Old Europe

From Academic Kids

This article is about "Old Europe" a term in contemporary politics. See Old European culture for the archaelogical meaning of the term.


In January 2003 the term Old Europe surfaced mockingly with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to refer to those European countries that did not support the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Rumsfeld answered to a comment, that more than 70% of the people in Europe were not in favour of the war in Iraq:

"You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe."

Rumsfeld's "Old Europe" is probably equivalent to the European Union, with the exception of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain (where the government supported the U.S. until it was voted out of power), Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Portugal and the newly joined Central European states.

The German translation altes Europa was the word of the year 2003 in Germany, because the Germans use it in a sarcastic way.

In contrast to Rumsfeld's usage of "Old Europe", the term New Europe also appeared, another one that reveals the point-of-view of the speaker.

In light of the history of European diplomacy, it may also reflect power conflicts within the EU as member nations resent the power and influence demanded by France and Germany.

Antecedent uses

The Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx starts with the words:

A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.

When Marx used the term in 1848, the year of failed liberal revolutions across Europe, he was referring to the restoration of Ancien régime dynasties, following the defeat of Napoleon. Of his three sets of pairs, each pair links figures who might on the surface be considered adversaries, in alliances that he clearly sees as unholy, to set up one of history's most effective conspiracy theories. An "Old Europe" must find a mental contrast with a posited "New Europe".

See also

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