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30 listopad 2018

Changes and Challenges in Contemporary Europe

Present-day Europe faces various challenges. It is difficult to predict its future. Some say that we are witnessing a slow decline of the old continent and a departure from the Christian values which unite it, while others claim that from temporary difficulties Europe will emerge victorious – stronger and better integrated. The following SWOT analysis proves that the future of Europe lies mainly in the hands of its inhabitants. However, Europe has to face many challenges – both internal and external. It is important to realize that not all of them are necessarily threats. Many factors can be described as both a threat and an opportunity.

A SWOT analysis consists in defining the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (hence the acronym "SWOT") of a given situation in order to deepen its interpretation, find answers to bothering questions and evaluate possible solutions.

First and foremost, the strengths of Europe certainly include common values derived from the Christian tradition and a rich cultural heritage. The democratic system of European countries and respect for the law, especially human rights, are also extremely valuable. It is also worth mentioning a high level of education and a strong economy, which is once again flourishing after the financial crisis peaking in the years 2008-2009.

Nevertheless, Europe faces many obstacles. Its greatest weaknesses include the diverse national interests of individual countries. It makes it difficult or even impossible to take a common stand on the most crucial issues. Conflicts between European countries are caused, among others, by a diverse, multicultural environment and inequalities in development. The first thing to remember is that only a few of them are experiencing economic growth. A great weakness of Europe is also an aging society, which in many countries causes an inefficiency of the pension system. Among chances that could trigger the improvement of the situation in Europe, we can specify the dynamic development of integration initiatives such as the EU, NATO, Tri-Sea Initiative or the Visegrad Group. The relations between these organizations are critical. It is important to realize that the migration crisis is also a chance for Europe in spite of all its threats. The influx of migrants can slow down or even completely stop the aging of society. The cultural wealth can positively affect the development of European culture.

Speaking of chances, we cannot omit threats. The migration crisis has brought not only cultural wealth, but also violence, terrorism and dissent among European countries. It also caused the awakening of nationalism and populism in Europe, which in the 1930s led to a military conflict on a global scale. Given the imperialist policies of Russia and China, the continuing threat from nuclear powers such as North Korea and the unpredictable policies of US President Donald Trump, one cannot help but think that Europe reached a critical point in its long history. For the worse, some NATO countries are downplaying the threat. For instance, they do not want to boost their defense spending. Meanwhile, the EU is just being left by one of its biggest and most relevant members – Great Britain.

Given these points, the above SWOT analysis proves that the situation in Europe is very challenging. In conclusion, without the goodwill of strong and purposeful policy-makers, who are able to cooperate despite the differences between them, Europe will not have any chance of survival. Before our very eyes, the old continent is undergoing a transformation and it is only up to us what its future will look like.

Żaneta Dela, MA