Can Europe Make It?

Euro elections 2014: You tell us (05/03/14) part two

Young bloggers from across the EU tell us what's on their minds. Leading this week are the issues of minority rights, Ukraine and the euro.

Alex Sakalis
6 March 2014
  • Creating radically democratic solutions to the financial abduction of Europe
  • Is Turkey really a good example for Ukraine?
  • In Croatia, has longing for the EU brought us non-EU values?
  • Is the eurozone a sustainable currency area?
  • The EU Roadmap for LGBTI rights: talk to the hand?
  • Nations are like ingredients: they need to breathe fresh air on their own to spread their true flavour
  • Creating radically democratic solutions to the financial abduction of Europe

    by Lotta Tenhunen and Adrià Rodriguez

    Last weekend we participated in the European meeting and seminar The New Abduction of Europe -– Debt, War and Democratic Revolutions in Madrid. The meeting, organized by Fundacion de los Comunes in the framework of the network of museums L'Internationale, took place in Museo Reina Sofía and other spaces close by.

    The meeting continued the process of putting in common, imagining further and translating into practice, in the form of easily replicable tools and strategies, the radically democratic solutions to the current economic, political and social crisis in Europe. The solutions emerge from the social struggles around the continent that faces an abduction – not the one of Zeus, but of the financial logic– designed to transform the organisation of the social production through austerity, destruction of the commons and savage competition between regions. The extended weekend of work in Madrid should contribute in the construction of a strong political agenda to save the continent from financial dictatorship of the Troika, as well as in disarming the future horrors of nationalist and fascist nature that the current misery feeds. The challenge is huge and faces the crisis of the multiple European projects from Westphalia to 1789, Yalta and finally Maastricht.

    The struggles of today are preconditioned by the multiple scales of the deep history of the continent. As was discussed in Agora99 in Rome last November, the question isn't only that of constructing a network of ongoing struggles, but rather impulsing a process of their expansion to create a new social pact suited to confront and challenge the violence of financiarisation and debt. The task is to build up new institutions for managing the continuous regeneration of this pact by the society itself. There is a need for an ever-open Europe, a new never-finished European project. But what tools and styles of political organisation and what structures, then, are needed to win what is on this bet?

    Firstly: the solution and the potency to make it real depends on the capacity to create a political space that overcomes the national divisions which enable the logic of competition within the EU. There is no signs of democratic solutions on the national level, only populistic degeneration into xenophobia, conservative agendas of a unified nation, the return of enforced sexual division of labor, and ultimately risking a war over debt and resources on a divided continent. The crisis works precisely on these geographical differences and unequalites and feeds itself from them.

    Secondly: it depends on the capacity of new political practices capable of maintaining processes with a highly heterogenous social composition. It isn't about the movement of the movements, it's about the becoming-constituent-power of the society, and therefore inclusive, mutating, affective and non-ideological practices are needed to find the common ground.

    Thirdly: within this composition the strongest common issues are the debt –we are all indebted, let the debt be private or public– and the desire to have a right to effective political participation, born from the deepening separation between the established institutions and the people they claim to represent. We should put into the centre of the political agenda the non-payment of the illegitimate debt and the regeneration of the institutions that have decided on that debt without consulting the people.

    Approximately 400 persons participated in the round tables around these themes –listening to the speeches of such thinkers and activists as Ada Colau, Valery Alzaga, Montserrat Galcerán, Ranabir Samaddar, Marina Garçés o Antonio Negri– and some 140 activists, researchers, cultural productors, citizen journalists and hackers worked in the five workshops organized around commons, cultural production, debt, technopolitics and democracy. The workshops had each one a concrete methodology aimed to produce different outputs such as documents, handbooks or manifestos. The round tables were also streamed online and can all be seen on the web page of the museum.

    We are looking forward to sharing these ouputs in this blog soon. Adrià is working on a video documentation with interviews shot during the meeting. Lotta participates in writing collectively a manifesto defining technopolitics and offering a small introduction to previous technopolitical campaigns.The next step is about finding a way to keep these discussions alive and feeding the ecosystem of struggles in which the capacity of expanding practices of real democracy is crucial.

