Wednesday, May 25, 2011

José Ignacio Torreblanca on the crisis of the EU (Part 2 of 2)

I was particularly struck by this part of José Ignacio Torreblanca's article on the current crisis of the EU. Here he describes the gulf between the expectations of around 20 years ago, some of which were partially realized, compared to public attitudes now:

After launching the euro on January 1, 1999, the European Union approved the Lisbon Strategy, which promised to make the EU the most dynamic, competitive and sustainable economy in the world. The bloc also committed itself to expanding freedom, security and justice, taking European integration into areas such as policing, justice and immigration, which until then had remained on the sidelines of the construction of Europe. ...
But the EU did not just look inwards, it also looked outwards: it carried out the largest expansion in its history, incorporating 10 countries from Central and Eastern Europe in addition to Cyprus and Malta, and, in a move filled with strategic vision and forward-thinking, it committed itself to opening membership negotiations with Turkey in a move that would create a valuable bridge with the Arab and Muslim world. At the same time, the bloc established the pillars of a real foreign and security policy ... Now accustomed to being belittled by the great powers, it is revealing to remember that, back then, with the euro in circulation, expansion underway, a Constitution around the corner and with a foreign and security policy polished by the leadership of Javier Solana, talk of Europe did not provoke weariness or indifference, but rather admiration and even, in Washington, Beijing and Moscow, unconcealed jealousy.

A decade later, this brilliant list of achievements and optimistic promises is more than just being questioned: in the place of the successful and open Europe that we promised ourselves, we encounter a Europe that, despite the enlargement, has shrunk; that, despite the euro, has turned egotistical and unsupportive and which has stopped believing in and practicing its values in order to enclose itself in fear of the outside world and worries about loss of identity. Many regret the enlargements and don't want to hear talk of any further expansion; they are not interested in fulfilling their promises about Turkey's membership and are not even capable of considering the admission of the Balkan countries. The more than 20 years that have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall is more than enough time for Europe to have completed itself, both inside and out. But the reality is very different: after the expansions, we speak of enlargement fatigue; after the failed constitutional process, we see weariness from political integration; after the euro crisis, we hear of economic and financial exhaustion. After 10 years of institutional reforms and institutional introspection, the Lisbon Treaty, which was meant to save Europe from paralysis and drag it into the 21st century, is barely known and its achievements invisible. [my emphasis]
That's what he means by the EU being currently a project that has lost its fuel, its forward energy.

The entire article is certainly worth reading. He addresses xenophobia as a sign of the crisis of values: "The simplemindedness and stupidity of the racists and xenophobes prevents many people taking them seriously. However, their capacity to influence traditional political parties is considerable and increasing."

Under the end of solidarity, he talks about the arrogant attitude promoted particularly by Angela Merkel's conservative government in Germany toward the countries under attack by the bond markets, featuring "moralizing and condescending preaching as if the deficit or surplus of a country reflected the moral superiority or inferiority of a whole group of human beings." This is particular dumb of Germany's government, because no other country has benefitted as much from the euro as Germany has because of the advantage it gives Germany in exports to the Eurozone countries. Unlike her predecessor as Chancellor for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Helmut Kohl, Merkel is a Europe-skeptic, "anti-Europe" in current political speech.

Ignacio Torreblanca also discusses the EU's foreign policy deficit and the failure of leadership in EU countries in neglecting to push forward the European project.

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"It is the logic of our times
No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."

-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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