“The Day After” for the European Union, the so-called “bloc”, will either have to stay as is and sooner, rather later, dissolve. Or it will have to change in an attempt to survive. This will be difficult as huge organisations like the EU do not historically adapt, but disappear. And yet, the instinct for survival is very strong, and the bloc may radically adapt to the “new norm” because if it doesn’t, its servants will not lose a little, but all.
Maintaining the “status quo ante”
The bloc may stay as-is – an apolitical power structure, ruling half a billion people by a self-reproduced, non-accountable administrative machine, without any democratic legitimisation.
This is the same bloc from which the United Kingdom withdrew and is the EU which ordinary citizens left behind when they entered into house isolation last month. If this will be the bloc that re-surfaces once Europe’s residents are released, it will continue living in its own world, further distancing itself from its own citizens and soon will collapse.
After returning to society, ordinary people will be different. If the Brussels nomenklatura remains the same, it will face a problem, a big problem. Most people after the long home detention will be different. Most, at least for a while, will be better people because they would have spent time with themselves and their families and would have discovered that moderation is a virtue, while forced minimalism, once they are used to it, gives a different dimension to life.
As for the European Union, the inmates who spent day and night in front of a screen sensed that the EU had no political role in the crisis. The bloc has been judged by its citizens as having been “in absentia”.
Indeed, Viktor Orban dissolved the Hungarian Parliament in an unprecedented “coup d’état” and Brussels ignored it, displaying no political capacity to handle the situation.
Dad, is America far away? Shoot-up and swim…
Leaders emerge from confrontations, and the virus crisis is the world biggest confrontation since the Second World War. Whether it’s a confrontation between China and the Western World or between humankind and nature, makes no difference. In any instance, new leaders will emerge. This is typical after large events. Think of what great leaders Europe had after World War II and during the Cold War – Francoise Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl, Aldo Moro, Margaret Thatcher and many others who were followed by mediocracies in the years of peace.
The emergence of new leaders is now in the making. In this process, the bloc does not participate as the Brussels bureaucracy although it is the most sophisticated administrative machine of the world. It is politically sterile. It is composed of civil servants and only civil servants who, in the absence of political leaders, began making political decisions. That is what undermined the European project.
In the emerging post-crisis new world, the European Union is needed more than ever, ironically, for the same reasons it was established seven decades ago – to unite Europeans and contain Germany. At that time it was to guarantee that Berlin didn’t dominate Europe again with its Panzers, and today it’s to be sure Germany doesn’t attempt to dominate Europe again with its Deutsche Mark, which masquerades as the euro.
Maintaining and strengthening the European Union, turning it into a united nation that is citizen useful and friendly, is the only way to keep alive the best European achievement of all time.
This will be a difficult task. The European Commission, the presumed government of Europe, must attempt it. It is hard to do so as it must give up all privileges its employees have accumulated and turn them into ordinary civil servants.
Once the bloc’s civil servants realise that if the union disintegrates, their pensions will be paid (if they will be paid) by their own countries of origin and will be at the level of national pensions, they will certainly behave.
The change we need
There are some ideas about the changes the bloc needs to make in order to survive. The most important change is the “presumed government of Europe” must become “the government of Europe” and must become political.
Europe has serious survival problems to address, more than ever, and they are all political. They require political solutions that no administration can give no matter how good it is and how well it is paid. That is why the government of the bloc must become political, democratic, accountable, and at the service of citizens.
“The Day After” sequel of New Europe will provide food for thought to all those pretending they rule Europe from their couch but have a better sense than anybody else about the threats to their jobs and pensions when everything will return to the “new normal”.
In the next episodes, we will provide some ideas as to how the European Commission should change in an attempt to survive. How to make the bloc political; how to bring the Directors General down to earth at the service of the political personnel; how to restore accountability; how to reduce over-regulation; how to restore transparency especially in money matters; how to redefine the role of the cabinets and other unpleasant suggestions, yet essential for the survival of the Union, in the post virus era.
(to be continued)
The Day After: a new Yalta in the making