    We are moving in an unstable and harsh situation. The current Europe is crumbling in the South as well as in the East. The democratic struggles currently confront, from Spain via Greece, Bosnia to Ukraine, institutional blockages,  the reemergence of nationalism, counterrevolutions and even war. The European project is confronting itself. In this context the European elections are a moment for testing the situation with electoral proposals from the south, perhaps strongly enough pushed by the demos as to be forced to invent something beyond old party politics. It is a moment to reinforce the struggles seeking to change the path to which Zeus is abducting the ever-so-young Europe – the Europe of the struggles.

    Is Turkey really a good example for Ukraine?

    by Marzena Sadowska

    Browsing the news recently, I read that Ukraine looks up to Turkey in regards of the process of joining the European Union. It surprised me at first, seeing as Turkey's accession history is not an overly successful one. Turkey has been an associate member of the European Economic Community, a predecessor of the EU, since 1963, and applied to accede in 1987. In 1995 Turkey signed a Customs Union agreement with the EU and was officially recognised as a candidate for full membership in 1999.

    Currently out of the thirty-five chapters of the acquis communautaire that must be successfully negotiated between the European Commission and Turkey, two did not require negotiation, one is completed, and seventeen are frozen (out of which eight were frozen in response to Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from Cyprus in 2006).

    On 20 June 2013, Germany blocked the start of new round of accession talks as a reaction to Ankara’s crackdown on mass demonstrations around Gezi Park, Istanbul.

    With the current corruption crisis in Turkish government - which touches the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally - serious progress in the talks seems unlikely at the moment. The situation is indeed dire for Mr Erdoğan – his son was accused of corruption and money-laundering. Similarly, sons of two ministers in the government were accused of involvement and said ministers had to step down.

    This is not what the Prime Minister is doing, though. Instead, his party is putting forward law reforms that will restrict the freedom of expression in Turkey even further. After these reforms, the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (TIB) will be the authority deciding about what is a breach of privacy online and, consequently, can impose a URL-based blockade. It will proceed without the need for a court order or a complaint. TIB is an executive board under direct command of the Prime Minister. At the same time, any court investigation regarding the workings of TIB would require the PM’s authorization, which make such inquires very unlikely. The bill was approved by President Abdullah Gül despite the concerns voiced by many, including Amnesty International.

    It should be remembered that even before these changes, the internet in Turkey was not exactly free. Same goes for the media in general. Turkey is persistently ranked among the countries with the highest numbers of media workers in jail. According to Bianet, an independent press agency based in Istanbul, in last year fifty-nine journalists and twenty-three publishers were arrested, out of which fifty-six journalists and all of the publishers were jailed due to Turkey’s Anti-Terror Act and the Turkish penal code’s articles related to “terror organizations”.

    One of them was sentenced to life without parole, two to life sentences and the rest to various shorter prison sentences. In total, they were charged with fines amounting to 2,626,600 liras (863,958 Euros). Thirty-four out of fifty-nine and all of the publishers were from Kurdish media. During the Gezi protests (between May 27 and September 30) at least 153 journalists were injured and thirty-nine detained; three of them – arrested. According to Reporters Without Borders, in February 2012 the website provided a list of 15,596 sites suspended by Turkish authorities. Today the same site includes a list of 40,733 blocked websites.

    There is another law reform that should be noted. The formerly independent Higher Council of Judges and Prosecutors was, from February 15, brought under the control of the Ministry of Justice and the entire staff was dismissed. It is suspected that this law was designed to block further investigations into possible corruption in government.

    On March 30 there will be local elections in Turkey. It is suspected that the ruling party, AKP, may lose control over Istanbul and Ankara. That would be bad prognosis for general elections in 2015, as Istanbul is populated by about 20% of Turkey’s citizens.

