September 12 was a momentous day for Europe. It saw three separate events that in a powerful way may come to remake the European Union. First, Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled that the nation’s parliament can ratify a new, permanent rescue fund for the eurozone, called the European Stability Mechanism, to the tune of some $645 billion in taxpayer money. The European Union would have been forced into an immediate financial crisis of unprecedented magnitude had the court declared the bailout illegal.
Second, in a controversial and high-minded speech, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso called for the EU to become “a federation of nation-states.” Barroso announced that the European Commission will begin to craft a new treaty to fill the political void that has haunted the monetary union since its birth.
Third, voters in the Netherlands turned their backs on the democratically challenged parties of the extreme left and the xenophobic right and handed more seats to the classical liberal VVD and the social democratic PvdA—both pro-European establishment parties. The instinct of European voters in the face of economic crises might have been to turn anti-establishment. Instead, the Dutch election created hope that the current disaster will not yield yet another existential challenge to democracy in Europe.