Viewed from below, the European Union is a cosy club of gargantuan financial institutions covered with a veneer of a continental super-state in the making. Its opaque democratic institutions have led to a deepening sense of disempowerment among ordinary working people from the Atlantic to the Aegean, who have keenly felt the effects of the wealth transfer from the bottom to the top; creating a largely unknown and untouchable political élite. Global economic downturn and depression, and the significant upscaling of war in the Middle East have exposed many of the cracks in the EU’s façade. Recent events have shown this giant to have feet of clay.
A stronger, smaller European Union now under discussion. Who would have thought? TDR going live at the top of the hour.—
Stephen Flurry (@StephenFlurry) November 19, 2015
Brussels’ vicious assault on Greece through the summer has cemented the deep suspicion among many Europeans that lurking behind the veils of power is a much darker Capitalist beast which has little concern for the needs of its citizens or their democracies. Events in Portugal; the effective suspension of democracy in the interests of a pro Europe right-wing minority faction, have removed all doubt as to the real motives of the European project. Since early October the larger member states – Germany, France, Britain, and Italy – have reneged on a number of commitments and key treaty obligations, and the United Kingdom is now gearing up for a referendum of an exit from the Union.
Europe playing the resource-grabbing superpower in the Middle East along with Russia and the United States has resulted in the collapse of Syrian civil society and a humanitarian crisis which has landed en masse along the Mediterranean coast and over the Balkans. Europe’s appalling failure to protect these refugees has only confirmed its fragility; with an increasing number of member states demonstrating their inability to cope. In response to this weakness the more powerful states have simply closed their borders – further tearing the bonds of trust which have held the Union together.
It remains to be seen whether the ISIS terror attack on Paris (13 November) was the last straw for the EU, but the political fallout – with the closure of borders and other members signalling their thoughts of an exit – have set bleak clouds on the horizon. Looking at the European Union today it is clear to see that it is no longer the illusion of hope and promise that it was in the 90s, in its heyday of optimism and expansion, but has become the perfect image of a crumbling old empire – ripe for implosion at the next crisis. The old bird may not see out the decade.