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For the first time since it started moving toward "ever closer union" more than a half-century ago, Europe finds itself closer to unraveling than to greater integration. The euro, conceived to cement unity and hitch Germany forever to its European partners, has sown disunity by placing economies and cultures as diverse as the Greek and the German within the same currency. Britain is to hold a referendum this year or next on leaving the European Union. Its outcome is uncertain. At Europe's eastern borders, President Putin is doing what he can to undermine the European idea and create havoc in the no-man's lands between the Union and Russia. Ukraine has paid a preposterous price in blood and treasure for seeking a trade accord with Brussels, a perceived offense to Moscow. Refugees from a war the West has fanned through indecision, and from other conflict zones, converge on the continent; Germany alone took in 1.1 million in 2015. Parisians die in a hale of bullets. Brussels shuts down. Everywhere, instability and anxiety favor nationalist movements.
The miracle of a Europe whole and free is increasingly taken for granted. As miracles go, it's just so 20th-century. America, to a significant degree, has disengaged -- Europe is an old story by now. Is the greatest peace-generating mechanism of recent decades on the verge of coming apart?
Roger Cohen has worked for The New York Times for 25 years as a foreign correspondent, foreign editor, and now columnist. Prior to that he worked for The Wall Street Journal and Reuters. He is the author of four books. The latest, a family memoir entitled The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family, was published to wide acclaim by Alfred A. Knopf in January, 2015. He has taught at Harvard and Princeton and his work has been recognized with several awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Britain’s Next Century Foundation and a prize from the Overseas Press Club of New York. Raised in South Africa and England, a graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, he is a naturalized American.