in, the basic urge to serve self is revitalized. There’s nothing like crisis to set ablaze one’s devotion to self—to his physical and mental health, to his family, his town, his city—and to his nation.
This is exactly what’s happening in Europe. The resurgence of nationalist sentiment is evident within the growing protests and riots, and in the opinion polls showing growing dissatisfaction with the EU. It’s also evident within the revival of far-right and far-left political parties across the Continent. In Greece, the major parties have gone from receiving 70 to 80 percent of the total vote down to around 30 to 40 percent. Nationalist, anti-EU, even pro-Nazi parties, have a formidable presence. In France, National Front’s Marine Le Pen won a record 18 percent of the vote in a recent election. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom has been gaining steadily, even to the point of toppling the government in April. In Finland, the True Finns party is pushing the government toward Euroskepticism. In Germany, papers like the Bild are bristling with nationalist rhetoric.
There’s no mistaking the reversion to nationalism, warned foreign-policy analyst Ulrich Speck. “Narratives about the euro crisis remain strikingly national, and they are worryingly diverging,” he wrote recently, “Euroskepticism is on the rise. It looks rather as if the limits of integration have been reached.” Last September, George Friedman, ceo of Stratfor, wrote an article in which he explained how the vision of European unity is fast vanishing. He wrote, “[W]hat was inconceivable—the primacy of the traditional nation-state—is now commonly discussed, and steps to devolve Europe in part or in whole (such as ejecting Greece form the eurozone) are being contemplated.”
He then warned, “[T]his is not a trivial event.”
You cannot afford to underestimate the importance of this moment. Europe has not experienced political or financial convulsions of this magnitude since the Second World War. Journalists and historians are noticing some alarming parallels with Europe in the ’30s, the decade during which Hitler hatched the horrors of the 1940s. The idea of Europe calmly and peacefully integrating into a democratic superstate is quickly fading.
Historian and professor Geoffrey Roberts recently warned that the EU crisis and the rise of “ultra-nationalism” could facilitate the rise of a new Hitler!
Last Friday, Il Giornale, a right-wing Italian newspaper owned by Silvio Berlusconi, ran a front-page story titled, “Quarto Reich!” In his editorial, Alessandro Sallusti, the editor in chief of the paper, stated that Italy is “no longer in Europe. It is in the Fourth Reich.” First it was Greece, now the Italian media is comparing modern Germany to Hitler’s Third Reich!
The worse Europe’s financial woes become, the more European peoples will become disillusioned with the idea of European integration. Expect nationalist sentiment to continue to rise, and nationalist politics (anti-immigration, anti-EU) to become more common. EU officials in Brussels, and even many leaders across the Continent, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, claim they are determined to prevent the EU from dissolving, and keep the dream of integration alive. They are going to have to act fast; the window of opportunity is closing!
Be careful too, of viewing Europe’s debt crisis too intellectually. Right now it may appear that Europe is about to fall apart. Many believe it will become weak and irrelevant. It’s accurate to say that nationalism, human nature’s inherent desire to serve the self, will prevent Europe from ever enjoying long-term, sustained and peaceful integration. But as you watch these events, make sure you take into account Bible prophecy. And Bible prophecy says the turmoil in Europe is actually going to result in the unification of the continent behind the leadership of Germany and the Catholic Church.
How is this possible, especially in the context Europe’s rising nationalism?
Very easily! The Trumpet has always taught that this German-led European superpower—although it will wield terrific power globally—will itself be weakly united and short-lived. In Daniel 2, God compares the bonds that unite this end-time Euro-power to the bonds that unite a structure made of iron and clay. The structure will bond together, but only for a very brief period.
Read too the prophecies in Revelation 13 and 17. In both these chapters, it’s clear that God sanctions the rise of this power. Moreover, these chapters reveal supernatural intervention to facilitate the unification of Europe behind Germany and the Vatican. For example, Revelation 17:12-13 warn explicitly that the nations that form this European entity, termed the “beast,” receive “power as kings one hour with the beast [and] have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.” Believe it or not, there is a strong, unseen, spiritual dimension to what is currently unfolding in Europe!
If you aren’t up to speed on God’s prophecies about end-time events, especially in Europe, then you need to get up to speed quickly! Time is running out—events are hurtling toward a climactic end. Don’t you want to know what to expect, and even more importantly, how you can respond to the chaos and turmoil unfolding around you? To learn more about end-time events in Europe, read Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast? ▪