By George Friedman
I’m writing this from London and heading from here to Poland and Hungary. This seems like a trip from one Europe to the other. In fact, at this point in history, these places have a great deal in common. They are each on Europe’s periphery, trying to define their relationship to Europe and trying to cope with the radical implications of the right to national self-determination.
Europe’s core since the late 19th century has been Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. In some ways, this was Charlemagne’s Europe, which was the organizing core of the European Peninsula. These countries, with the addition of Italy and Luxembourg, also established the European Coal and Steel Community, which eventually evolved into the European Union. Together they account for a substantial proportion of Europe’s wealth.
Europe’s periphery consists of the countries and regions that surround this core: Scandinavia, the British Isles, Iberia, the Balkans and what used to be called Eastern Europe. A strong argument can be made that Italy also should be considered part of the periphery. Italy had been the center of a great Mediterranean empire in the distant past, but it was never part of the Europe that Charlemagne created.