The EU’s Problem Is Not Brexit, It’s Eastern Europe Brexit may be a short-term crisis, but the real problems come from the East

Europe

Jean Monnet, one of the fathers of the Union, had a vision of a unified Europe, probably a federal one. For Monnet, Europe was an ongoing process, a “work in progress”, aiming to create the best possible future for our children and grand-children. We must be honest, and admit that certain member states are not economically and politically ready to be full members of the EU. Maybe, for some, it’s a case of “a little less Monnet, less EU money, and more democracy and integrity.”

 

When the Treaty of Rome was signed, in March 1957, few could have foreseen that, 60 years later, the European Union would count 28 members. Despite what the Brexiteers may think, the fact remains that the EU has – regardless of numerous crises – been an unprecedented success in cooperation between countries. Let us not forget the innumerable bloody wars that were the hallmark of Europe, in the decades and centuries before the Union was born. Jean Monnet, one of the fathers of the Union, had a vision of a unified Europe, probably a federal one. For Monnet, Europe was an ongoing process, a “work in progress”, aiming to create the best possible future for our children and grand-children.

Have I said clearly enough that the Community we created is not an end in itself? It is a process of change, continuing in that same process which in an earlier period produced our national forms of life. The sovereign nations of the past can no longer solve the problems of the present: they cannot ensure their own progress or control their own future. And the Community itself is only a stage on the way of the organized world of tomorrow.  – Jean Monnet

One of the fundamental problems that the Union faces today, concerns the growing inequalities of its citizens. This is something that will have to be solved if the EU is to survive. Its solution must start by a profound re-organisation of the way the EU is run – a multi-speed Union being a possibility that must be considered, due to the economic and political discrepancies between the former Eastern-bloc countries, in particular, and the rest of the EU. We must be honest, and admit that certain member states are not economically and politically ready to be full members of the EU. Maybe, for some, it’s a case of “a little less Monnet and EU money, and more democracy and integrity.”

Poles apart

Poland’s decision to fine or imprison, all who dare say that there were no Polish collaborators during the German occupation, is a glaring example of how one EU member state does not have the same understanding of the word “democracy”,  as the member states who founded the very club it belongs to. Groucho Marx famously said that, “I don’t want to join any club that will accept me as a member.” This is a question that the Polish government should be asking itself – is it right that a club such as the EU should accept a member such as Poland? It is a member state whose government not only wants to subjugate its judiciary system, but now threatens to close the curtain on its past – in fear of discovering the truth – whilst, at the same time, curtailing free speech and the right to question. Historians are unanimous, in saying that Poland did not, as a country, collaborate with the Nazi regime. But what about on an individual level? Is it unreasonable to think that some Polish citizens might have acted against Jews, out of fear for their own lives, or just maliciously? 

At this rate, Polish prisons will be filled with ordinary people looking to find out the truth, historians writing about it, and philosophers learning from it. I would be among the first of the ordinary people, for trying to find out what really happened to my paternal grand-parents, whom I never got to know. Why should I take at face-value, the unfounded supposition that they were not denounced by Poles, before being taken away by Germans?

Thus, prima facie, all this looks like elaborate nonsense, but when many people, without having been manipulated, begin to talk nonsense, and if intelligent people are among them, there is usually more involved than just nonsense. – Hannah Arendt, “Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship”

 

Banana Social-democrats in the East

The political situation in Eastern Europe, anno 2018, is characterised by the presence of Eurosceptic, authoritarian, xenophobic, and retrograde, hard-right-winged parties, consistently undermining the foundations of true democracy. Even for those member states where, on paper at least, a more centre-left party is in power, the political situation is no different. The progressive left has either disappeared, or has become so corrupt, self-centered, and untrustworthy, as to make it indistinguishable from the hard-right.

In Romania, tens of thousands of protesters have marched in the streets of Bucharest, in an attempt to put a stop to widespread corruption within succeeding governments. They are also opposing a justice reform law – effectively undermining the independence of the judiciary system – a law that Poland’s brut politician, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, would be proud of. Of course, the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) is not the only culprit in a country that is undermined by corruption scandals. However, for a member state that receives plenty of EU money, and where the minimum wage is just over €400, something is fundamentally wrong with the SPD’s vision and application of progressive politics.

For Romania’s neighbour, Moldova, the situation is even worse. The pro-EU, Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM), resembles more a personal business venture, belonging to its president, Vlad Plahotniuc, than a political party serving the interest of others. The alternative, the socialist party (PRSM), remains very much a local branch of the Kremlin, thus offering no hope of a better future.

We could also mention Hungary and the Czech Republic, two countries where democratic socialism, as an alternative to present-day liberalism, has failed completely, due to the incompetence and greed of its leaders.

The magnitude of street demonstrations, in Poland and Romania, does offer the East a glimmer of hope. An alternative political vision, and, more importantly, an application of this vision, may be in the hands of civil society and non-governmental organisations. It’s also up to the EU, to seek ways of “getting better value for money”, for the large subsidies that are regularly sent to the former Eastern-bloc countries. This may encompass the implementation of a “lower-tier”, within the EU structure, enabling some member states to carry out long-lasting political and social reforms, that are necessary for compliance with full EU membership. The EU must also have the courage to force “rogue countries”, down the stairs, if necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

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