Billionaire investor and liberal political activist George Soros has issued a call for Europe to "please wake up" and recognize "the magnitude of the threat" it faces from what he said were its enemies, both internal and external.
Europe "is sleepwalking into oblivion," the legendary investor warned in an opinion piece published by Project Syndicate on Monday, "and the people of Europe need to wake up before it is too late."
"If they don't, the European Union will go the way of the Soviet Union in 1991," he said, alluding to the dramatic dissolution of the USSR and the fall of Communism in 1991.
The European Union (EU) is experiencing a "revolutionary moment" and the eventual outcome is "highly uncertain," Hungarian-American investor Soros added.
Worse still, Soros believed that neither Europe's leaders nor ordinary citizens appreciated this fact.
The current leadership is reminiscent of the politburo (the principal policy-making committee in the Soviet Union) when the union collapsed, Soros said, "continuing to issue ukazes (orders) as if they were still relevant."
European Parliament elections in May 2019 were the next inflection point for the bloc. Anti-establishment, euroskeptic parties are expected to perform well.
"Unfortunately, anti-European forces will enjoy a competitive advantage in the balloting. There are several reasons for this, including the outdated party system that prevails in most European countries, the practical impossibility of treaty change, and the lack of legal tools for disciplining member states that violate the principles on which the European Union was founded," he said.
Soros' commentary comes at a time of uncertainty and instability in Europe amid a rise in populism and anti-establishment sentiment.
Brexit in the U.K., widespread civil unrest in France, an influential right-wing party in government in Italy and political flux in Germany, a country that has witnessed its own rebirth of far-right politics, is shaking the bloc's foundations. In addition, anti-migrant policies and anti-democratic actions in eastern Europe have put countries like Hungary and Poland on a path towards potential disciplinary action with the rest of the EU.
Soros explored the political situation in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel (who's serving her last term in office) is seeing her own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party pressured in office not only by its coalition partners, the Christian Social Union (CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) but by the far-right "Alternative for Germany" (AfD) that has gained voters with its euroskeptic, anti-immigration pledges.
"As it is, the current ruling coalition cannot be as robustly pro-European as it would be without the AfD threatening its right flank," Soros noted. On Brexit, he said the public was becoming increasingly aware of the "dire consequences" of the U.K.'s departure from the EU but noted now that "the situation is so complicated that most Britons just want to get it over with, although it will be the defining event for the country for decades to come."
When it comes to Italy, Soros said Europe had made a "fatal mistake" in 2017, during the migration crisis, when it enforced the Dublin Agreement which meant that migrants arriving on European shores had to claim asylum in the first country of entry. Italy struggling to cope with the number of migrants arriving drove the electorate "into the arms of the anti-European League party and Five Star Movement in 2018," Soros noted.
To counter anti-European forces, both within and without the bloc, Soros said Europe needed to recognize its enemies and then "awaken the sleeping pro-European majority and mobilize it to defend the values on which the EU was founded."
"Otherwise, the dream of a united Europe could become the nightmare of the twenty-first century."