Photo: Columbia Law School
In late 1945, a series of artists and collectors frantically scoured Europe. These cultural crusaders were looking for anything remaining of European history and ideas after the first and second world wars. They found very little, a single cataclysmic period of 30 years had annihilated nearly all of Western civilization's origins. Monasteries and Cathedrals were leveled by fighting from Italy to Sweden, and much of the art captured by Nazi’s during the second world war remains unfound or burnt in the third reich's final days. This cultural holocaust was merely a reflection of actual generational and ethnic holocaust, brought forth by a time of seemingly endless instability both within and between governments. The period has been named “The Rape of Europa” by academics of many flavors, most relevantly, political scientists. Some of whom are looking at the current set of circumstances with furrowed brows, and hoping that Europe is better prepared for times of near equal peril. To find this out we have to take a look at the leaders of Europe, at least a pseudo detailed one. In that sense, view this article as a “beginner scouts guide to: European World Leaders”, for your reading pleasure and hopeful use in the field of scrutiny and satire.*
We at Side by Side have assembled a list of who we think to be the most important or pivotal world leaders of Europa are based on the effect their policies will have on all of greater Europe economically and stability wise (Great Britain, France, Belgium, Greece, Turkey, Russia, Sweden):
Leader: Francois Hollande
Very much a center left president, Hollande was recently shamed due to his socialist policies that only created slow, if any growth. He is widely disliked as a man, but the french people view him as a capable politician. In concern to Europe as a whole, he has urged a lowering of nuclear power dependence. He was originally very open to refugees, but the recent Paris shooting-bombings have turned public opinion against policies of openness. He is important in that France has typically been hailed the capital of Europe, and policies adopted by France will likely be mimicked by other smaller democracies.
Leader: Angela Merkel
When asked about her stance to Greece’s recent election in which candidates espoused discontent with the EU, Merkel replied, “The Euro is our common fate. And Europe is our common future”. She is hailed by many to be the savior of the European Union, and a champion of refugee rights. She is important in the sense that she can be seen as a head of the European Union, and often fights its battles. She has the most serious negotiating power against Vladimir Putin, she grew up in East Berlin while Putin worked with the KGB there. Their relationship, though hostile, has abated many a chance of Russian aggression.
Leader: Charles Michel
The Bombings in Brussels international airport shocked the world, and catapulted the young Charles Michel to new heights of scrutiny. 40 years old and Prime Minister of Belgium, Michel has spoken of increased austerity among EU states, and believes firmly that Western Europe at least must be united in its acceptance of refugees. After the bombers from the aforementioned attack were apprehended, Michel and Francois Hollande discussed openly as to whether or not citizenship of the terrorists should be revoked. No decision has been made, but as the two countries most directly affected by terrorism in recent months, the decision, when it comes, will inevitably sway policies of other nations.
Leader: Alexis Tsipras
Another incredibly young prime minister, Alexis Tsipras has inherited a tumultuous political time. Originally forced to abdicate by his own SYRIZA party (they voted him out of the office of PM), he was re-elected last september as a gesture of stability from the greek parliament. He has continually urged Greek voters not to accept another bailout from the EU, but he has also voiced dismissal to the idea of leaving the Union. Threatening to block any EU resolutions of the treatment of refugees, Tsipras called for unity among the Union saying, “Greece cannot be left alone to deal with this crisis”. As the main funnel for refugees from the greater middle east, Greece must be watched as a key player in both the EU as an economy and home for a potential refugee population.
Leader: Recep Erdogan
Erdogan has been called many things by his European partners, but the most pertinent could be from an average turkish citizen asked by Al Jazeera about the President. “Famously difficult” were the words chosen. Erdogan has lived up to that, seemingly picking a fight with anyone. Their policies directly affect Europe in that Turkey is a key contributor to the Syrian conflict. Their ongoing war with the Kurdish people has created hundreds of thousands of refugees, and Mr. Erdogan has shown no signs of trying to stop the conflict.
Leader: Vladimir Putin
“The shadowmaster” “The reasoning Terminator” “The Bane of Ukraine”. All of these are actual and shatteringly accurate monikers for Vladimir Putin, President of Russia. A continual shadowy presence in the back of Europe's collective mind, Putin has shown no qualms about coercing smaller countries militarily. The Panama papers showed him to be even more deeply tied with Russian oil interests than ever thought, and with their support he has been, and likely will be able to continue expanding and consolidating his power. He has always posed a blockage to many UN Security council resolutions, and his feelings toward the EU are equally poor. He will always be the somewhat whimsical bad guy in Europe's quest for communal and collective security.
Leader: Stefan Lofven
Refugees first began settling widely in two hallmarks of European socialism in 2014, one of those being Sweden. For this reason, Sweden serves as a good prediction of how other economies of similarly socialistic structure will cope. In response to the flood of refugees, Sweden has imposed identification checks at its border with Denmark. This is a major break from the free travel of the Schengen zone, but arguably a necessary step in controlling the role refugees have in the european economy. Distribution policies that spread refugees around the major cities have also been put in place to ease the load of population spikes. There have been many hitches in Lofven’s plan. Xenophobia still pervades some parts of the country, and it will take years for the economic benefits of the refugee labor to come to the surface, but Sweden seems to be managing well enough, and Lofven will serve as an analogue that other states of Europe will inevitably emulate.
*Note: As this is an incredibly brief review of the leaders, it is understood that their policies or views might change, and that the mechanisms for their actions are possibly more nuance. This is a simple analysis of their past actions, with a dusting of prediction based on those actions.