This situation has its roots mainly in the abandonment of the project’s initial ideology, which in turn refers to the dismantling of the welfare state and the application of neoliberal politics with greater or lesser intensity according to the social correlation of forces in each member country.
Juan Diego García
The impact of these politics and, in particular, the effects of the current crisis (that which, according to the neoliberals, was already a thing of the past and would never happen again) are much more dramatic in the southern countries of the Old Continent precisely due to the relative weakness of their economies in relation to the centre and south of Europe.
The richest nations, particularly Germany, France and the United Kingdom, have the possibility of transferring the costs of the crisis to the rest of the continent, with such dramatic results as the crisis in Greece, one of the weakest links in the chain. The resurgence of so much nationalism is not surprising.
As in any capitalism at a certain level of development, the principal mechanism of absorption of capital gains is the financial system, so German and French Banks appear to be the main agent provocateurs and beneficiaries of the package of cuts on social spending, salaries and investments that affect these economies. Also in Germany, this generates the phenomenon of evictions and appearances on a large scale of the “mini job” and miserable salaries that push so many young people to return to their homes of origin in search of support from their retired parents and grandparents.
The renouncement of the social democratic and Christian-democrat ideal of the two main parties and sometimes embarrassing disembarkation into neoliberalism partly explains its own identity crisis and the creation of appropriate spaces for the rise of new political groups, as much right-wing as left-wing.
In political discourse (and in some other ideological reflections) at least two significant proposals have been produced: that which poses the necessity/possibility of a return to the original ideal of the European unity project (the so-called “Pro-Europeans”) and those known as “sceptics”, against the union, marked by an exclusive nationalism and, occasionally openly xenophobic and even racist.
Even eccentric characters cause these new extreme right tendencies to appear and it is relatively easy to discover common ground and clear ideological coincidences in all of them.
Their similarity to the Trump phenomenon is evident and there is no shortage of those who see in these new trends a new form of fascism, at least in its embryonic stage.
There is no clear reaction from the traditional right and, often, on the contrary, it ends up agreeing, gladly or reluctantly, with the new champions of national supremacy, race and destiny reserved by Providence for the respective people (this is what suits them in every case).
The more or less drastic disassembly of the welfare state, of the European model of capitalism and the “Americanisation” of social relations (starting with work but invading in greater or lesser measures all spheres of our social life) is happening in parallel as much with the decline of social democracy (Socialist and Labour) as with the deep crisis of the left contrary to the system (Communists and left-wing groups), subject to huge theoretical questions about what to do (they do not have a Lenin) and seeking light from the classics with a new perspective (primarily Marx).
But, for the moment, they continue being indecisive forces on the political panorama of the Old Continent.
A second element has a profound effect on the European Project: its foreign policy, having hardly any aspects in common and, instead, something distinctly national in each case. In reality, this policy allows two readings.
On one hand, taking into account that this Union is made up in large part of countries that were colonial powers, the EU seems to resign itself to a second-class role of power behind the United States, its apparently unconditional ally.
This explains why, repeatedly, the Union adapts itself as a complementary force, as second in line to Washington’s policies, sometimes evidently participating reluctantly in its adventures as happened in the Iraq wars, but in others it acts as a diligent member of the great American power (in the case of Libya or Syria).
Distancing itself from Russia (supporting the United States’ sanctions) goes against European interests and the same could be argued for its relations with China, as the main emerging power it already seems to equal or better the United States. Dreams of recovering at least some colonial European influence by reviving the past in Africa or the Middle East are just that, dreams. The reality is that the United States keeps its hegemony, and nothing suggests that it is going to give in to the Europeans. It is already known that Washington does not have friends but rather interests.
But, at the same time and each country to its own, the members of the EU try, at least, to weave relations with both Russia and China as well as other middle powers like Iran. Germany votes for sanctions on Russia imposed by the United States but at the same time continues strengthening its economic relations with Moscow, meanwhile the United Kingdom – such a good friend and faithful ally of the great American power – has reached financial agreements of great significance with China. To a lesser extent, other members of the Union do it too.
The Chinese New Silk Road project has enough substance so as to feed these tendencies of a certain self-determination in foreign policy, if not by the Union as such, at least by crucial countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom.
The unstoppable competition between China and the United States may be the setting in which these tendencies for autonomy will be seen to be increasing foreign policy for some members of the EU and, why not, of the Union itself as such.
This dynamic in the Latin American and Caribbean region should not be excluded. Although, apparently, the EU accepts that this region “belongs” to the United States, what is certain is that since the middle of the previous century, and with progressively more force, European interests are making their presence there, even if not with the expansive force of China (which is already the main business partner of Brazil and Argentina and is also making advances in Mexico), at least as an opportunity that could become mutually beneficial.
In effect, in the face of Washington’s arrogant attitude (that Trump only rudely increases but has always been official policy) and facing eventual irreconcilable differences (in the case of Venezuela, for example) the prudent matter is making the most of the current multipolarity of the capitalist powers to gain advantages.
China, Russia and the so-called “emergent nations”, first and foremost, but also Europe should be on the agenda of any national development project. The EU crisis should not prevent this; it is not going any better in the United States in their agonising battle to preserve the top spot in world hegemony; in reality, it turns out to be an advantage. (PL)
(Translated by Donna Davison – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay