World
Martin Jay
December 12, 2020
© Photo: REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Too many signs have shown us that the EU is in real trouble. The worst one possibly is that its own outdated idea about governance is replicated by a French leader facing defeat. What losers!

In practical terms, it is clear to see that the EU as a viable project is not only in a panic mode currently, but actually going backwards in its desire to model itself on a United States of Europe federal model. And there can be no better examples than Brexit negotiations, Covid and France’s current malaise.

At the eleventh hour we have seen how, despite Britain remaining steadfast to its demands at the negotiations for a departure from the European Union, the EU itself shoots itself in both feet and looks even to its own supporters to be a loser of the highest order. Last minute demands are thrown into the negotiations by France’s Macron who is fearful of his own presidency hopes being scuppered if he has to deal with the wrath of thousands of French fishermen who will be out of a living by January 1st – if Britain is to get back full control of her own waters. To counter this with new demands about how the UK, as a non-member of the EU, goes about its business internally is both hilarious and desperate. Of course as a non-member of the bloc the UK will have its own ideas about how government interacts with business and state aid rules. How did a desperate French president threw this into the negotiations at really the eleventh hour demonstrates how weak the EU is and when it is presented with important matters, how it plays the role of a cheap girlfriend to its real masters. The fact that France could be allowed to do this is shocking. But the truth is that Macron is not playing for a deal. He prefers a no deal which he can use as political capital for his own fishermen. And the EU almost fell for it. Clearly there are divisions within the EU as to how to go about getting a Brexit. Many member states, like Germany, for example, are happy to give back fishing rights to the UK in exchange for a Brexit deal. Doesn’t the EU have billions of euros at its disposal to compensate and retrain out of work citizens? Of course it does. Structural funds run into billions and there is no viable reason why the existing EU rules would not favour out of work French fisherman.

But this cheap shot by the EU, to be hijacked by France, makes it look weak and ineffective, which will cost it dearly at the polls, when it has its own elections in 2024.

But it’s not only Brexit which is dividing this bloc which has ambitions about being a superpower with its own army. You don’t need to look very far to see that there is a distinct lack of unity in the organisation which is causing it to haemorrhage. In mid-November, it couldn’t sign off an agreement to put aside almost 2 trillion dollars for a rescue plan for member states which were hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic, namely Italy and to some extent Spain. The six-year budget, which is supposed to be approved now, will not include this package, which will be seen as a major blow to Italy and will almost certainly lead to a growth there of an anti-EU sentiment, marking out Italy as ripe for a massive swing of far right votes in the European parliament, if not a campaign for Italy to leave the EU all together. Poland and Hungary blocked the proposal as a way of showing France and Germany – the real owners of the entire EU project – that it wouldn’t be bullied on other contentious areas like immigration.

This is the real worry for eastern European countries. Their elites could not face an influx of immigrants from troubled hotspots in Africa – which coincidently are also the same recipients of hundreds of millions of euros of aid. There is a link between the cataclysmic human rights abuses from these regimes and the outflow of middle class citizens who borrow money to pay snake heads to transport them to Libya and then onto Europe.

But the EU itself can’t join up the dots and see this. Just as journalists aren’t making the link between Macron’s problems in France – an economy struggling to cope with cheaper imports which are supposed to respect EU directives (but invariably don’t) – and immigration, which is leading to the far right taking more of his votes. France, a founding member of the EU, can’t find a single journalist in the entire republic to make these links, and yet citizens themselves see it clearly. The appalling video footage of the black music producer being beaten up shocked the entire world. But Macron’s thinking behind new laws which he is pushing for – to make it illegal to film police officers – comes straight out of any Middle Eastern dictator’s handbook on how to profit from creating a police state. Macron needs to deal with immigration and the police, to save himself at the polls. And no one is kidding themselves about the new law and its purposes. The EU has always been a dictatorship which uses the auspices of a democracy to cover its real intentions. Its creation was really about being a greater power to supersede democracies which couldn’t get things done. But now, what we are experiencing is a full circle where individual member states are reacting with such vitriol towards the project, that they are indulging themselves at the same font. Macron is becoming a third world dictator who will happily strip France of its democratic credentials, if it means he can stay in power. Clinging on to power, in fact, is the shared theme of both his presidency and the EU itself. Inevitably, it will be the EU which will give him a top paid job, when he fails at the polls as the EU loves tradition above everything else.