    Bohdan Yeremenko, former Ukrainian consul in Ankara, said, “The government opened up […] to the people and increased transparency. We don’t have that in Ukraine” – this might be true but at the same time Turkish government took measures to restrict freedom of expression and independence of the judiciary system. I hope this is not something the Ukrainian government will see as beneficial.

    In Croatia, has longing for the EU brought us non-EU values?

    by Marko Boko

    As I have had the opportunity to work at the European level on many occasions, I have gotten so many questions from my European colleagues on whether I voted on the referendum for the EU accession of Croatia that was held on 22 January 2012.

    Sure I voted. It was really nice to see that the Croatian government is actually curious on citizens' opinions, as pro and anti EU membership campaigns were fairly latecoming and devoid of any real content. But that is one side of a story which is much more complex than I could explain to my fellow colleagues in a few words.

    The whole story began after Croatia had signed the Treaty of Accession on 9 December 2011, changing its status from a candidate to an acceding country. The ratification process by the parliaments of 27 EU member states was expected to be concluded by the end of June 2013, and Croatia's accession to the EU was expected to take place on 1 July 2013. This went as planned, but ratification by current EU member states was not the last step towards Croatia's accesion. Article 142 of the Constitution of Croatia requires a referendum on sovereignty issues such as Croatian EU membership. Also, this would be first referendum since the one on Croatian independence that was held back in 1991.

    As consensus on Croatia's accesion to the EU was achieved among all relevant political actors and political elites, it was clear that everything needed to be done in order not to fail at the referendum. The first big event were amendments to Croatian constitution which provided that referenda at the national level are valid regardless of actual turnout.

    If you would like to initiate a referendum in Croatia at the national level you have to get signatures of 10% (c.400,000!) of all registered voters in fifteen days and it will be valid even if the turnout is under 50% of all voters.

    If you would like to initiate a referendum at the local level you have to get signatures of 20% of all voters registered in the target municipality, city or county. A referendum is valid only if turnout is 50% + 1 of all voters, so it is pretty clear that it is much harder to initiate and carry out local referendum than the national one.

    Fifteen days to collect 400,000 signatures is not enough (for example in Poland and Italy, the initiator has three months and needs less or approximately 1% of the signatures of all voters), so it is clear that Referendum law has to be revised. It does not have to be revised only for the reasons mentioned above, but for much bigger threats.

    After the EU referendum initiative, a few minor far-right parties, NGOs and individuals, supported by Catholic church, initiated a referendum to constitutionaly define marriage as being between a man and a woman, thus creating a constitutional prohibition against same-sex marriage.

    Although there was no ''threat'' for this initiative as the government had never given any indication of legalizing same-sex marriage to begin with, the religious and far-right groups saw a perfect opportunity to change the constitution. It was ''preventive'' as they said.

    This initiative collected 749,316 signs in fifteen days, which clearly shows that they enjoyed huge public support. However the way they managed it was questionable, which is another good reason to revise the Referendum law.

    The total turnout was 37.9% of which 65.87% voted for constitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage and 33.51% was against. Turnout was well under 50% although the referendum was about constitutional change.

    Almost parallel with this referendum, an initiative was started demanding a referendum to end the official use of Serbian Cyrillic script in some parts of Croatia. Clearly, it was a very good moment as the right-wing scene was quite mobilized and the whole country was in a world-view war. They have gathered over 650,000 signatures, but there is still no concrete information on what is going to happen with this initiative. The EU and Croatian government do not support this cause and it seems that the initiative is trying to be institutionally blocked, which is a provocative and in theory undemocratic and dangerous move.

    But what is really problematic with these two examples is that both referenda are focused on the rights of certain groups within society: so basically the majority questions the human rights of minorities.

    It becomes clear that both referendum questions intersect with Article 3 of the Constitution of Croatia which defines the highest values ​​of the constitutional order such as: freedom, equality, national equality and gender equality, peace, social justice etc. For these reasons in most countries there are restrictions on what a referendum can and cannot decide, and these include human rights, taxes, budget, ratification of international agreements etc.

