5 Questions: History Professor Adam Tooze on Europe’s Challenges From Migration to Debt

by Gary Shapiro – February 18, 2016

Columbia News

The migration crisis, the specter of terrorism, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brinksmanship, pressures on the European Union and financial turmoil in Greece are among the threats that have reverberated around the world. British-born historian Adam Tooze, who joined Columbia last summer after a decade at Yale and, before that, Cambridge, brings expert insight to these current challenges.

The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of History, Tooze specializes in the 20th century and contemporary history of Europe and the United States. His initial focus on German economic and social history has widened to include political, intellectual and military issues. His most recent book was The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931.

Q. What are some of the most pressing economic and political issues facing Europe right now?

A. It is worth distinguishing between long-term, structural problems and those that are immediate and acute. An immediate predicament is the refugee crisis that is literally on Europe’s doorsteps and its railway station platforms. Other pressing challenges have been problems of the eurozone, Greece, the threats and instability in the eastern Mediterranean, and the challenge of Russia and the Ukraine.

These crises are often connected. The problem of whether we can absorb Syrian refugees depends crucially on the level of unemployment in Europe which in turn is dependent on the state of the eurozone, so these problems are tangled knots that Europe will need to address.

Q. Could you discuss the current status of the Greek debt crisis?

A. It is clear that the overwhelming majority of Greeks, though they may hate austerity, would rather suffer in the eurozone than risk leaving it. It may be a difficult marriage, but these people are not even close to separation or divorce; they’re in it for the long haul and for very powerful reasons that are a messy combination of politics and economics and culture and history and expectations about the future. It is interesting to note that if you look at Greece, it is in the aggregate no worse off than it was in the 1990s.

Click here for the full interview.