What awaits ahead for the EU? Signs of a deepening crisis on the horizon

By Fabio Massimo Parenti and Federico Pieraccini Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/24 9:53:39

From Brexit to the "gilet jaunes movement," from Brussel's rigidity and double standards on budget regulations to French President Emmanuel Macron's retreat on unpopular reforms, from the demise of traditional parties to schizophrenic attitudes towards China, the European Union is in an existential crisis.

The traditional alignment with the US is still in place, but with new frictions and conflicts - on trade, climate, Iran etc. Essentially, Europe is suffering from its absence as a geopolitical actor. We would say its lack of regional integration can dramatically reverse at the institutional level.

Many signs support the above considerations. Starting with the recent protests in France, we can confirm, according to accredited research surveys by CNRS and INRA, that the "gilet jaunes" movement involves multiple social classes, as reiterated clearly by French philosopher Edgar Morin.

Moreover, these protests moved from rural, peripheral areas, to urban, central areas. They are participated in by right, left, and central forces, and by a good portion of non-political people. They are a symptom of economic dysfunction in one of the leading countries of the EU, reflecting also a general trend of European impoverishment, and core-periphery inequalities.

President Macron's reforms are similar, if not the same, as the previous Italian government's reforms suggested by the neoliberal financial elite promoted by the EU: fewer labor protections, more liberalization and privatization of the welfare system. There is in France, like in the rest of Europe, a detachment between the ruling class and the people. The ruling class, both political and economic, is interest-profit driven regardless of the people's major needs and common interest. Europe has lost a sense of res publica in the political realm.

In the UK, the May government's crisis, number of cabinet resignations, and confusing approach to Brexit negotiations (EU-UK deal in standby for conflicting views), is another sign of democratic fractures that we have seen in Europe during the last 20 years. Without serious institutional reforms, the European institution is going to collapse.

Our understanding is that at the foundation of this crisis there is the demise of liberal democracies as a historical cycle. Let us be clearer. The electoral role, the procedures, guaranteeing the right of people to vote, is losing efficiency in the production of democratic outcomes. Why? There is not, anymore, a selection process by political forces able to guarantee competent and ethically valuable politicians. There are no strict rules to limit financial interference of the political forces. This is a point each country in the EU should consider seriously. Otherwise, we keep having weak presidents and prime ministers, and weaker, litigious and ineffective parliaments.

The political credibility crisis affecting leaders of European democracies goes hand in hand with the diminishing role of the United States in the current world configuration.

The transition from a unipolar world order centered in Washington to a multipolar world order, with numerous nations willing to reclaim a primary role on the global chessboard, has disrupted the precarious equilibrium in place since the beginning of the 1990s. Continuous and perpetual attempts to preserve the US-led unipolar order have reduced many Western capitals to mere vassals, perpetrating Washington's interest instead of their own.

The illegal arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada is a perfect example showing how easy it is to damage relations between nations with important economic potential in the name of obedience to the US that does not bring any particular advantage for Ottawa. The progressive renunciation of national interests, in the name of a declining world order, represents the pinnacle of failed European policies. Sanctions by EU countries against Iran represent a new record for incompetence and self-harm.

The attitude of many European leaders is seen by the common people as a betrayal of national interests, in the name of a world order that has been consumed and drained of its values and traditions. The concrete danger we see in the coming months is a deliberate provocation aimed at the Russian Federation. European leaders like Angela Merkel, Theresa May and Macron could succumb to the temptation to divert negative attention against them in favor of a limited war scenario in Ukraine or Syria against Russia or Iran.

Parenti is associate professor of Geography/International studies (ASN), teaching at the International Institute Lorenzo de' Medici, Florence. He is also member of CCERRI think tank, Zhengzhou, and member of EURISPES, Laboratorio BRICS, Rome. His latest book is Geofinance and Geopolitics, Egea. On twitter @fabiomassimos. Pieraccini is specialized in international affairs, conflicts, politics and strategies. He writes exclusively for the Moscow-based Strategic Culture Foundation. On twitter @PieracciniFede

Newspaper headline: Amid crisis, EU grapples with its future


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