The European Union, the world’s greatest ever experiment in globalization, was under threat before the Paris attacks: The debt crisis and the influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa, as well as the lack of a cohesive response to either, has threatened the future of a united Europe. Now, the future of European integration is truly at a tipping point.
Globalization is commonly defined as the free movement of goods, people, and capital. These days, every single one of those things is under threat in Europe, starting with people. French President François Hollande has understandably imposed stricter border controls in France, and is asking Europe for help monitoring intra-European travel. All that makes sense, but the question is whether it will lead to a breakdown of the Schengen zone, the free travel zone that is at the core of the EU and has led to huge upticks in trade and tourism revenue throughout the Eurozone. It’s easy to see how each country could end up in a hunker down position, closing off individual borders, which would threaten regional trade (the biggest contributor to overall trade in Europe) as well as the movement of people. Combine that with the existing Balkanization of capital flows following the debt crisis (banks simply don’t lend as easily across borders as they used to, because the debt crisis exposed that a Greek or Italian euro isn’t the same as a German one) and you have the makings of a breakdown of European regional integration.