Filling the EU Leadership Gap

The economic sophistication of modern Europe has no political parallel. On a national level, the game seems not to have evolved much in recent decades in most major European countries. Ingrown and self-serving political elites, increasingly deaf to growing problems of violence, racism, and crime in Paris, Rotterdam, and other cities, seem not to "get it" anymore. They appear to be too busy vying with one another to stay in power to connect with Europe's own "street." No wonder European voters have been responding to the siren songs of the Far Right, from the likes of France's Jean-Marie Le Pen to political mavericks like the late Pim Fortuyn of the Netherlands.

Many Europeans appear to be lost in a never-never land in which they are being forced to give up their national identities without gaining a European one. The modest economic growth of recent years has failed to generate the jobs that are needed by millions of young Europeans--as well as millions of immigrants. For example, hundreds of thousands of France's best and brightest young people have moved to Britain and the U.S. in search of opportunity. They constitute a diaspora that should be addressed by French political leaders in this election season--but, unsurprisingly, they're being totally ignored.

At the level of the European Union, things are even worse. The unelected technocrats in Brussels may not be the demons of a bureaucratic superstate that once haunted Margaret Thatcher's imagination. But they simply cannot provide European citizens with the badly needed road map that shows where Europe is headed.

The current European Commission president, Romano Prodi, with his penchant for gaffes and his stumbling language, is hardly the right material for the Great Communicator that the Continent requires now. A directly elected President of Europe could be one step forward. Britain's Tony Blair and Spain's José María Aznar should toss their hats in the ring now.

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