    Besides illogical criteria to initiate and carry on a referendum in Croatia, it seems that it is also possible to question Article 3 of the Constitution of Croatia, which is now proven to be dangerous and discriminatory.

    Everything started with a longing for the EU and changing the constitution in order not to fail the EU referendum, but besides the EU we have got something that strongly opposes EU values and something very dangerous.

    Is the eurozone a sustainable currency area?

    by Marcus How

    Is the Eurozone a sustainable currency area? Most critics of the currency area would very likely agree that it isn’t. Institutional weaknesses – along with the intergovernmental nature of policymaking – prevent the necessary measures that might guarantee the Eurozone’s sustainability.

    The most recent example of this is the banking union, which was maligned by most economists. The union is two-pronged, proposing, first, that all Eurozone banks be regulated by a single supervisor (the ECB); and second, that commercially viable banks requiring a bailout receive automatic fiscal transfers from a rescue fund. The idea is that banking sector risk should be decoupled from sovereign risk – which would prevent budget deficits from rising, given that national governments will no longer have to step in to rescue struggling banks.

    Policymakers settled on half measures. The costs of bank bailouts will not be shared by member states immediately; rather, they will be mutualised gradually over ten years. In the meantime, the costs will remain the responsibility of national governments. Were the Eurozone in boom, this delay would be annoying and risky but just about acceptable. But in a depressed economic climate, where banks are withholding crucial investments for fear that national governments will not be able to prop them up, this is madness; all motivated by short-sighted politicking by the ‘creditor’ states.

    So that’s that then – the Eurozone is screwed. It’s turned out that the can policymakers have been kicking down the road over the years is, in fact, a grenade. No one knows whether it’s on a timer or will detonate on impact; but at some point, the currency area’s foot will be blown off. Or, to change metaphors, it’s a house with shaky foundations, some of whose tenants are reluctant to invest in fixing them – because they have mouths to feed and what not. But if they don’t invest now, who’s to say they will be able to feed said mouths in the future, when the house collapses? Either way, it’s set in stone. Good night.

    What’s that? I haven’t turned the light off? It’s because I wasn’t being serious. Clearly, there are numerous question marks hovering over the future of the Eurozone. The whole project could end in disaster. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, just because sums add up, doesn’t mean that reality follows. When it comes to the crunch, irrationality can often prevail – but that doesn’t equal doom.

    An obvious but underused point of comparison lies across the Atlantic. No, sceptics croon, the United States aren’t a valid point of comparison. This was a union that was consolidated from the start. The Constitution – ratified in 1789 – provided oven-ready political apparatus that would foster interstate convergence: an executive, headed by a president; a judiciary, represented by the Supreme Court; a bicameral legislature; and a central bank. And in any event, the states were essentially blank slates anyway.

    The sceptics would be wrong. The political economy of the US was defined by its regionalisation well into the twentieth century. Culture played a part in this regionalisation, given that the thirteen colonies, although governed by the British Empire, had developed independently of one another in many respects. These cultural differences, which were reinforced by geography to a large extent, manifested themselves in the economies and political outlooks of the respective states, and vice versa.

    The largely agrarian regions of the South and Midwest, for example, were very suspicious of the Eastern seaboard regions, which were oriented far more towards mercantilism, commerce and finance. Elsewhere, D.C. couldn’t compensate for regionalisation, as its institutions were weak, its spending power insipid, and its agents a product of the regional squabbling that concentrated itself in the party political landscape. 

    Regional squabbling manifested itself in many different forms over the years. At some points it was ideological, concerning what the United States should look like. At other points, it was practical, regarding management. Sometimes it was simply out-and-out regional. I don’t have the room to explore the extent of regional differences. However, it’s notable that regional and state interests were what shaped the integration process, particularly on the issue of the management and valuation of the currency, and on the regulation of state banking sectors.

    Regional differences over these issues illustrated the trial-and-error nature of US integration. For the most part, integration was a case of muddling through, with the regions settling on half-baked compromises. Backward step taking was commonplace. In some ways, the regional politicking was worse than in the Eurozone, with ideologically motivated institutional sabotage taking place.

