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The European in 2030 will be…

   Tue 01/11/2011

This column has been published before in Global Brief

The European in 2030 will be living in a confident and assertive Europe. In 2030, Europeans will have a new sense of self-confidence. The recession of the second decade of the new millennium will have ingrained in them a new set of values. With incomes down, Europeans will be filling their days with pastimes other than consumption. Connecting with family and friends, and enjoying the arts, literature and nature will become channels through which to escape from previous decades’ stress-filled, unfulfilling lifestyles, which most people spent “buying things they did not want, with money they did not earn, to impress people they did not like.” Whereas the Chinese used to look upon Europe as a quaint museum, where they could buy their Louis Vuitton handbags, they now come to shop for ideas. European universities are full of foreign students, keen to nourish their minds and find better solutions to the challenges at home.

Europe saved the Euro when the strong economies realized that further integration of macroeconomic policy was required, and the weaker countries left the Eurozone. The Great Depression motto – “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” – made a ‘green’ lifestyle de rigueur. As growth returned, there was no similar desire to return to rampant consumerism. Moving to sustainable meat production ensured that large patches of the Amazon were saved from destruction. A network of sustainable energy sources – including a Sahara-wide solar grid managed by North Africa’s new democracies – gave Europe energy independence from despotic regimes. This allowed it to conduct a foreign policy based on principles, rather than on economic pragmatism.

In 2030, dictators are shunned, human rights activists openly supported, polluting businesses punished, and trade limited to those who aspire to the same norms. Europe has completely stopped the export of weapons, in the knowledge that sooner or later they will be turned against Europe and against innocent civilians. Smart sanctions, such as those that bankrupted Syria’s Assad regime, have proved to be more effective, and are preferred over the use of force.

Europe has made closer cooperation with North Africa’s new democracies and other countries conditional on real political reform. Cultural cross-fertilization has led to a progressive brand of Islam – leaving the last bastions of conservative Islam in Saudi Arabia and Iran isolated. Progressive alliances waged successful battles in developing countries in favour of women’s rights. Women’s increased economic and political power, combined with real sexual and reproductive rights, have stabilized population growth and allowed numerous African and Asian countries to escape from poverty.

Europe’s transformation has been brought about by economic and ecological crises and societal tensions. Casting aside a messianic belief that one individual or party can lead people to a better future, Europeans have realized that all individuals need to play an active role in shaping their future. (Diversity in all of its forms became policy first, then practice, and then habit.) Systems have been reformed to bring more transparency and impose stronger checks and balances on those in power – both in politics and in the economy. By taking responsibility for their own destiny, Europeans have gained the self-confidence that, in the coming decades, will allow them to keep developing the ideas that make the world a better place.”