The slow-motion crisis of the European Union is the big story that rarely gets the attention it deserves. Even an event like the recent terrorist attack in France that left 17 dead is often isolated from the larger political, economic, and social problems that have long plagued the project of unifying the countries of Europe in order to harness its collective economic power, and to avoid the bloody internecine strife that stains its history.
On the economic front, the E.U.'s dismal economic performance over the last six years was summed up in a December headline in Business Insider: "Europe Stinks." The 2008 Great Recession exposed the incoherence of the E.U.'s economic structure, particularly its single currency, which is held hostage by the diverse economic policies of sovereign nations. The data tell the tale. The E.U.'s GDP grew 1 percent in 2013, anemic compared to the U.S.'s 2.2 percent. In December 2014, unemployment in the E.U. averaged 11.4 percent, while in the U.S. it was 5.6 percent. We are troubled by our labor force participation rate of 62.7 percent, a 36-year low. But in the E.U., it was 57.5 percent in 2013. Our recovery from the recession may be slow by our historical standards, but it is blazing compared to the E.U.'s.