    The Bank of the United States was the biggest victim of this sort of sabotage. Since being established in 1789 – and re-established in 1813 – the bank had excelled at bringing inflation under control. It did this by demanding that state banks – who were able to issue their own bills of credit until after the civil war – be able to settle their debts in specie. As state banking proliferated in the nineteenth century, the bank made enemies. Ideologically, some saw it as a front for foreign and financial interests. In 1836, Andrew Jackson’s Democrat administration abolished the bank’s charter. The age of free banking ensued, and would last for thirty-five years, although a central bank wasn’t re-established until 1911, in the form of the Federal Reserve.

    Banking panics were a regular occurrence until 1911. They were particularly common during the age of free banking, since state banks were effectively unregulated. Credit bubbles would build and burst; and the regions and states, with their different economies, would be hit with varying severity. Contagion was inevitable, since the movement of capital was relatively free. Bank runs would quickly spread to the nationwide level, since deposits were uninsured; so a bank hammered by such a run in New York would be unable to maintain investments in, say, the agrarian regions, leaving farms and industry debt-addled. No federal institution had the power to make fiscal transfers to compensate for rising unemployment, or to prop up failing banks. From the point of view of economic stability, the age of free banking was chaotic. It arguably reinforced regional divides and contributed indirectly to the motivations for civil war.

    The 1907 panic led to the establishment of the Federal Reserve. Private banks had pooled their resources to collectively act as a lender of last resort, and realised thereafter that a formal institution performing that function – and regulating the banking sector generally – was required. A second realisation came as a result of the 1929 crash. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programme established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which would protect consumer deposits regardless of whether their bank failed or not – mitigating the risks of contagious panics.

    It was only at this point that the US can be said to have become a sustainable currency union. The key to this metamorphosis was the construction of federal apparatus that would ‘nationalise’ the regional economies, uniting them under a mutually beneficial common framework that compensated for regional differences. Granted, the states would have to pay to maintain such a framework, and relinquish autonomy; but the alternative had been repeatedly been proven to be more costly.

    This conclusion was only arrived at after 150 years of trial-and-error, underscored by cynical political wrangling. At many points, the future of the US seemed far from secure; indeed, it was defined by uncertainty more often than not. But in defiance of logic and reason, it somehow survived and strengthened, with the crucial steps forward being taken in response to crises. I suspect that the future of the Eurozone generally may follow a similar path.

    The EU Roadmap for LGBTI rights: talk to the hand?

    by Maria Antica

    It is hard these days to talk about anything else but the crisis in Ukraine, about Russia and the ongoing tensions in Crimea. I here lay my regrets for the victims from Euromaidan, support for Ukrainians in their struggles for a better life and hope that violences won’t escalate any further.

    Just recently, although differently, Russia was again in the spotlight during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games when news and comments about anti gay actions, killing or saving stray dogs and the poor hotels’ conditions were making headlines. Beyond the tragi-comic, almost surreal information pouring in our newsfeeds, I was happy to see how people reacted to the largediscriminations, abuses and violences directed towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and activists before and during the games.

    Hateful speeches and homophobic authorities, politicians and rethoric, people being beaten up, humiliated and death threatened (a quick browse on Youtube would suffice to convince yourselves), with police taking no action and a law that forbids "propaganda of nontraditional sexual practices" to children and teenagers triggered huge international outrage. The effects of last year’s events and criticism were powerful and diverse and, as Sergey Khazov noticed, it had a good impact too as politicians, including Vladimir Putin, decreased their opposition against this comunity (at least when it comes to their public speeches) and it turned out that "common" Russians were more tolerant than believed and became more aware of the LGBTI people.

    Of course, one would react to such violent scenes anyway, no matter the reasons behind, as they are bluntly inhuman but this time the reasons why this people are treated so badly matters a lot. People belonging to the LGBTI comunity worldwide face low acceptance in the societies they live although the levels of discrimination differes from a country to another. The one seen in Russia is extremely severe but there are other, softer ways of discrimination. 

