The Heritage of Hatred.
This column has been warning again and again about the collapse of Europe. It is getting closer by the day.
The EU is important if only because it is our largest trading partner. But today it is threatened. Russia is scratching at the borders of Crimea to the East. Poland, Hungary, Romania are all trying to establish demagogies that flout the disciplines of the EU whilst flaunting the superficial benefits of membership. France and Germany are confronting declining economies and Britain is impaled on the fence of Brexit. Behind it all is the reality of immigration: of the dangerous chasm between the haves and the have nots: and the roaring pace of global and technological change that is passing so many by and changing the world as anyone once knew it.
The Presidency of the Council of the EU moves from one country to another every six months – on Tuesday Romania will take over the role for the first time in its twelve years of membership. This is a country of 20 millions where more than 500,000 recently protested the corruption and extremism of its own leadership.
Europe already has its hands full with its current economic and political difficulties – let me use this note to give you some background, some reality in which to contextualise the next few months.
The carnage of World War 11 is well documented. But historians have ignored the aftermath of 1945 – because the war in Eurpe did not end with Hitler’s defeat – nothing like. Especially in the East, civil wars continued to rage with fighting in the Ukraine and in the Baltic States till well into the 1950’s. Most countries record fighting until the last hated soviet left – 1989 in Poland, 1991 for Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
This aftermath saw one largely ignored event that will echo down the hallways of history to this day. Many of the newly formed nations, seeking to emphasise thier identity took the racial efforts by the Nazi’s to their logical conclusion and expelled all those who were not indigenous. Tens of milliions were forcibly, often violently expelled in the hidden but nonetheless biggest act of ethnic cleansing the world has ever seen. The culture of racial diversity that had been so rich a feature of the European empires was dealt a final death blow. Today Romania, Hungary and Poland are virtually monoracial.
Europe is facing a crisis. It was not only the Germans who were expelled from hitherto multiracial countries where many had lived for generations, lived well and belonged. All of the nations had fought each other. Now was the time for revenge, for wholesale cleansing, and for bitter and small reckonings between them all.
The Romanians expelled the Hungarians, as did the Slovaks. Albanians were driven out of Greece, Italians from Yuglslavia and Turks from Bulgaria. By 1950 Europe was a vast churn of refugees, lost peoples amid increasingly zenophobic , ethnically concentrated and hostile states. The emotional memory was set for the Big Lie of today – a rejection of foreigners, of immigrants, of people who are not “like us” and of extremist measures to preserve this position.
Never undersestimate the pull of a terrible history such as this. Nations care about their history whether they be large or small.
Romania’s own President, Klaus Iohannis exasperated by the turmoil in his own country has declared Romania to be unready for the Presidency of the bloc.
Europe is in crisis. The UK is due to leave in 80 days. Everywhere you look leadership is threatened. And now they are threatened by the heritage of hatred. Romania is taking on a very large responsibility.
Have a good day. James.
The Heritage of Hatred.