Europe ‘coming apart before our eyes’

No news worth reporting this morning, but found this article thought provoking.

The rise of populism is becoming  a direct threat to the EU say 30 top intellectuals, in an open letter published at the end of last month, reported here from the Guardian. Liberal values in Europe face a challenge “not seen since the 1930s”, leading intellectuals from 21 countries have said, as the UK lurches towards Brexit and nationalists look set to make sweeping gains in EU parliamentary elections.
The group of 30 writers, historians and Nobel laureates declared in a manifesto published in several newspapers, that Europe as an idea was “coming apart before our eyes”.
“We must now will Europe or perish beneath the waves of populism,” their letter reads. “We must rediscover political voluntarism or accept that resentment, hatred and their cortege of sad passions will surround and submerge us”.

They write of their regret that Europe has been “abandoned from across the Channel” – an oblique reference to the drawn-out Brexit process that has arguably brought Anglo-European relations to their lowest point since the second world war. And they say that unless efforts are made to combat a rising tide of populism, the EU elections will be “the most calamitous that we have ever known: victory for the wreckers” “Abandoned from across the Channel and from across the Atlantic by the two great allies who in the previous century saved it twice from suicide; vulnerable to the increasingly overt manipulations of the master of the Kremlin, Europe as an idea, as will and representation, is coming apart before our eyes,” the text reads.

Second referendum could go a long way towards rescuing the EU

The 800-word document was drafted by the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. Signatories included the novelists Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie, as well as the historian Simon Schama. Rushdie told the Guardian: “Europe is in greater danger now than at any time in the last 70 years, and if one believes in that idea it’s time to stand up and be counted. In the UK, I hope parliament may yet have the courage to call for a second referendum. That could rescue the country from the calamity of Brexit and go a long way towards rescuing the EU as well”. McEwan said he had signed the manifesto because he was “very pessimistic” about the current moment, “but try to be hopeful that the zeitgeist will turn”.
Another signatory, Nobel prize laureate Orhan Pamuk said the idea of Europe was also important to non-western countries. “Without the idea of Europe, freedom, women’s rights, democracy, egalitarianism is hard to defend in my part of the world. “The historical success of Europe made it easier to defend these ideas and values which are crucial to humanity all over the world,” he said. “There is no Europe besides these values except the Europe of tourism and business. Europe is not a geography first but these ideas. This idea of Europe is under attack.”

In the EU elections in May – the first that will not include Britain – most observers predict a rise in support for populist, nationalist or anti-immigration parties. Many of them have made significant gains in national elections, as the centre-right and centre-left that have traditionally dominated Europe’s postwar politics retreat. Matteo Salvini of Italy’s far-right League has described the vote as a straight choice between “the Europe of the elites, banks, finance, immigration and precarious work” and that of “the people and of labour”, pledging to form a Eurosceptic “Italian-Polish axis”.

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has said the elections are a chance to bid farewell “to liberal democracy”. Unlike Eurosceptics in the UK, most European counterparts do not want to leave the EU but to take it over.
Leading the charge against the resurgent right-wing populists are the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. While both have been weakened by domestic problems, this week they renewed their countries’ vows of postwar friendship and warned the lessons of their bloody past were being forgotten. EU officials in Brussels believe it is possible there will be a decisive advance for the populists and gains for pro-European parties, or at least a confusing mix of the two, leaving the populists significantly stronger, but still facing a strong, if disunited, majority of pro-European MEPs.

The net result is likely to be a far more complex parliamentary makeup, delicate coalition-building, and a European parliament increasingly unable to pass legislation to deal with major challenges, such as immigration and euro zone reform.
While they did not make any practical calls to action, the manifesto’s signatories said they “refuse to resign themselves to this looming catastrophe”. They counted themselves among the “too quiet” European patriots who understand that “three-quarters of a century after the defeat of fascism and 30 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, a new battle for civilisation is under way”.