    On the 4th of February European Parliament adopted the report on the EU Roadmap against homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, or the so called 'controversial' Lunacek Report, advanced by EP’s Intergroup on LGBT rights (an informal forum for Members of the EP who wish to advance and protect the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people) with 394 votes for, 176 against and 72 absentations.

    The report stresses that the ‘European Union currently lacks a comprehensive policy to protect the fundamental rights of LGBTI people and contains recommendations for the European Comission, Member States and those relevant agencies that bring forth the areas where discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity occurs. The areas outlined by the report where non-discrimination measures are needed were employment, education, health, goods and services, citizenship, families and freedom of movement or of assembly and expression, asylum or hate speech and hate crime. Beyond the general rights that lesbians, gays and bisexuals need to enjoy, the report outlines the specific needs that transgenders and intersex people have and need to be addressed. 

    The same day Amnesty International released a publicationThe state decides who I am: lack of legal recognition for transgender people in Europe that had shown how legislation and procedures in several European countries related to this community violate fundamental human rights, estimating that there could be around 1.5 milion transgender people in the European Union. Later on last month, on the 27th of February, European Parliament adopted its annual report on fundamental rights in the European Union where LGBT needs and situations were treated and considered as well and where Member States were urged to adopt a long post-poned EU anti-discrimination law that would outlaw discrimination in other areas (such as education, healthcare, social protection or access to goods and services) in addition to the ones it already does.

    While these are good news for the LGBT people and activists and their supporters, it merely caught attention of the media and the highly disatisfied groups across Europe that oppose such legislation. In a joint effort, mostly religious associations and their leaders called upon their European representatives not to vote the Lunacek report and give "special rights" to this comunity by sending more than 40.000 emails saying’No to Lunacek report’, delivering an approx. 200,000 signature petition to MEPs and helding protest movements across Europe or writing articles where the voting day was declared as a "day of shameas universal human rights have been turned down.

    In Romania, a Greek Orthodox Bishop wrote a letter on behalf of his community to the MEPs asking them not to vote for the Lunacek report advanced by the "lesbian Austrian MEP who’s there to promote true privileges for the homosexual people" and just yesterday the Romanian Parliament unanimously voted against a legislative project concerning civil partnerships (including for LGBT people).

    The clash of views and the tensions that such initiatives as the Lunacek report provoke are no news to those acustomed with the topic. Protests against allowing legal marriages between persons of same sex, as one example only, were held just recently last year in France.

    Although people’s opposing opinions are to be considered as well in this matter, I am wondering how much do they really understand that it is not by choice that some are lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially transgender or intersex. That it is no pleasure into having to fight pretty much against everybody for basic rights that straight people enjoy already and that these are not, by far, any "special rights".

    Or how much of the struggles, bullying, shame and lack of access to proper health services according to their needs, just to name a few, do we really understand and see, beyond their rainbow coloured parades? It is not easy to accept things can be different than we were taught they are but we can’t simply ignore their existence or try to put them under the carpet. 

    And if Russia seems far away and we have the feeling that the discrimination claims are just a whim, take a look in the Balkans or in any European country where violence still occurs and where people are still afraid to come out as who they really are in their families, schools, among friends etc. The kind of arguments and reactions show a lack of empathy and call for an active listening dialogue on both sides but it first starts with accepting the reality that LGBT people are for real, they didn’t show up out of nowhere and will be with us a long time from now on.

    Mutual understanding has to be a first, basic step into taking down the iron curtain Wiktor Dynarski was talking about and that exists not only in Poland but elsewehre accross the EU. And if such a great level of reactions was possible when seeing the struggles LGBT people face in Russia, please keep up that energy to fight against softer ways of discrimination in the EU as it can always come back to a more violent level if tensions grow bigger at home.

