TToday is the day most Europeans head to the polls to elect members of the European Parliament. Yes, I voted. I voted, because I always do because I think it my duty as a citizen to participate. And yet, I understand, why so many in my country just don’t. European Union is for most, something far away and not that important. It is the national level, most people care about and even then, the percentage of people showing up at the polls is not that high.
It is the fault of the media, on one side. They simply don’t cover European Union that much. The focus is on the national level and on that simple copy-paste from larger and stronger US media, with some other exceptions, who then dictate, what we all read about or watch on the television. If Venezuela is in the crossfire of the US, we all get to know about it. If something important happens in Nigeria, nobody reports about it. It is the same with the EU. What happens in our larger, common home, is rarely reported and two or three weeks before the election for the European parliament is simply not enough to mobilize people. And then, even with top candidates, so-called spitzenkadidanten, that are now pushed to the forefront by larger European political parties, the really important fight still takes the stage on the national level. It is not about if EPP will win most seats in the European Parliament, it is more important to most, that SDS (part of the EPP) in Slovenia wins the elections against SD.
And then, there is still all the complexity of the EU, all the institutions and the way, decisions are made, the power struggle between member states, the commissioners, all of which turns people off. There isn’t a strong administration, that you could vote for and would have real power. It is all diffuse.
We are, as Europeans, weak. There is no denying it. Even the largest members of the EU, like Germany or France, don’t really stand a chance against the US, Russia, or China. Not alone. They don’t have the population, the economic power, or the military. What can then Portugal or Greece do? Not much. Only together, inside a strong Union, can Europeans stand a chance, and yet, we can all see, we are standing still. We don’t have a real common foreign policy, we don’t have an army, and NATO, that is clear, is just a US tool. We have a common currency, that is not shared by everyone, as the eurozone is smaller than the EU. It is a great success, that borders are open, but even that is more and more under threat, as migrations from outside are radicalizing more and more people. Speaking of the migration crisis, we don’t even have a common policy on this issue. There is a deep divide.
To make things worse, Brexit is, even among all the confusion, that seems programmed to push the British to a second referendum, still on the table. Without the UK, the EU will be weaker, even if those, who see the British as a US trojan horse, rejoice and think that without them real reforms will become possible.
If we, Europeans, are to stand a chance to maintain our independence in the future, even now deeply eroded by US interests, we need reforms. The United States of Europe might be a step too far, but some compromise between a strong, central power, capable of fending off attacks from other great powers, and independence of nation-states, is not. We can have a European army and still maintain national armed forces, if the EU army is strong enough, to act as fast as possible, to respond to a foreign intrusion, yet not strong enough, to act as a force against the independence of member states.
We live in a world, where economic warfare has become more important than military interventions. It is a world Donald Trump has made, with his trade wars, sanctions, and pressure even on US allies. We can’t be certain anymore, that US social media giants won’t be used against us, or that our products won’t be banned in the US. Or in China. Or in India. We can see that clearly in the case of Chinese Huawei. It must be therefore our priority, to prepare for such possibilities, even if that means investing in our own social media or mobile phone makers. Yes, this might all seem a bit irrational, even crazy, but the danger is there.
To maintain our independence, to have any say in the matters of the world, we must do a lot, to increase our strength and we can do that only, if we cooperate more, if we have some authority, that is democratically elected and strong enough, to transcend the governments of member states at least in some important areas.
The truth is, I’m pessimistic European Union will get its share of necessary reforms. It will most likely all stay the same. A weak common home, torn apart by stronger member states and at the mercy of outside interference. We will be forced to buy American weapons or let in Chinese investment, and unable to counter Turkish interests in the Balkans and so on. At the same time, we will face internal division over a whole bucket of contentious issues, starting with immigration. If eurosceptic alternatives get even more power, they could send the EU to its grave, creating a different world, in which old animosities could arise again.
Yes, we are all just a bunch of small, weak fish. It seems it will stay that way.