This chapter provides an overview of the different dimensions of the crisis, sets them in their contexts, outlines their implications for the European Union, and summarizes how the EU has responded so far. The ‘age of crisis’ for the EU began in 2009–10 with the onset of what quickly came to be called the euro or eurozone crisis. This crisis, whose severity has ebbed and flowed over the years that have followed, is the most obvious manifestation of the EU in crisis. It has threatened the very existence of one of the EU’s main policy achievements: the single currency – the apotheosis of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) – which 19 of the EU’s 28 member states had adopted as of 2016. At various times during the eurozone crisis, the membership, governing structure, and operating rules of the single currency system have been fundamentally questioned and challenged. Apart from the eurozone crisis, the most recognizable feature of the EU in crisis has been the migration crisis, which greatly escalated in 2015 when vast numbers of migrants – eventually numbering over 1 million – mostly consisting of asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, together with irregular migrants from North Africa, flooded into the EU. This wave became a perfect storm (that is, a situation caused or greatly aggravated by an unanticipated and very rare set of circumstances) in September 2015 when Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany would not limit the number of refugees entering the country, thereby unintentionally encouraging many more arrivals.
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- A Multi-Dimensional Crisis
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