    Nations are like ingredients: they need to breathe fresh air on their own to spread their true flavour

    by Christoph Heuermann

    My last article dealt with the issues of free migration. Yet the basic question is not about the existence of borders on the European map, but about those anchored in our mind and soul - our identity. There is certainly a human need to create one's own borders - to shape an identity - which differs from other individuals. This identity may solely rely on one's own accomplishments, but will more often be connected to a greater collective, be it the hometown community, city, state, nation or even greater constructions.

    One of these great constructions is the European Identity. It is shaped by spanish sangria and german beer, french croissants and italian ciabatta, greek gyros, british fish & chips, polish vodka and hungarian wine, not to mention dozens of other regional specialties. Who so ever mixes all these ingredients into one big pot knows that the outcome won't be very tasty – though on their own, every ingredient itself is.

    Ingredients are like countries: they need to breathe fresh air on their own to spread their true flavour. If however forced together in one big melting pot, there could possibly be an explosion. Just a hundred years ago this happened in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire: a typical melting pot of diverse countries and cultures. Regarding the voluntary actions of individuals, this melting pot was a good thing: the diversity made its capital of Vienna a prosperous city with the top scientists and artists of the age. Though in its periphery, the greater collective forcefully repressed the minorities, which eventually led to the outbreak of World War One.

    While European integration has brought huge improvements in the conditions of life for its citizens, it should not be regarded as a path which, once pursued, is irrevocable. There is, as such, no path dependency in the integration process; therefore there is no need for further shifting of competences into one centralized organ, as I already argued in my article about European Common Foreign and Security Policy.

    Apart from the consequences of centralization there is still the problem of the identity of the centralized organ. It might consider itself the united voice of Europe, but it is just a poker game played by nations. The smaller ones bluff, the bigger ones play their aces. Poker is not about luck, and neither is politics. The big players will eventually win. No surprise, that Germany with its major allies is positioning itself to dictate European politics, while small countries have to follow suit.

    Speaking of a common identity by settling citizens of different countries in one city and generously rewarding them for crazy regulations does not solve this problem. Brussels may be the melting pot of today's Europe, but it is certainly not the new Vienna - though one likewise probably loses sight of what happens in the periphery. Drowning immigrants at its southern borders, revolution at its eastern borders. To the west, it expects its further unification with the United States from the Free Trade Agreement, while it struggles to incorporate the northern countries. Iceland wants to remain independent, while Norway is unlikely to join the European Union. England, always struggling with the continental Europeans, continues to act obdurately on major issues of European politics.

    A common European identity is not even in sight - it cannot be as long as attempts are made to try and enforce it. The youth won't consider themselves Europeans by having to visit the European Parliament. Students won't consider themselves Europeans after an Erasmus exchange semester. Professionals won't consider themselves Europeans after doing business in its countries and retired seniors won't consider themselves Europeans by moving around in search of the best climate. They will stick to their nations, their states, their communities. At best, they do not need any collective identity to rely on, but find their identity in themselves.

    Doubtless, some people consider themselves Europeans, probably benefiting substantially from its political machine. This is in principle not bad. Every individual is free to choose his or her own identity. However, like nationalism there is the danger of Europeanism. Nationalism has already brought us untold sorrow, what about Europeanism? New wars provoked by its fantasy to be a great power? Oppression of civil society in the name of tolerance? Economic depression by saving countries without solving their problems?

    One thing is for sure. Nationalism on an even greater scale can't be the answer. Better think small. Small is beautiful. Small is colourful. Small is the individual. Europe's task is to create the conditions wherein individuals can thrive, not to create collectives. The answer on emerging nationalism is not more nationalism, it is recognizing the individual apart from tax IDs.

    Neither Europe nor its bureaucrats own its citizens, we own ourselves. Encouraging everyone's own identity as an individual will wither away borders and secure peace. European integration has to serve this purpose, not counteract it. Idealistic? Maybe! However, repeating errors of the past won't help either. It will destroy Europe and its accomplishments. Unfortunately, history is the best teacher but with the worst students!

    Get weekly updates on Europe A thoughtful weekly email of economic, political, social and cultural developments from the storm-tossed continent. Join the conversation: get our weekly email


    We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
    Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData