Monday, May 9, 2011

One year, little change. Happy Birthday Europe

Happy Birthday Europe. It's a sour birthday. There isn't really much to celebrate on Europe Day. The EU hasn't moved an inch closer to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world, despite the establishment of the EEAS and the continuous decline of the US as a superpower.

The democratic uprisings in the MENA region left Europe, including Turkey, divided, driven, uninspired, even uninterested. While France pushed for a swift European response in Libya, Germany successfully embarrassed itself in front of the UN Security Council. They later subduedly committed more Awacs to Afghanistan to make up for it. In the end, the US took the baton from the squabbling Europeans and did the lion share of the job themselves. Even as the MENA uprisings touch home in form of North African migrants, the EU finds itself unable to pursue a common migration strategy. It prefers compromising the Schengen system and letting member states have it their own way.

Talking about the US, did anybody say the US would drop in European esteem after the release of thousands of diplomatic cables last year? It appears the EU doesn't even know how many European bank account details the US accesses on a daily basis, a right the European institutions willingly granted them. And European politicians were fastest to congratulate Barack Obama for the killing of Osama bin Laden, but when people started criticizing their attitude, they quickly highlighted that they lacked reliable information about how Osama really died.

No, the EU has definitely not become a stronger voice in the world. Even in the area where we have been most progressive so far, green energy, the EU allows itself to be surpassed. Despite all studies calling for a 30% emission reduction target by 2020, the EU prefers business-as-usual. China and Indonesia are showing the way to clean energy in an impressive manner. Yet, on a more positive note it seems that Spain and Germany have understood the importance of renewable energy and are committing more investment to the sector. 

While many things in external policy are far from perfect, there are also successes. The bright light in the obscure forest is Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who has established the EU as a powerful donor of humanitarian aid in Haiti, Ivory Coast and Libya.

With regard to internal EU affairs, the picture looks a little brighter as well. The Belgian and Hungarian presidencies have been running ambitious agendas with a focus on sustainable development, Trans-European Networks and a stable European economy. It is to be hoped that the Polish presidency will follow in this line.

Yet, as we are heading into the new year, Euroscepticism is on the rise in Finland and France among others, European democracy hasn't improved much (where is the ECI?) and we are no step closer to a single-seat parliament than a year ago. Europe is entering into a year with a lot of things on the agenda. I hope it will be less disappointing than the last year has been.

Happy Birthday Europe, and a good start into the new year. You will need it


  1. Not to mention spoiled Greece's financial debacle which threatens to destabilize the Eurozone and Sarkozy's attempt to dismantle the Schengen agreement.
    Let alone the far right's rise in Holland, Sweden, Denmark and as you rightly mention, Finland.
    All previously thought of as so-called 'liberal Europe'.
    Well, no more so. Not anymore!
    The truth is that Europe blew its chances when populists like Sarkozy and Berlusconi were voted in power by the small minded, isolationist and peevish petty bourgeoisie.
    A France led by Ms. Segolene Royal would have been different and less hostile to Turkey. Unlike hate monger and tacky Sarko. The harm that he ultimately caused to the European idea incommensurable...
    Not to mention the enormous fuss triggered by the expansion of the EU in Eastern Europe which was presented as something to be fearful of instead of realizing this simply is a historical reparation and not a favour made to these countries utterly betrayed in 1945 at Yalta. 2010 and 2011 did not achieve too much as to Croatia's or Macedonia's accession either though as far as I know it was a good year for Albania whose citizens can now travel visa free in the EU.
    Hopefully, if Merkel's Chrtistian Democrats are being toppled by the resurgent Greens and Social Democrats and Sarko will not hopefully be re-elected then Europe will bounce back energized. Also, the fact that in Britain the Conservatives are powerless unless they are backed by the pro-European Lib-Dems (whose leader is UK's Deputy Prime Minister) is a good thing.
    The more right wing Europe is the less cohesion and apetite for further integration will have. There was a time when isolationist religious nationalist right wingers ruled supreme in Portugal, Spain or Greece (Salazar, Franco, the Colonels). Only after they were removed during the 1970's these countries joined the E.U. in the 1980's.
    Currently, this 'isolationist streak', culturally inhibited brand of nativism/conservatism is about to take yet again over Europe. I predict that the clash between these two camps, the progressive pro-European and the conservative, reactionary Eurosceptic, will intensify in the year to come. Happy Birthday too and see you in May 2012!

  2. dear Anonymous, thank you very much for your detailed and elaborate comment. I'm hoping with you that we'll see a resurgence of the center-left in Europe, but so far I don't believe it will come. Many citizens at least in Western Europe have built up their personal possessions, work every day to keep them and they don't want a change of the status quo. As long as they perceive European cooperation to take more from them than it will give them (the classical prisoners' dilemma), I expect that the nexus materialism-centerrightwingism-Euroskepticism will continue.

    The rise of the Greens in Germany and France is a first sign that people are looking beyond their own material wealth. I hope that this attitude will become more widespread - and as we are moving away from fossil fuel, European interdependency will grow. Europeanism will too, hopefully.