Talking Europe to Europeans

In the race for news, our national media often lose the perspective of the slowly changing realities. Sometimes they do not grab it even in 10 years. In Brussels media still write about EU Presidencies. As if they existed. They don’t, since 1 Dec 2009. Please someone deliver the news to Euractiv, Politico and EU Observer, for God’s sake!

Slowly changing realities… Brexit is one. Today no one truly knows when it all started. Was it Murdoch? Was it Thatcher? Was it only Farage and Johnson? Today the British don’t even know why they don’t like EU. For one, EU is not “them”, EU is external.

Farage speculated who next will leave the EU. Poland is his prediction.

This feeling of “externalism” is dangerous. Smaller nations know they are small. They know that European nations need to be together, juntos, zusammen, razem, ensemble, to survive in the wider world. “It is difficult not to leave Belgium when driving”, I was told not once. People commute into and from Luxembourg from all directions. Denmark, Austria, Netherlands and Czechia don’t even try to match Germany, hence Nordic, Benelux and the Slavkov (CZ+SK+AT) group. The Irish have UK to remind them of their size. Portugal has Brazil and Spain. Baltics have Russia. Greece has been brutally reminded how small it is. Slovenia is glued to its neighbours and Croatia, Bulgaria also know their size. Romania is still modest. Orban’s Hungary is the only smaller nation that behaves like an empire.

It is the bigger nations who are the problem. They believe in their grandiose, exceptionalism and uniqueness. UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. And Poland. EU of today was possible because of the timing of its inception. Unsovereign Germany was offered equality by a mighty-yet-weakened France, while France was never in a position to offer sovereignty to the German neighbour. Hence the Franco-German origins of the ownership of the European project. Those two are rather save, even Ms Le Pen is coming to terms with EU’s existence. Spain is a model how to do things: all political forces are differently pro-European and identify Spanish national interests within the European one. The spirit of Ortega y Gasset is strong in Spain (minus VOX, that is). Italy on the other hand is aching. It is like a grand-dad: unfit and unwilling to change, but still keeping the memory of being the owner of the project. It causes frustrations on both sides: the Salvini supporters and pro-Europeans. The spirit of Spinelli must be aching.

Poland with its exit is where UK was in the 1980s. Nowhere close. Even the protagonists are not asking for Polexit. Andrzej Duda says he is against Polexit and wants to preserve the benefits of Poles in the EU, such as free movement, open markets, etc.

To Mr Duda: Sir, you and your party (PiS) are doing Polexit. You do not have to apply to leave. You may be left behind. You have been doing Polexit for years now. You eliminate Europe from Poland, from Poles’ heads, from the school curricula, from the Polish discourse. You eliminate Poland from Europe: nobody wants to talk to you. If “they” talk it is not because they want to. “They” have to talk to you (imagine Macron), but they do not include you in planning their parties. You are the odd kid out. “Poland” outside of its borders is not a synonym of pride. It is a laugh.

Poland is outside of Europe for people in Europe do not think Poland is in Europe. Any more. Mentally Poland is far, far away. Talking Poland is Europe today is difficult and heavy. Poland is a disappointment, but few will admit it publicly.

Britain gave Europe Roy Jenkins, President of the European Commission. Poland gave Europe Donald Tusk, President of the European Council.

No, I do not believe in historical determinism. Polexit does not have to happen, but the process has been ignited. Why? Because very few people in Poland take Europe as a space they are co-responsible for, alongside their fellow Europeans. That’s in short the conclusion I have from my 50+ meetings with Polish/EU citizens around the country. I continue to talk to people, to pass on the message, but I am – we are, as there are others, too – swimming against the current. Will we win?

Blue dots – been there talking EU. Blue pointer – I am scheduled to return here.
Brown pointer – I am invited to come in the upcoming weeks.

And Europe, what say you? You seem to be such an unfit organisation for 21 century. Is the Parliament a true Parliament if its best-paid employee is not the Parliament’s President, but the top civil servant? What kind of fitness do you have, dear European Commission, if most of your employees are working for you for the perks and monthly benefits, not for the cause? Once, 40 years ago or so, you were the think tank of Europe, planning ahead for the future. What are you today? A mere secretary of member states? Not only the national capitals are ruling the cabinets, but the Commissioners have failed too many times. It used to be a joke to say you represent your country on the College. Commissioners talked of “countries they know best”. Now they are representatives of national governments. Commissioner Jourova was blunt about this in her December message:

The same great Commissioner is standing up to the chauvinist Warsaw government. But well, if we chose Commissioners the same way we appoint members of the European Council – the most powerful person IN THE NATIONAL CAPITAL has the final say – it is done. Gone. We are doomed. The Commission is no longer a European body seeking a European interest. Such a Commission is a secretariat of the European Council. Politicisation gone wrong.

Not only Ms Jourouva uses such a language. The Commission services say so, too! Here is what the website of the EC in Polish says about Mr Wojciechowski: “Poland will be represented in the European Commission by Mr Janusz Wojciechowski“. Ouch.

What Europe needs today is Europeans. Europeans who will stand for it. “It” is our Continent, its fate manageable by us only if we do it together. Razem. Zusammen. Juntos. Ensemble. Insieme. Spolu.

It is national politicians and national capitals who are defending their disintegrating turfs. As if they had any national sovereignty left against the American, the Chinese or the Russian interest. Yes, the conservatives in Poland are right about European security: without the British, with the paralysed Germans, only the French have some serious capabilities. But France alone is not able to replace US in the task of defending places like Estonia or Bulgaria. Yes, they are right. Yes, their realistic geopolitical assessment is right. We need Europe and we need to keep the Transatlantic. Both. Not one or the other. At least as long as the Europeans are not able to defend themselves with a European capable army, should it ever materialize.

How small the big states are? One example: the Europeans (Germans, French, Poles) individually are unable to dictate anything to the world any more. Recently Benin demanded art to be returned from France, successfully. Greece is unable to claim goods stolen from the Acropolis back from London. Poland wants its historical artefacts returned from the Vaasa Museum. Greece is weaker than Benin. France is weaker than Benin. Welcome to XXI century.

As long as the French are accused of wanting a French Europe (remember it is French military in Africa, Macron talks Europe but he also promotes the return of France to world politics with its newly discovered soft power) and the Germans are suspected of building a German Europe, the Poles of PiS will not be willing to believe that this EU is truly as Polish as it is German, or Dutch or Belgian, too.

On a positive note, I completely disagree with the PiS-led (also, VOX-led, Salvini-led, Le Pen-led, Swedish Democrats-led, ODS-led, Orban-led, etc.) understanding of sovereignty. EU membership multiplies what is left of our national sovereignties and produces a new type of sovereignty: a European one.

Think Irish national interests in the Brexit debacle. EU is the Irish shield defending it much more effectively it would be able to defend itself alone. Think Cyprus and Turkey. Greece could never do it alone, what the EU can do to protect the island from its great neighbour.

The only way forward is together. If you truly read this and want to help, please contact me.

This blog is written with no support from anyone, but the author.

It is time to Europeanise Europe. Europe is, after all, us, the Europeans.

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