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The EU’s anti-Brussels dominos keep falling: AfD in Germany, Freedom Party in Austria, Babiš in the Czech Republic

Czech election result points to deep malaise in Europe but unlikely to trigger crisis or cause change in EU policies

The leader of ANO party Andrej Babis speaks during a news conference at the party's election headquarters after the country’s parliamentary elections in Prague, Czech Republic October 21, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny

On 25th June 2016, shortly after Britain’s Brexit referendum, I wrote an article for The Duran in which I pointed out that the British vote for Brexit was a symptom of growing disaffection across Europe with an EU project which has evolved into something very different from the community of European nation states which it had initially been.

The problem is less that the EU is evolving into some sort of pan-European superstate – in my opinion the EU is far too dysfunctional for that ever to happen – but that since the end of the Cold War the EU has become alongside NATO a vehicle of US control of Europe, and has therefore come increasingly to serve US geopolitical interests rather than the interests of the people of Europe

John Laughland in a recent RT Crosstalk called the EU more accurately a cartel of governments who conspire behind the scenes with each other to pass legislation without the need to consult with their democratically elected parliaments.  Whilst that is closer to the truth, it is not the whole truth.  Rather the EU, at least as it has become over the last decade, is best understood as a cabal of three governments, primarily those of the US and Germany, with France treated by the Germans (though not by the US) as a sort of junior partner, which make the decisions in secret that are binding on all the rest.

I appreciate that this description of the EU will meet with strong objections in some quarters, especially as by far the most powerful of these governments is that of the US which is not a member of the EU.  However what I say is well known by all the relevant insiders.  Indeed the facts speak for themselves and are hardly even concealed.  On key issues EU policy is nowadays decided in private bilateral discussions between the US and the Germans, often involving the US President and the German Chancellor, with the Germans then telling the other Europeans what they should do…..

In the same article I pointed out that this repeatedly results in policies being followed which whilst they serve US geopolitical interests European electorates have never agreed to and in many cases do not want.

I gave two examples, the issue of internal migration within the EU and the Eurozone crisis, where US geopolitical interests have both created the crises and prevented solutions to them

Take the issue that more than any other crystallised anti-EU sentiment in Britain during the Brexit referendum: the EU’s policy of unrestricted internal migration, which has resulted in large numbers of East European migrant workers coming to Britain. 

Freedom of movement within the EU has always been a core principle of the EU.  It was never an issue within the EU until the EU was expanded to include the much poorer countries of Eastern Europe.  That expansion – as everyone knows – was driven not by European needs but first and foremost by US geopolitical strategies, being intended to anchor Eastern Europe in the US-led Western alliance system.

To that end the East European states were admitted into the EU long before their economic situations justified doing so.  In order to seal the deal their elites were won over by promises of a seat at the EU top table.  Huge sums were paid over to them principally by Germany through the so-called EU structural funds (originally conceived to foster development in the EU’s poorer regions but increasingly used in Eastern and Southern Europe as a form of legalised bribery to bind local elites).  Lastly, their young people were won over with the promise of visa free access to the rest of Europe – thus creating the migrant situation that has been the cause of so much anger in Britain. 

The implications were never thought through or discussed within Europe because EU expansion ultimately followed a US geopolitical agenda rather than a European one.  The result is that despite increasing alarm across Europe at the consequences of the policy the EU bureaucracy continues to pursue the same policy towards other states the US wants to bring into the system like Turkey and Ukraine.

Or take another issue: the Eurozone crisis.  The idea of European monetary union was originally conceived in the 1970s and was already firmly on the agenda by the late 1980s.  Margaret Thatcher fell from power because she opposed it.  The idea it was conceived following the fall of the Berlin Wall is wrong.

What has made the Eurozone crisis so intractable is its well-known structural problems – the fact a single currency was created to cover very different economies without a single treasury or tax system behind it – but also the contradiction between the US geopolitical ambitions that increasingly drive the EU and European needs if the Eurozone is to be managed properly. 

Economic conditions in southern Europe – in Greece especially – point clearly to the need for at least some of these countries to exit the Eurozone, a fact that is well-understood within the German government.  Yet that option is ruled out not just because of opposition within Europe itself but because again it goes against the geopolitical interest of the US, which is to keep these countries locked within the euro system, which in turn binds them to the Western alliance and therefore ultimately to the US itself.  Thus at the height of the Grexit crisis last year German Chancellor Merkel abruptly reversed a previously agreed German position to support Grexit following a call from President Obama of the US who told her not to.  The result is that instead of the Greek crisis being resolved once and for all in Europe’s and Greece’s interests – as German Finance Minister Schauble said it should be – it has instead been left to fester indefinitely.

To these two example I would add a third, the refugee crisis which hit Europe in the autumn of 2015, and which is the direct catalyst for the recent votes for anti-Brussels anti-immigration parties in the recent elections in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.

Though the decision – taken practically without consultation – to let in hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East is generally blamed on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in reality there is little doubt that she acted in the way she did because she knew that the US would be happy with the way she was acting in that way.

The refugee exodus was after all the direct product of the US’s regime change wars in the Middle East and in Syria especially.  By acting to admit the refugees Merkel was acting to relieve a humanitarian crisis that US policies had created, saving the US embarrassment and the problems this crisis was causing for the US with its Middle East allies, especially Jordan and Turkey.

