When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

The singular French joy of beating the Germans.
The singular French joy of beating the Germans.
Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — Call it the "glorieuse incertitude du sport" — the glorious uncertainty of sports. During the finals of soccer's just completed 2016 European Championship, Portugal saw its singular star Ronaldo taken out of the game after an injury, but won anyway against a favored host French team that had overcome its eternal nemesis, Germany, in the semifinals. But even if the team lost in the end, France can claim to have "won its Euro."

But beyond the results on the field, can we learn some geopolitical lessons from the Euro 2016? In the middle of the competition, Britain — and more precisely, the English — decided to leave the European Union through their Brexit referendum. While people across the continent were passionately following the fate of their respective national teams, the European Union was facing the most serious crisis of its history.

Quest for identity

Yes, indeed, there are lessons from the Euro 2016 that Europe should not ignore. The first and most important is linked to our emotions — it is called: nationalism. When we sing our own national anthems with fervor. In this increasingly globalized world and under the double impact of interdependence and transparency, that quest for identity of peoples only reinforces such expressions of nationalism. It is a nationalism in a more moderate and "civilized" guise, due in part to the same European Union structure now at risk, but it is a nationalism that is nonetheless felt more than ever.

In 1982, in a memorable World Cup semifinal match between France and Germany, the brutal and intentional body slam of German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher into French player Patrick Battiston spontaneously brought back memories from World War II against the "dirty Boches."

The day after this year's Germany-France game, the Germans warmly congratulated the French for their victory. The Franco-German reconciliation has indeed strengthened over time. More than 70 years separate us from World War II. But because of this passage of time, there is less of a European impulse, if not less Europe tout court. It would be crazy to think that in this period of profound doubts about our future, we could somehow just rush towards ever more integration and federalism.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Europe as a political and economic structure is more necessary than ever, because there are fewer and fewer Europeans and less European weight in the world — all the while, challenges continue to accumulate at our continent's borders.

More than neighborhoods

But those who think that more Europe right now is the only answer to these challenges maybe didn't notice — or understand — the emotions coming from the stadiums. The nations of Europe are not the equivalent of the "contrades", those rival neighborhoods of the Italian city of Siena that each year indulge in a fierce competition in the central piazza to win the Palio horse race.

To go back to the founding fathers' small Europe, as some desire, would not solve the problem either. Two of its members, France and the Netherlands already rejected the European Constitutional Treaty in referendums in 2005. It would further ostracize countries such as Poland, Croatia, Hungary and Romania who feel deeply European, even though doubts remain about their political and democratic development.

The Euro 2016, though it will remain bittersweet for the runnerup host France, has only reinforced the image of this continent as a land of football — and as a land of peace. To acknowledge the strength of nationalism does not mean giving in to the nasty rise of populism. It is quite the contrary, one needs to use it as a way to respond to those negative forces. The European Soccer Championship therefore stand out as the peaceful and modern expression of European nationalism.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

Why Fast-Tracking Ukraine's NATO Entry Is Such A Bad Idea

Ukraine's President Zelensky should not be putting pressure for NATO membership now. It raises the risk of a wider war, and the focus should be on continuing arms deliveries from the West. After all, peace will be decided on the battlefield.

American soldiers from the U.S. army during a training exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany

Christoph B. Schiltz

-OpEd-

Nine NATO member states from Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans are now putting pressure on the military alliance to welcome Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been calling for "accelerated accession."

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

As understandable as it is that his country wants to join a strong defensive military alliance like NATO, the timing is wrong. Of course, we must acknowledge the Ukrainian people's heroic fight for survival. But Zelensky must be careful not to overstretch the West's willingness to support him.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