Europe matters. With its vast cultural history and potentially potent economic power based on a population more than 50% larger than that of the US, the cradle of democracy is a vital part of the solution to the world’s problems. The European Union was meant to strengthen this potency. But Europe is falling apart.
The EU has always been hobbled by its failure to reconcile the sovereign rights of its individual member states with the overall collective purpose of the whole. This was the elephant in the room from the very start. With Enlargement in 2004 the Union welcomed former vassal states of the collapsed USSR including Hungary and Poland and the elephant went rogue. These new members gradually suborned democracy and reverted to the populist nationalism and gang land megalomania of the soviet and fascist rule. And in so doing, they have shone an unflinching light on what is increasingly looking like a perfect storm elsewhere in Europe as politics amongst the older members is becoming fragmented, polarized and extreme. It may have already have reached the point of no return.
Nationalism is back. Fascism is on the rise. Europe is looking backward to the killing fields of the 30’s and 40’s rather than forward to building on the already vast achievements in technology, education, and in living standards. This is a project that a few years ago was almost succeeding. But a combination of terrible memories and the real time testing of its readiness for purpose posed by floods of immigrants and now the pandemic is threatening its very survival. Despite all the immense strides made possible by new communications member nations have not been able to forge a common response to these threats, and every day the bureaucrats and officials look more out of touch, playing the darkly changing game of today with the outdated attitudes of yesterday.
Last Tuesday the European Court of Justice ruled that Hungary has violated EU regulations by forcing out the Central European University. The Court’s decision was the latest effort to bring the authoritarian Victor Orban to heel – it will fail. Anyway the University has already moved to Vienna. Meanwhile that great and beautiful city of Budapest will increasingly come under Orban’s undemocratic rule, another effort by the EU leadership will be seen to be hollow.
Germany has finally stared its Nazi DNA in the eye. Every nation has to deal with the anger of those who feel left behind. Many people, still voters, feed off the low nutrition glory days of their past. This provides a dangerous foundation for the power-at-any-price politicians who trade in nationalistic xenophobia and racism. Hitler’s legacy is not going away. But at long last the Germans may have recognized the far right extremism endemic amongst their soldiers, police and intelligence agents. Almost certainly too little too late, it is doubtful whether anything structural, long term of systemic will be done. It is no coincidence that thousands in Germany have embraced Q Non and see President Trump as its leader in waiting.
In France the next election will be fought between the traditionalist thinking of President Macron and his supporters and the fascist extremism of Marine Le Pen.
In Belgium the simmering differences between the haves of Flanders and the Flemish have nots has found expression in the tribal nationalism of “Our people first” and white supremacism.
Britain is marching towards a dangerous hard exit, the first nation to fully break ranks.
Everywhere you look , Europe, that potentially rich tapestry of collaboration and common purpose is being unraveled by forces of destruction and echoes of the past. In many cases the existing governments are hanging on by a thread. Belgium indeed has been entirely without a government for the last 2 years. It has recently sought some sort of make do, cobbling together a coalition of seven political parties. Like a piece of self combustible uranium the coalition will blow apart any moment.
And now the second wave of the pandemic is starting to raise the death tolls once more; climate change and the wars in north Africa are pointing to more boat loads of migrants; the economies across the region are declining. Europe is facing collapse.
Have a good day, James.