Merkel for her part was at the time especially anxious to please the US in order to repair the damage done to her reputation by her brutal handling of the Greek crisis earlier that year.  She therefore did something which she knew the US would approve of without thinking the consequences through.

This is what inevitably happens when political leaders become less concerned with pleasing their own electorates than with pleasing the distant overlord across the ocean.

It is this attitude more than any other which has led to the collapse of political authority and credibility across Europe.  I spoke about it in my article of 25th June 2016

In such a situation, where a political leader’s chances of survival and ability to get things done depends so much on staying on the right side of the EU’s leadership – and ultimately of the US – rather than their own country’s voters, it is unsurprising that the quality of Europe’s political leadership has declined to so great a degree.  In place of people like De Gaulle, Adenauer, Brandt and Thatcher, European political leaders today increasingly come over as colourless technicians distant from their own voters because the system allows for nothing else.

In light of this it is completely unsurprisingly that political parties that have become simply cheerleaders for the EU project – which is to say for the crypto-imperialist US project which is what the EU has become – have lost credibility and support across Europe, and are now in what increasingly looks like terminal decline.

This has happened in France to the Socialists, in Britain to the Liberal Democrats, in Germany to the SPD, in Austria to the Social Democrats, and it has now happened most catastrophically of all in the Czech Republic with the collapse of the two establishment parties – the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats – following yesterday’s elections there. .

Even Merkel’s once mighty CDU is not immune, obtaining in the recent parliamentary elections a vote share of just 33%, its lowest since 1949, whilst France’s Emmanuel Macron – elected just a few months ago in a grossly manipulated election on a platform of “more Europe” – is seeing his popularity collapse.

In saying this I should make it clear that I strongly doubt that the elections in Austria and the Czech Republic will change anything at the broader European level.

By way of example, both the Austrian Freedom Party and Babiš are (inevitably) being referred to in the establishment media as “pro-Russian”.

In the case of the Austrian Freedom Party this contains a grain of truth.  As I witnessed for myself during a trip to Vienna in 2015, there is little hostility to Russia in Austria.  No doubt pathological Russophobes are to be found there as elsewhere, but by comparison with the US or Britain or even Germany the Austrian political spectrum seems remarkably free of them.

Possibly that is because Austria’s economy is too heavily involved in trade with Russia for Russophobia to be a sustainable or popular position.  By way of example, I noticed whilst I was there that one of Vienna’s most splendid private buildings has now become the European headquarters of the Russian oil giant Lukoil, whilst in Russia Austria’s Raiffeisen bank has a big and very visible presence.

No doubt the Austrian Freedom Party is more Russophile than some of Austria’s other parties (it has had contacts for example with Putin’s United Russia Party), but my impression is that it is only a matter of degree.

As for the Czech Republic, this western Slav country has traditionally been very close and friendly with Russia, though relations no doubt took a turn for the worse – at least at the popular level – following the Soviet invasion of 1968.  Most Czechs however seem to have put those events behind them.

Though the winner of the election – the businessman Andrej Babiš, who is a former member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and is the son of a prominent Czech Communist official – is inevitably being accused of being a former Soviet agent and a Russian “agent of influence”, any friendly sentiments he may have Russia are unlikely to be far out of line with those of most Czechs, including those of Miloš Zeman, the Czech Republic’s strongly Russophile President, or Václav Klaus, Zeman’s equally Russophile predecessor.

However as a wealthy businessman Babiš hardly seems cut out to act as a serious challenger to the EU establishment.  Besides the reality is that both Austria and the Czech Republic are small countries, which have essentially become economic satellites of Germany.  Their ability to influence broader EU policy – for example on the subject of the sanctions the EU has imposed on Russia – is strictly limited.

The one thing Austria’s and the Czech Republic’s new governments may have it in their power to do is to strengthen German opposition to Emmanuel Macron’s “more Europe” reform proposals.  However realistically, following the German elections, those proposals were dead in the water anyway.

I doubt therefore that the recent elections in Austria and the Czech Republic, or indeed those in Germany (where the AfD made a significant advance, but is nowhere close to a breakthrough) threaten a crisis in the EU system.  Perhaps a victory in Italy in the coming parliamentary elections of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement may do so.  However in last June’s regional elections it actually lost support.

In some ways this is the worst outcome of all.  A genuine crisis in the EU system might force upon the EU the changes it needs, not just to ensure its own survival, but much more importantly the future well-being of the people of Europe.

Instead what we are likely to get is paralysis, with the EU continuing much as it is now, going neither forward nor backward, as the situation in Europe goes gradually from bad to worse.

Here is what I said about this in my article of 25th June 2016.  Nothing which has happened since has caused me to revise this view, which remains the same today

The EU leaders still have the time and political space to turn things round.  Doing so however will require a degree of courage, intelligence and political imagination that in recent years has been in disastrously short supply.  Above all what is needed is a renegotiation of Europe’s relationship with the US, changing it from a relationship of subservience into one of genuine equality and partnership. 

The alternative is probably not the imminent disintegration of the EU.  The economic and political bonds that hold it together make that unlikely.  Rather it is one of an EU wracked by disagreement and crisis, with its population increasingly sullen and disaffected, and with its economy going nowhere.

In some respects that would be an even worse outcome – and betrayal of the people of Europe – than the EU’s disintegration, which would at least offer the possibility of a fresh start.  As a European I devoutly hope it will not come to that.  As a realist I have no conviction that it won’t.

Nothing which has happened in the year since I wrote those words has caused me to revise this view, which remains the same today

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