The collection of countries that make up the European Union are known for the high standard of living of their people and for their political regimes of a well-consolidated bourgeoisie democracy, despite the deterioration of the Welfare State that has brought with it the implementation of neoliberal policies in recent years.
Juan Diego García
Nevertheless, as the third greatest world power, the EU is facing not inconsiderable challenges that could even compromise the most successful unification project of recent decades.
The first problem is specifically the more or less broad abandonment (depending on each country) of the original ideology that in so many aspects was characterised by politics of a Keynesian nature. The same politics that explain specifically the success of a union of nations based on a generalised wellbeing of the population and the absence of armed and other conflicts that so affected the Old Continent during the first half of the last century.
The so-called “Americanisation” (especially regarding labour relations) has blurred the original ideal of the Union with that which seeks a more equal development among countries and regions, and the general improvement of the standard of living.
A large part of the current social and political conflicts have their roots precisely in these neoliberal politics.
On a daily basis, the EU of today has less and less to do with the ideal of peace and wellbeing of its founders.
Secondly, and as a direct consequence of the previous point, a weakening of the political fabric has occurred, in recent years and today, in a quite marked way with the profound crisis of the traditional parties who were actually the main agents of the European project.
I am referring to social democracy and Christian democracy, respectively representing work forces and forces of capital (large and small) in an alliance that today barely manifests.
The big parties no longer maintain their hegemony of the past and they are growing on the social periphery and from their own ranks to new parties, to protest movements from the left and from the right.
Social democrats try to get closer to the new left through one-off agreements that guarantee governments a today quite moderate Keynesianism. Meanwhile the Christian socialists condemn the new iterations of the ultraright, but also seek to take over part of the discussion and attract them into some kind of alliance that guarantees their permanency in government.
However, surely the most unsettling phenomenon is the resurgence of social and political fascism in various forms. From openly xenophobic and racist proclamations to discussions that barely manage to hide considerable sympathies with fascists of yesteryear: praise for the figures of Hitler, Mussolini or Franco, or direct or indirect participation in governments of successive parties of those who, in their day, collaborated with Nazi invaders in Eastern Europe (the case of Ukraine is not unique).
New fascism is not, for the moment, in any condition to govern alone in any EU country.
Nevertheless, not even Hitler had a sufficient majority to take over the Chancellery but he took advantage of the enormous distraction of democratic forces in the Reichstag to take hold of power. It is not a phenomenon specific to Europe, but that only increases the danger.
The social discontent found in the daily lives of social majorities from the deterioration of the Welfare State and the recurring crises of the system -and this is a third problem- are a hotbed of very effective cultivation for the appearance in certain collectives of manifestations of xenophobia and racism, as well as an exclusionary nationalism that casts doubt on the very existence of the EU.
The United Kingdom’s exit is not the only issue that is affecting the EU’s project.
The extreme right in general rejects the Union and separatism proliferates more than ever before: Catalonia and Euskadi (the Basque Country) in Spain, the so-called Northern League in Italy, separatist movements in Bavaria, Germany, anti-French feelings in some regions of France (Corsica), independence attempts in Scotland, United Kingdom. To which must also be added the never-resolved problem of Northern Ireland with intensifying feelings about returning to Ireland; and no less serious, the enormous problems in Ukraine at the moment, with two regions effectively independent and the loss of Crimea (that among other details was never Ukrainian territory; it was “gifted” by Stalin last century and now returned to Russia).
It is not reassuring, the landscape of the EU in either the political dimension or the social one, with resurgences of pathological tendencies that were deemed as completely outdated. Among other things, the EU project was propelled to overcome fascism, war, recurring crises of capitalism and to foster a considerable improvement in the living standard of the social majorities. All this is at risk of being lost or at least deteriorating in a concerning way.
The Old Continent, for many on the planet, is also ceasing to be a model of peace and harmony among nations, not just for its internal problems but, and in a very important way, for its role on the world stage.
With the exception of some countries that continue to be promotors of world peace (Norway, Switzerland and Sweden in particular), the rest opts for conflict in an open or underhanded way, rising to the United States’ war chariot in a direct way through NATO, and not only in conflicts that affect them, but in others that do not directly affect them; moreover getting involved with Washington in other conflicts that end up hurting them.
Joining the United States in their military adventures in Europe, Africa, Asia or Latin America (such as Venezuela) has absolutely no benefit for the EU. China and Russia are two key partners for Europeans (Russia, especially, for being in the same location) and European interests are benefitted in little or no way from supporting wars, commercial blockades, harassment or direct aggression by the United States all over the place.
General Charles de Gaulle’s old idea of driving a European mechanism of defence separate from NATO has been abandoned, if not completely, in actions although in certain moments some types of disagreement with Washington become apparent that, nevertheless, neither cancel nor weaken the multiple links that tie Europe to the American war machine.
The EU’s mild discomfort at the continuous outbursts from Trump’s Administration only demonstrate the weaknesses of the EU in its external politics and constitutes a challenge for the left-wing forces on the Old Continent.
These forces, as well as defending the Welfare State (not to speak of proposing alternatives to capitalism) must at least resume the ideas of the French general and return to positions more in agreement with the EU’s strategic interests.
It must not be forgotten that in this power play, the United States has no friends, only interests, something that should equally inspire the European leaders.
(Translated by Donna Davison – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay