Jacob Heilbrunn

Europe's Embattled Youth

Europe is not experiencing a crisis. It faces crises. One such is soaring youth unemployment in southern Europe. The headline in the Berlin Tagesspiegel today says it all: "In Spain and Greece a good education is not sufficient to get a job. That could harm Germany as well." Indeed it could. Germany is stuck between the Scylla of massive Greek debts and the Charbydis of its dependence on exports, first and foremost to the rest of the European Union. Over 60 percent head to its European brethren, the former state minister for foreign policy, Helmut Schaefer, pointed out to me yesterday. Schaefer thinks many Germans are being shortsighted about their dependence on a healthy southern Europe, preferring to castigate them for their alleged indolence. In Germany unemployment continues to go down. In Spain, by contrast, 44 percent of those under the age of twenty-five do not have a job. Greece, Portugal and France also face similar problems. Apparently the is a boom in learning German in Spain, the Taesspiegel's Corinna Visser reports. A kind of brain drain could take place between Germany and the economically precarious countries on Europe's southern rim. Would Germany itself become more "southernized" and less dour? In any case, the rise in unemployment will surely have bad political consequences. In Austria, for example, the far right Freedom Party hovers at around 27 percent in polls. Anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise. France is a likely candidate as well. Europeans are quaking at the arrival of refugees from the conflict in Libya. The old cozy days of blather about European unity, in short, have come to an end. The EU has hit a rough patch. Only Germany can save it. Whether the Germans will react quickly enough to help out their embattled neighbors is an open question. So far this has not been Euroep's finest hour. Instead, it's weaknesses have been ruthlessly exposed.