The Calviño Defeat Reveals What Europe Is

The editorial of El Pais entitled “Calviño’s defeat in the Eurogroup is also that of a more integrated Union” made me think. Here is why.

How can a leading European paper associate “Europe” with one’s own party and one’s own country? This is not the first time and probably not the last. Anyway, this is also happening in Poland. Slogans “Vote for Europe” or “Vote for European values” usually are designed to have a specific, one-party meaning: “We are Europe”, the other side – not so much. This argument is often used by left-wing politicians who seem to think they have a monopoly on what “Europeanness” is.

Does being “European” really mean to be progressive? After all, various regressive, backward-oriented and nationalist trends are also part of our complex European identity! We, Europeans, invented nationalism and nation states and conflict between nation states. We, Europeans invented colonialism, sexism and homophobia, have we not?

Such strong strange identification of “Europeanness” only with “my own political image” is extremely dangerous. In Poland it is a regular: the people of Law and Justice (PiS) very often argue they want Europe to return to its European roots, which are, of course, Christian.

At the same time, many left-wing parties across the EU, as here in this El Pais article, argue as follows: “Calviño’s defeat is also the failure of a more integrated Union.” Why? Because the Irishman, Donohoe, is a conservative! Because he embodies Irish national interests: “because Donohoe comes from a country that …”. Should we judge the person only on where they come from?

In a democracy, take failure with dignity, and don’t complain about the dictates of the small: “A system that gives priority to the small [los pequeños], to the extent that with a weight of 20% of GDP and without likes of France or Germany – two great foundations of the single currency – the pequeños manage to impose themselves, it shows the difficulties in managing the Union at a critical moment in its history”, say the authors of the editorial.

So Ms Calviño was a better candidate because she represents the specific southern European, social democratic approach and has the support of the big countries? And this is supposed to be a European democracy? And this is a true failure of “a more united Europe”?

Or just, it is a disappointed partisan and nationalistic view?

To make it even more relevant: why bother in the first place? The head of the Eurogroup is just a primus inter pares, he or she does not impose anything on other finance ministers, but at best coordinates their activities.

And one more absurdity: the argument against Donahue is his citizenship. But in general, the authors do not use this argument against Calviño when seeking inter-institutional balance. After all, another Spaniard is located very high-up in the EU structures: Josep Borrell is the High Representative for EU Foreign Policy and the Vice-President of the European Commission.

Do we use arguments as they fit our cause? Are we appropriating the community for our own political purposes? I can fight editorials as the one in El Pais, but I will not make them stop. However, perversely, the Madrid daily does precisely what I do: it presents Europe as a political, not a diplomatic space. It appropriates Europe in the process, which is a price. A political space Europe is is a place where business is done, not endlessly negotiated. Where negotiations are part of the political game. Where politicians reach political objectives against the diplomatic odds. Where what is possible is possible for those who dare.

This is a major mistake so many Poles have been losing so often over last 16 years: their focus has been predominantly on the diplomatic Union, not the political one. When Buzek became EP president it was a diplomatic victory. When Tusk became EUCO president it was a diplomatic victory. Even so, take the Tusk nomination as the head of the European Council in 2014: after all, someone came up with the idea, convinced the candidate and the others. Intergovernmental diplomacy works sometimes, and it did in 2014. But in a true public space, diplomacy is not enough, politics is needed to win what’s yours to take.

Only “my” interest is not always a “national” one. Interests are there of all sorts, of various shapes. But there are fewer true national interests than people claim in their national political spaces. In a European public space only a few of them prevail.

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