This morning I picked up Tony Judt’s brilliant 2005 book [amazon_link id=”009954203X” target=”_blank” ]Postwar, a history of Europe since 1945[/amazon_link]. He wrote in the Introduction:
“An era was over and a new Europe was being born. … What had once seemed permanent and somehow inevitable would take on a more transient air. … Europe’s future would look very different – and so too would its past.”
[amazon_image id=”009954203X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945[/amazon_image]
Until re-reading this passage, I had forgotten that Austria did not join the EU until 1995, and that in 1999 Jorg Haider and his “Freedom Party” won 27 per cent of the vote.
Judt continues, explaining the roots of the 2nd World War in the 1st, “The little countries that emerged from the collapse of the old land empires in 1918 were poor, unstable, insecure – and resentful of their neighbours.” It is only 20 years since the last, dreadful & bitter, Balkans conflict.
I do hope that somewhere in Europe there are political leaders reflecting on this past rather than obsessing about what the latest opinion polling tells them about popular attitudes to migrants. Century-old resentments and suspicions are not far below the surface; keeping them in their place is an unfinished, probably permanent, task.