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Leadership in the European Union.

The EU came about not because of the leadership of eminent Europeans. Monnet, Schuman and many others played vital roles facilitating, encouraging and enabling. But in reality, post war Europe was not surprisingly in a political, social and economic mess – innovative action needed a far greater stimulus. The creation of the historic experiment in political interdependence was sparked first at 0529 hours on July 16, 1945.  The impetus for change began with the test explosion of the US atom bomb far away from the cultured beauty of Europe in the parched landscape of Jornada del Muerto in New Mexico. It was further defined by the no less shocking retaliatory testing of a Russian bomb by Stalin four years later. The stage was set for new power politics with Europe, weakened by 30 years of warfare, existentially threatened in the middle. This was the power play that broke the intransigence of centuries old enmities and mistrust.

But it did not lead to strong, complete, or sufficiently visionary leadership – it forced instead a sort of stumbling acceptance of a harsh and unwanted reality.

Today despite the storied and real achievements of the intervening 75 years there is still no strategic focus of power, no substantive leader in Europe. Instead there is the real prospect of collapse amongst a jumble of compromises. And the problems are not going away.

The most difficult members are those of the former USSR – eastern states who joined in in the early 1990’s. Poland and Hungary in particular, have become the wannabe bullies in a school where discipline has been lost. That is why the reelection of President Duda in Poland matters. Bolstered by the polarized thinking of the Catholic Church, touting a reactionary homophobia and pushing a clamp down on media, academic freedoms and the independence of the law courts, Poland is challenging the basic tenets of the EU and moving towards dictatorship.

In Hungary Prime Minister Orban has already shown the way towards an illiberal nation – autocratic, homophobic, xenophobic, racist, and determined to squash the critical voice of the media. The Courts in Hungary are now stacked with Orban acolytes; independent watch dog institutions have long been closed.

Last week the news center, Index, one of the few independent media survivors was effectively destroyed.

So what role will the EU leadership* now take – supplicant appeaser, fence sitting bureaucrat, or will they see this for what it is – two bully boys testing their resolve. The EU must discipline Poland and Hungary, or its collapse will become more inevitable.

Have a good day, James.  

*Go to for James’s master class – The New Leadership – just released to LI connections.