The EU was once mentioned alongside democracy. Nowadays it is being scorned for Sarkozy and Berlusconi. The EU was once synonymous with welfare. Nowadays it is battling crises of many types. The EU maintains and insists on its target of becoming a global actor. But for this to be realised Brussels needs to do something new. Plainly put, the EU needs a new orientation.
The EU was set up in the second half of the twentieth century in a tired and unhappy continent ruined by a major war. Once upon a time, the EU was an island of democracy and welfare. It was a grand peace project. It was a valuable civilisation project. It was a symbol of universal values. The process, however, did not continue as it was intended. Post-politics and post-democracy have made it more difficult for the Union to lean on its societal base and exacerbated its transparency weakness.
By realising the common currency, the EU undersigned a tremendous success. However, the common currency could not provide the necessary political structuring. Although post-national conditions were developed for a supranational structure, the nation state identity of member states and the ultranationalist and fundamentalist preferences of at least some of the administrations have bred problems. Today Europe is not a welcoming place for the Roma or for Muslims. This process has nothing to with unemployment or the global crisis. This discomforting situation is also unrelated to level of education and standards of living.
Such excuses may only prolong the time it takes to see the truth. Switzerland may not be an EU member, but it is a good example of the EU in many ways. In any case, should Switzerland want to become an EU member, the EU would respond joyfully. Yet today, Switzerland bans minarets. It regulates women’s attire. In aid campaigns for victims of natural disasters, as displayed in the case of flooding in Pakistan, the Swiss donate according to the religion of victims. This is a paradox worthy of academic inquiry for a society which was angry at the Taleban for destroying the Buddha statues. Europe is becoming more introverted. Along with the target of becoming a global actor, it is experiencing a return to its own.
This process is being mismanaged by mediocre leadership. Europe cannot mistreat Muslims and have a healthy relationship with the Islamic world in line with its global targets. Europe cannot blame and denigrate the poor and have a rational relationship with poor countries. No one who fears mosques in their town, who reacts with allergy to minarets and is uncomfortable at seeing Muslims on the streets can think or act globally. The EU cannot become a global actor by insulting the east, adopting a reactive attitude to the east and frankly, by placing its reactions to the east in the middle of its conception of politics.
Its own inconsistency may onset a serious problem of prestige. There are two powers which the EU has to pull over to its own side without wasting any time. The EU should strive to find a balanced structure with these two powers without mishaps and without resorting to threats, blackmail, insults and lies. These two powers are Turkey and Russia. If the EU wants to be a global actor, it can only achieve this along with Russia and Turkey. For this reason it is necessary that a tripartite consulting mechanism and regular exchange of opinion should be realised on the Ankara-Brussels-Moscow axis.
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