Europe – no place for old thought.
Europe’s future lies in the balance – entirely of its own making, entirely the result of its failed leadership. Today it is out of touch, out of time and fossilized in its outdated thinking. The reality is that the triple curse of poverty, disease, and economic mismanagement has left its publics desperate for anything, a populist fix, hungry for some sort of bone no matter how undernourishing it may eventually become. The pandemic has not helped. Indeed the inability to master mind a common response has become a totem for the other failures of the Union .
Germany, the leading economy, is losing respect as racism, neofascism, and ante Semitism becomes stridently visible. Last week 29 police officers in North Rhine Westphalia were suspended for disseminating images described as “the ugliest, most despicable, neo Nazi immigrant baiting.” For too long politicians have swept such notions under a carpet of uneasy cover up. The Westphalia incident was not an isolated one. in Hesse there have been death threats to prominent immigrants and liberal politicians. Hate groups have been uncovered among the police in Munich. All this in a nation endeavoring to turn the page on its terrible past.
In France with Presidential elections in 2022, Marie Le pen’s fascist party is now playing to win.
Italy is split between the haves of the north and the abject poverty to the south. Almost every nation has its own version of these stories. of significant break away nationalistic groupings, of populist extremism.
Matters are unlikely to improve. Over the next months the pandemic may well threaten further their economies. There is the prospect of renewed migrants desperate to find some sort of shelter from the ravages of war and climate change in North Africa. The EU leadership has long known about these challenges. Its response has been dull – calling meetings, making statements, empty threats – the antithesis of the action everyone wants to see.
Europe’s response to the despotic depredations of the Belarus leader Aleksander Lukashenko is an example of its purposelessness. Top EU officials have denounced the President and pushed for sanctions against him and his gang. But this is a sham and they know it. They are safe in the knowledge that nothing will be done. Such strictures require unanimous support from the 27 member states – this will never come. Europe’s lack of cohesive leadership goes back to its expansion (Enlargement) with Eastern Europe in 2004. Today the leaders of Hungary, Poland and others that joined after the collapse of the USSR, are introducing a populist and brutal despotism that challenges the spirit of the original EU foundation. In response the European leaders talk but do nothing.
Meanwhile at the geographical fringes Turkey, Russia and the United States are all playing roles that lack sympathy, foster disruption and exacerbate the global vacuum of leadership.
Last week Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia imposed travel bans on Lukashenko – a small light far down a dark tunnel.
As the self serving rule of despots goes otherwise unchallenged so, day by day, it is clear that western leadership is using an outdated playbook. All is not all right in the best of possible worlds. This world is no longer one for old thinking or for yesterday’s attitudes.
Have a good day, James