Despite its “mistakes, lapses, and occasional acts of cowardice”, Europe remains “the second home of every free man and woman on the planet”, they say, noting with regret the widely held but mistaken belief of their generation that “the continent would come together on its own, without our labour”.Pro-Europeans “no longer have a choice”, they say. “We must sound the alarm against the arsonists of soul and spirit that, from Paris to Rome, with stops in Barcelona, Budapest, Dresden, Vienna, or Warsaw, are playing with the fire of our freedoms.”

24 thoughts on “Europe ‘coming apart before our eyes’”

  1. “We must rediscover political voluntarism or accept that resentment, hatred and their cortege of sad passions will surround and submerge us”. Can anyone tell me what this means? Cannot see that the average citizen will be bothered by this article that has been written for fellow ‘intellectuals’ and it is unlikely to appear in ‘The Sun’ newspaper!!

  2. Too many parts of the EU were undemocratic, unable to reform and audit spending
    Salaries and benefits and orndions for eurocrats are far too generous.

    One could only assume that the objects of purpose for the EU was for its piad officers and staff
    The costs of moving between Strasbourg and Brussels is immense
    A referendum on this could be wise.
    Unity in Europe is wirthwhile but only in a truly democratic form
    It currently resembles Germany’s wshes of a European Empire achieved this time by commerce and not wars
    In its present undemocratic format the EU will implode.

  3. Too many politicians in very good jobs and cant be bothered to get out their office and talk to the people in the streets. Part of the blame. The people need to ask for change as well. More countries speak as one will bring changes. No tax payer like waste no matter what country you from

  4. Europe as an idea was a con set up to blind us into sleepwalking into a dictatorship just like the Soviet Union. The British should never have joined and only did so because the true nature of the project was deliberately hidden from us by the establishment especially Ted Heath. The free people of Europe are also waking up to the deceit of their own politicians. Europe must fundementaly change and they better start soon or it will all come crashing down.

    • Remember, we joined the eec which was meant to be a trading system. It then morphed into the eu which then set out to standardise everything much along the lines of a Federal States of Europe. That is what is annoying people and why the UK is leaving. It looks like the whole thing could come crashing down. Not necessarily a good thing if it did. Reform is what is needed.

  5. Ultimately, Europe is a broken concept built in the worst way, by rules and treaties so complex and so rigid itwill not and cannot survive. If Europe (the EU) had been designed on a more modern and more free approach, less constrained by immovable treaties and with a more democratic and less protectionist approach, Brexit would never have happened, people would be more content and Europe would thrive. Under this system, which appears to have no will to reform and sees the only way forward as more regulation, the project will fail. The question is: will it fail quickly enough.

  6. I am amazed at the response to this post – I didn’t expect much feedback at all! Delighted to see that we have such educated and articulate contributors- you tend to assume that everybody is using social media and likes to keep everything to a one-liner. I nearly posted just a picture this morning to cover for the lack of anything apart from politics in the local press.

  7. I am alarmed at these posts. Yes, the EU needs reforming, but as someone living in the U.K. and facing the appalling prospect of brexit, I find it very worrying that expats are expressing such anti-EU sentiment, often quite vehemently.

    Yes, the EU is far from perfect, and needs reforming, but brexit will do considerable and significant harm to the U.K. for many years.

      • I find it very hard to understand how anyone can believe that either the pain will be short-term or that there will be any gain that will offset the loss! By leaving the EU with no deal, we lose, not only our free trade with the EU, but the benefits of all the other agreements that the EU has with over 70 other countries. For example the EU has over 100 agreements with Switzerland alone.

        I don’t know if you are aware that Liam Fox’s Department has so far failed to sign any agreements with any countries – and that is not because we are still a member of the EU – and it was reported on Saturday that talks with Japan have stalled!! (Japan being one country the EU has very recently signed a deal with.)

        So, from a position of not having had to negotiate a trade deal for many decades and therefore having no trained negotiators, we will have to re-negotiate all the trade agreements we already have just to stand still, let alone negotiate new ones. Negotiations of this kind take 5-8yrs at least on average.

        Meanwhile we have to trade on WTO terms, where several other countries have already objected to the schedules we have put forward, so we have to negotiate those as well!! WTO terms, of course, means that goods we export will be more expensive because of the tariffs applied by other countries, and the goods we import will do likewise.

