An open letter to Europe
It’s about time you explained yourselves - yes, I’m talking exclusively to European politicians. You are visibly concerned with 'business' that isn’t in our jurisdiction, I could be talking Syria, I could be talking Russia and I could be talking about our overarching efforts to keep the USA happy. All important, don’t get me wrong, but what about the crisis within our own union. On our doorstep, many of the leading countries in Europe have spiraled into, to put it mildly, chaos.
Consider the Catalonia question - An attempt at independence by some of the population was explored, perhaps not through the correct (legal) channels but now most of their government figures are imprisoned and many leading figures in the EU have turned their heads. Surely discussion is a better attempt at finding a solution than a locked cell?
Hungary has witnessed its 2nd straight weekend of protests since the reelection of Viktor Orban. The elections in Italy held our attention for a couple of weeks and suddenly it has all gone radio silent and do we dare mention the ongoing saga of Brexit. We could name countless other European countries where corruption is widespread and people are experiencing discontent with their governments but we don't have all day.
The EU has been sleepwalking into trouble for a long time, the rise of the enigmatic leader didn’t do much to halt the growth of populism across the continent. Macron, one such charismatic politician last week went to EU headquarters and after he finished walking the red carpet, he held talks and spoke about the 'political civil war' ongoing in Europe. He hopes to quell this bad feeling by exploring solution with Angela Merkel, but this naive approach only further shows that our heads of state have lost touch with the communities which reside from Portugal to Slovakia.
Newsflash, this isn’t a problem that Germany and France can now fix themselves. Europe is a melting pot of many different ideologies and thinking that we can all fall into line with what works for the big players mirrors the idea of a superstate. That being said, is it unrealistic to think that we can become a cooperative union once again if we can’t settle issues within each individual country?
If the powers that be actually care, how do we tackle these growing issues in a logical matter?
It isn't it wholly ironic that we can organize thousands of people to attend marches which are fuelled by anger but not organize party structure efficiently. How about we use this anger and channel it into activating our grassroots networks. It isn't a secret that membership in political parties in mainland Europe has steadily declined over the last number of years. It’s not a simple case of making ‘politics cool again’, it’s just important to educate ourselves. Let us educate the masses on the importance of participation and creating greater conversations in our communities.
Euroscepticism has grown out of the banking crisis from a few years previous and also the fear of exclusion. Let’s not kid ourselves, national identity is important to many countries, Europe has a long history of war and naturally, pride is engrained in many of us. The thoughts of losing ourselves within a European system that doesn’t care about anyone except the France's and the Germany’s has been brewing for some time.
But it’s not even that clear-cut, unfortunately. Take Hungary for example. Opposition parties from across the political spectrum participated in this week's rally. Organizers said there were over 100,000 people in attendance, comparable to the turnout for the largest pro-Orban event held before Hungary's April 8 election.
Orban won a fourth term and his Fidesz party secured a supermajority in parliament, where its lawmakers now can pass constitutional amendments. They have promised to quickly approve the "Stop Soros" bill meant to greatly limit the work of non-governmental groups aiding refugees and asylum seekers. If this doesn’t show a huge separation between the people and the government, I’m not sure what does.
Shaping A Better Conversation
The UK has “brexited”, it was a shock. It continues to be a transitioning period for one of Europe’s leading countries but now more than ever the European Union needs unity to assert its values and interests. Especially given we are living in an age when US global leadership is on the verge of collapse, China continues to grow, and Russia wavers yet again between cooperation and confrontation with the EU. The old saying goes, together we stand, divided we fall and in a geopolitical sense, this reigns supreme.
Economically it is easy to see why many countries feel aggrieved towards the EU. The eurozone has only seen some countries regain substantial fiscal status in the last few years, countries like Italy and Greece are still bearing open wounds, thus with the EU’s economic policy limited to austerity, it’s not hard to see why populism has taken root.
Saying that Western Europe’s elections last year were widely seen as dealing a blow to populism. But they also brought victory to new parties focused on identity. In the Netherlands Thierry Baudet, the leader of the FVD, which won two seats in parliament, has warned that immigration may mean the “homeopathic watering-down” of Dutch culture. It is this constant barrage of negative speak that have spurred an unpalatable hate for immigrants and this culture is something which holds strong resonance with Europeans given our past dalliances with extremist views like the growth of Nazism & fascism. Legacy issues are still boiling below the surface with European countries and therefore we need to switch up the conversations. We need to focus on the future instead of worrying about repeating the past. Being a union constantly on guard has not allowed us to reach our full potential on a global scale.
Can We Make It Work?
Cliff notes version, the European Union was set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbors, which culminated in the Second World War. As of 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community begins to unite European countries economically and politically in order to secure lasting peace. Sounds smart but we find ourselves at a bit of a crossroads now. Checking the latest political commentator to see their opinion everytime a country has a national election for fear of another power move occurring. Can we even survive another exit?
We don't have a solution yet to ease the tensions happening in some regions but one thing is for certain, we need to return to local politics. Try and grow a culture of positive politics from the ground up.
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