Four weeks in Europe.
This has been a weekend of reflection.
The next month in Europe is going to be significant – the E.U. elections take place at the end of the month and the future of Europe may be rewritten. The omens are not good.
Already Turkey, aspiring to be a member is ambivalent about its committment to the East to Russia, to the West to Europe or indeed to Religion – to Radical Islam. It is no less ambivalent whether it wants Erdogan any longer as an increasingly despotic President. He may yet clamp down on a population that has voted against him in the capital, Ankara and in his home city of Istanbul where he first came to power as Mayor 25 years ago. So like many factions within the Union, Erdogan is stoking the tensions with populist abuse, incendiary and misleading allegations. Meantime the Turkish economy is collapsing.
Much the same can be said about the E.U. itself and its member states. The latest economis forecasts read like a political papering over the cracks of fundamental decline. An emerging interest in China’s OBOR initiative sounds in reality like the desperate reach of bankrupt nations. GDP estimates are being revised down towards zero. National debt and youth unemployment are rising. as is poverty especially in the South and amongst the new member states from the East. Threatened economies are flaunting their doubts about the E.U. economic terms and conditions of membership as they struggle to compete.
None of this is helped of course by the behaviour of the US Administration, the increasingly discredited leader of the free world.Its own recourse to populist incitement and polarised unthinking at home has led to trade and foreign policies that range from the discourteous to those of utterly contradictory folly.
Now once and for all the E.U. has to stand and be counted. Expect the debate to be vigorous. I fear it will rapidly become polarised, unthinking, zenophobic, and nationalistic. At worst the leadership of the E.U. project will be destroyed – there will be little long term thinking devoted to the big challenges – climate change, education, technological development. Instead immigrants, religion and race will undoubtedly figure largely.
But here’s the thing. It is just posiible that this may be a tipping point. The despots in Poland, Hungary and Romania cannot agree amongst themselves, they have no constructive common platform. Salvivni the bruising big man in Italy has failed to corral them into a working coalition against Brussels. Though there are dangerous fascist threats in Germany, though France is no less threatened by its yellow shirts and hs its own fascist trouble makers, though Spain is even now attempting a difficult election of its own – there are emerging parties that are impressive. The Green party in Germany is an example and do not write off the traditional centrist groups just yet – this is at the least their last hurrah!
It is going to be a tumultuous four weeks.
Our President will doubtless twitter to little purpose. Putin and the Russians will more quietly and more effectively try to subvert and undermine. Heaven only knows what the UK will do except jump up and down on its own self made fence of indecision.
But for us watching – make no mistake this could be the month that Europe breaks apart.
Have a good day, James