        As for longer term, all the companies that have already and would in the future base themselves in Britain because it provides easy access to EU markets will slowly, but surely, relocate to an EU country.

  8. If we end up with a ‘no deal’ situation, the EU has more to lose than the UK. It is estimated 140,000 jobs in Germany alone could be lost. The UK would become an ‘off shore’ tax haven for business and would not be bound by EU rules regarding State subsidises or VAT rates etc. That must be a major concern for the EU and they need to get their act together and agree a sensible deal rather than play silly games.

    • See my comment above!

      The EU will still have all its trade deals in place, so, while they will undoubtedly suffer a hit, it will not be of the maginitude of the UK’s! They will also benefit from all the companies who have already and will in the future relocate to other EU countries!

      In order to subsidise companies, we have to have a flourishing economy and that is not going to happen anytime soon after a no deal brexit, if at all!

  9. Sorry to join the debate late but I’ve been looking for a translation website that has a Intellectualese to English option – lol !!

    Excellent posts Cas ! – well researched and well debated, I agree 100% with all your comments and reasoning but like me, as you’ve no doubt been told 17.5 million others say you’re wrong!

    Not everyone posting comments here can be classed as expats – perhaps ‘Madeiraphiles’ ,if there were such a term, would be a more appropriate description but in that, as you rightly expose, there is a conundrum – why when you generally wax lyrical about this island and it’s Portuguese inhabitants do you appear to be so anti-European?
    Sat around the dinner table last week, the inevitable subject of Brexit arose, one of my Madeiran friends said ‘We Portuguese look on the British as the voice of reason in the EU, to speak up against and protect us from the big countries dominance” – more simply put than the 30 intellectuals I thought!!

    No one is denying the EU isn’t broke and needs reform but at a time of talk of the rise of Popularism in Europe our oldest allies and friends need us to be the moderator in European politics and change things from within, not to ” take our football and stomp off in a sulk ” – inflicting serious economic damage to ourselves in the process.

    • Thanks Jamie, very kind. I’m sure Madeiraphiles is a word! My Mother, who loved all things Scottish called herself a Scotophile, so it’s logical!

      This whole business is so sad and has done so much damage to the UK’s reputation, as well as its standing in the world.

  10. Whatever your views, the UK is about to leave the EU and my advice to those sore losers who lost the referendum is to get over it and start to think positively. So far the doomonges have been wrong. The sort of comments being made recently are unhelpful – ‘there is a special place in hell for those who voted leave’ – Barnier. I was taught to look on problems as opportunities and you cannot turn back the clock.

    • Isn’t it interesting how remainers who have strong beliefs for which they keep fighting, are called “sore losers” yet those brexiteer MPs who have been in a small minority in our democratically elected House of Commons, and consistently tried to overturn the wishes of the majority for decades are not?

      Would you call opposition parties who keep fighting for what they believe in, despite losing an election, sore losers, too?

      Doom mongers have been wrong, have they? So the pound has not dropped? Prices in the shops haven’t risen? Companies have not relocated to EU countries? We have not lost over 1,000 jobs through the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority relocating to EU countries, with the associated loss of tax revenue? So the growth in the U.K. economy has not decreased since the referendum? So the BoE has not had to take emergency measures? And all this before we have even left, let alone left with no deal!

      Not sure how losing free access to European Markets, along with hundreds of trade deals with 70+ other countries, all of which would have to be renogotiated just to stand still, could be looked on as an opportunity. And losing access to numerous European agencies, some of which just couldn’t be replicated. As for turning the clock back, that is exactly what we would have to do if we lost access to the various security measures, such as the European arrest warrant – we would be back to using processes from the 1950s!

      Oh, and if you are going to quote the EU, please do so accurately: “I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.” And it was Donald Tusk, not Michel Barnier!

  11. Well done Cas, I think you’re fighting a losing battle here though! We all know the British people are sick of experts and you do have an awful habit that they find really upsetting of keeping on using facts! Just think positively and it’ll all be fine!

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