The EU Continues to Wobble While France Holds It to Ransom

Too many signs have shown us that the EU is in real trouble. The worst one possibly is that its own outdated idea about governance is replicated by a French leader facing defeat. What losers!

In practical terms, it is clear to see that the EU as a viable project is not only in a panic mode currently, but actually going backwards in its desire to model itself on a United States of Europe federal model. And there can be no better examples than Brexit negotiations, Covid and France’s current malaise.

At the eleventh hour we have seen how, despite Britain remaining steadfast to its demands at the negotiations for a departure from the European Union, the EU itself shoots itself in both feet and looks even to its own supporters to be a loser of the highest order. Last minute demands are thrown into the negotiations by France’s Macron who is fearful of his own presidency hopes being scuppered if he has to deal with the wrath of thousands of French fishermen who will be out of a living by January 1st – if Britain is to get back full control of her own waters. To counter this with new demands about how the UK, as a non-member of the EU, goes about its business internally is both hilarious and desperate. Of course as a non-member of the bloc the UK will have its own ideas about how government interacts with business and state aid rules. How did a desperate French president threw this into the negotiations at really the eleventh hour demonstrates how weak the EU is and when it is presented with important matters, how it plays the role of a cheap girlfriend to its real masters. The fact that France could be allowed to do this is shocking. But the truth is that Macron is not playing for a deal. He prefers a no deal which he can use as political capital for his own fishermen. And the EU almost fell for it. Clearly there are divisions within the EU as to how to go about getting a Brexit. Many member states, like Germany, for example, are happy to give back fishing rights to the UK in exchange for a Brexit deal. Doesn’t the EU have billions of euros at its disposal to compensate and retrain out of work citizens? Of course it does. Structural funds run into billions and there is no viable reason why the existing EU rules would not favour out of work French fisherman.

But this cheap shot by the EU, to be hijacked by France, makes it look weak and ineffective, which will cost it dearly at the polls, when it has its own elections in 2024.

But it’s not only Brexit which is dividing this bloc which has ambitions about being a superpower with its own army. You don’t need to look very far to see that there is a distinct lack of unity in the organisation which is causing it to haemorrhage. In mid-November, it couldn’t sign off an agreement to put aside almost 2 trillion dollars for a rescue plan for member states which were hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic, namely Italy and to some extent Spain. The six-year budget, which is supposed to be approved now, will not include this package, which will be seen as a major blow to Italy and will almost certainly lead to a growth there of an anti-EU sentiment, marking out Italy as ripe for a massive swing of far right votes in the European parliament, if not a campaign for Italy to leave the EU all together. Poland and Hungary blocked the proposal as a way of showing France and Germany – the real owners of the entire EU project – that it wouldn’t be bullied on other contentious areas like immigration.

This is the real worry for eastern European countries. Their elites could not face an influx of immigrants from troubled hotspots in Africa – which coincidently are also the same recipients of hundreds of millions of euros of aid. There is a link between the cataclysmic human rights abuses from these regimes and the outflow of middle class citizens who borrow money to pay snake heads to transport them to Libya and then onto Europe.

But the EU itself can’t join up the dots and see this. Just as journalists aren’t making the link between Macron’s problems in France – an economy struggling to cope with cheaper imports which are supposed to respect EU directives (but invariably don’t) – and immigration, which is leading to the far right taking more of his votes. France, a founding member of the EU, can’t find a single journalist in the entire republic to make these links, and yet citizens themselves see it clearly. The appalling video footage of the black music producer being beaten up shocked the entire world. But Macron’s thinking behind new laws which he is pushing for – to make it illegal to film police officers – comes straight out of any Middle Eastern dictator’s handbook on how to profit from creating a police state. Macron needs to deal with immigration and the police, to save himself at the polls. And no one is kidding themselves about the new law and its purposes. The EU has always been a dictatorship which uses the auspices of a democracy to cover its real intentions. Its creation was really about being a greater power to supersede democracies which couldn’t get things done. But now, what we are experiencing is a full circle where individual member states are reacting with such vitriol towards the project, that they are indulging themselves at the same font. Macron is becoming a third world dictator who will happily strip France of its democratic credentials, if it means he can stay in power. Clinging on to power, in fact, is the shared theme of both his presidency and the EU itself. Inevitably, it will be the EU which will give him a top paid job, when he fails at the polls as the EU loves tradition above everything else.

