Kategorie-Archiv: Europe

A new „Eastern Front“?

As I argued in my previous post a new, serious approach to the Integration of the European East into the European Union is much needed. That integration should not aim to win the East for special interests of the European core – as the setting up of camps for refugees in Albania would be – but to really integrate it into the European Union. Using the East as a source for cheap labour or dumping place for Europe’s unwanted will cause big problems for the Union soon. Symbolic and practical acts that show solidarity and seriousness may be costly but are necessary.

That the East is not waiting for the EU but is moving on its own accord is shown by the formation of an East European Club named „16+1“ in 2012 in which 16 Central and East European Countries (CEEC) are cooperating with China to promote Chinese investments in the area. According to the Chinese website „Cooperation between China and Central and East European Countries“ (china-ceec.org)  Chinese investments exceeded 9 billion US$ by the end of 2017 as a result of the Cooperation.

While some argue that Chinese investments are not yet significant (zeit.de) they might be seen in the context of recent decisions by East European States and Greece to block some of Europe’s efforts to encounter China’s growing influence sphere internationally: Significantly, declarations on China’s records on human rights violations and her behaviour in the South Chinese Sea (zeit.de). Also, it appears that Chinese thoughts are making their ways into the European Union’s Parliament and Commission – transported by Eastern European Representatives.

Some of the investments might also undermine European policies. For example the investment into nuclear power plants or Chinese controlled infrastructure (china-ceec.org).

The Brexit is having a huge impact on the European Budget, so Chinese investments are much welcomed in the East. However, it would be dangerous, if those new relationships undermine European Politics.

It is my opinion that a lack of trust in the solidarity of Europe that opens the East to China. Europe needs to learn that public diplomacy is needed not only outside of Europe but inside it as well. Therefore Germany needs to step up and act in real solidarity. Take the so-called „refugee-problem“ off the table: Germany needs to offer real solutions to the problems and stop trying to export them. That is, taking more refugees in, offering them faster and easier integration into the job-market and counteract ethnic isolation in the cities. Germany needs to enforce its own commitments to the European Union and the European Integration. European policy-makers need to have the capacity to take care of other problems in Europe.

Europa dem Osten – A Europe for the East

Today, the European Union is being understood as the embodiment of the European idea. The dream of a European Community was conceived before and especially during the second World War and was realized first in an Community of Steel and Coal. Steel and Coal were, of course, not only the foundation of any industrial growth at the time but also necessary for any war. Sharing these ressources should hopefully lead to peace in Europe and the emergence of a global counterbalance to the US and the USSR. From there on, the project turned liberal and developed into a supranational institution that influences many areas of our daily lives. But the Institution is under a lot of scrutiny today. The single market and the four freedoms at its core appear to alienate people in many European societies. And as it is dominated by the economic powerhouses of France and Germany many Eastern Europeans understand the European project as a hegemony-project of central Europe.

This situation appears to me as a sad twist of history. It was after all especially states in the East like Poland that first championed a European Union – that was before Poland was occupied by Nazi-Germany. That and the subsequent occupation by the USSR and the creation of the Eastern Bloc burried any hopes for an Eastern Euroean Union.

The point is – the European Union of today needs to understand that it is not yet the institutional realisation of the European dream. It should understand that it can not yet claim the whole history of the European idea for itself and that if it wants to do that, it needs to accept and respect that it cannot substitute the Eastern European dream by the Western European dream.

Europe is a heterogeneous construct. It is heterogeneous not only in its cultural, historical and lingustical aspects but also in the very ideas that form the foundation of the construct itself. Trying to create one unifying narrative for the history of the principles and ideas of Europe should be understood the same way as would any attempt to create one single culture or language for the European Union would be understood.

Now, going forward, the European states are trying to fall back on principles everybody could agree on. Then the European Union would become a Union to encourage growth and to stop wars in Europe. That in itself are important goals and righteous causes but it leaves behind the people, the culture and the European dreams. As in ecumenical discourse falling back on general terms that everybody can agree on is robbing religions of their core characteristics and will leave everybody dissatisfied. Europe, as Religions, must find a way of discourse that incorporates differences rather than ignoring them.