Too many signs have shown us that the EU is in real trouble. The worst one possibly is that its own outdated idea about governance is replicated by a French leader facing defeat. What losers!

In practical terms, it is clear to see that the EU as a viable project is not only in a panic mode currently, but actually going backwards in its desire to model itself on a United States of Europe federal model. And there can be no better examples than Brexit negotiations, Covid and France’s current malaise.

At the eleventh hour we have seen how, despite Britain remaining steadfast to its demands at the negotiations for a departure from the European Union, the EU itself shoots itself in both feet and looks even to its own supporters to be a loser of the highest order. Last minute demands are thrown into the negotiations by France’s Macron who is fearful of his own presidency hopes being scuppered if he has to deal with the wrath of thousands of French fishermen who will be out of a living by January 1st – if Britain is to get back full control of her own waters. To counter this with new demands about how the UK, as a non-member of the EU, goes about its business internally is both hilarious and desperate. Of course as a non-member of the bloc the UK will have its own ideas about how government interacts with business and state aid rules. How did a desperate French president threw this into the negotiations at really the eleventh hour demonstrates how weak the EU is and when it is presented with important matters, how it plays the role of a cheap girlfriend to its real masters. The fact that France could be allowed to do this is shocking. But the truth is that Macron is not playing for a deal. He prefers a no deal which he can use as political capital for his own fishermen. And the EU almost fell for it. Clearly there are divisions within the EU as to how to go about getting a Brexit. Many member states, like Germany, for example, are happy to give back fishing rights to the UK in exchange for a Brexit deal. Doesn’t the EU have billions of euros at its disposal to compensate and retrain out of work citizens? Of course it does. Structural funds run into billions and there is no viable reason why the existing EU rules would not favour out of work French fisherman.

But this cheap shot by the EU, to be hijacked by France, makes it look weak and ineffective, which will cost it dearly at the polls, when it has its own elections in 2024.

But it’s not only Brexit which is dividing this bloc which has ambitions about being a superpower with its own army. You don’t need to look very far to see that there is a distinct lack of unity in the organisation which is causing it to haemorrhage. In mid-November, it couldn’t sign off an agreement to put aside almost 2 trillion dollars for a rescue plan for member states which were hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic, namely Italy and to some extent Spain. The six-year budget, which is supposed to be approved now, will not include this package, which will be seen as a major blow to Italy and will almost certainly lead to a growth there of an anti-EU sentiment, marking out Italy as ripe for a massive swing of far right votes in the European parliament, if not a campaign for Italy to leave the EU all together. Poland and Hungary blocked the proposal as a way of showing France and Germany – the real owners of the entire EU project – that it wouldn’t be bullied on other contentious areas like immigration.

This is the real worry for eastern European countries. Their elites could not face an influx of immigrants from troubled hotspots in Africa – which coincidently are also the same recipients of hundreds of millions of euros of aid. There is a link between the cataclysmic human rights abuses from these regimes and the outflow of middle class citizens who borrow money to pay snake heads to transport them to Libya and then onto Europe.

But the EU itself can’t join up the dots and see this. Just as journalists aren’t making the link between Macron’s problems in France – an economy struggling to cope with cheaper imports which are supposed to respect EU directives (but invariably don’t) – and immigration, which is leading to the far right taking more of his votes. France, a founding member of the EU, can’t find a single journalist in the entire republic to make these links, and yet citizens themselves see it clearly. The appalling video footage of the black music producer being beaten up shocked the entire world. But Macron’s thinking behind new laws which he is pushing for – to make it illegal to film police officers – comes straight out of any Middle Eastern dictator’s handbook on how to profit from creating a police state. Macron needs to deal with immigration and the police, to save himself at the polls. And no one is kidding themselves about the new law and its purposes. The EU has always been a dictatorship which uses the auspices of a democracy to cover its real intentions. Its creation was really about being a greater power to supersede democracies which couldn’t get things done. But now, what we are experiencing is a full circle where individual member states are reacting with such vitriol towards the project, that they are indulging themselves at the same font. Macron is becoming a third world dictator who will happily strip France of its democratic credentials, if it means he can stay in power. Clinging on to power, in fact, is the shared theme of both his presidency and the EU itself. Inevitably, it will be the EU which will give him a top paid job, when he fails at the polls as the EU loves tradition above everything else.

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

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The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.