The European Union: Quo vadis?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: Editorial, European Union, General

Best of all first: The Eurozone today has greater approval among its citizens than it did in the past 35 years. This is not just any indicator, but a solid basis and a work order that has so far been adopted only in part to actually address ambitious, long overdue reforms and the necessary reorientation of the EU. A nice written white paper by the European Commission, which presents possible scenarios until 2025, isn’t enough. What is needed is an “EU Vision 2030” plan with clear timetables and sub-goals, which are constantly being updated, especially as new sub-goals always emerge from ongoing processes, where everyone can find orientation about ongoing and future developments, as well as participate or in marketing-speak “Europe need a common future and story!” This one is a bit longer and a summary of the current challenges and opportunities, while continuing the article The European Union: Blessing or curse? Past or future?.



Content


Introduction
Today, people in the states of the EU live in better conditions than ever before. It should be clear to the citizens that the future viability of the states depends on their being under the strong umbrella of the EU in order to prepare themselves for the economic challenges from China, and more recently from the US, militarily from Russia (The Washington Post, 13 September 2018: 5 things to know about Russia’s Vostok-2018 military exercises, The Guardian, 20 October2018: Trump says US will withdraw from nuclear arms treaty with Russia, BBC, 21 October 2018: President Trump to pull US from Russia missile treaty, CNN, 21 October 2018: Trump says US is ending decades-old nuclear arms treaty with Russia, BBC, 21 October 2018: Russia nuclear treaty: Gorbachev warns Trump plan will undermine disarmament, CNN, 22 October 2018: Russia fires back after Trump threatens to ditch nuclear arms treaty (“funny” is that the Russian Tsar Putin has been stationed months ago the nuclear first strike weapon system Iskander-K in the region of Kaliningrad, to threaten Europe permanently, and is lamenting now, because adequate countermeasures to safeguard Europe against continued and further threats from the Kremlin shall be initiated), NATO, 25 October 2018: Trident Juncture 18, The Washington Post, 25 October 2018: At a pivotal moment for the alliance, NATO launches biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty). How can it nevertheless be that the colorful and cheerful Europe threatens to become a more and more dull, simple, nationalistic, fact- and learn-resistant Europe? The paradox of this is, above all, that it is the EU itself that made it possible to connect different states and their people. On the one hand, it creates EU citizens and patriots and, on the other hand, simple minded state-cross national movements. After all, nationalism by definition can only function within a nation-state, but not across multiple states, unless one understands the EU as such as a nation-state, so that EU nationalism can emerge to develop common, viable and workable solutions. It is hardly to be expected that Europe’s right-wing nationalists are able to think in such a dimension at all, although here they could take an example from the rednecks and hillbillys of the Southern United States, who have at least understood that, albeit coming from different states, they all are US citizens. That would be, even when still annoying, after all, a development and adaptation of the changed realities and general conditions (The Guardian, 21 July 2018: Steve Bannon plans foundation to fuel far right in Europe, BBC, 23 July 2018: Bannon plan for Europe-wide populist ‘supergroup’ sparks alarm, Bloomberg, 24 July 2018: Steve Bannon Wants to Divide and Conquer in Europe Too, The Guardian, 30 July 2018: Europe shouldn’t fear Steve Bannon. It should fear the hype that surrounds him, The Washington Post, 26 September 2018: A nationalist abroad: Stephen Bannon evangelizes Trump-style politics across Europe and The Guardian, 24 October 2018: The real danger to Europe? The lost sense of a common cause).


History of Europe and the United Staates of America

“Only who knows where he comes from knows where he is going.” – Theodor Heuss

In order to understand the current developments in Europe, it makes sense to deal with the very varied and multi-faceted history of Europe and the states/federation building processes. This includes numerous regional, national and international armed conflicts, such as the Thirty Years’ War, which began with the Defenestrations of Prague on May 23, 1618. Under the motto “One people, one religion, one leader”, the catholic Emperor Ferdinand II tried to persuade the Protestant electorates to convert to Catholicism. The attempt failed after several lossy battles in favor of a pluralistic solution, because the acting persons came to the realization that diversity is probably better than simplicity. With that everything has already been said and everyone could have gone home happily and contentedly with this knowledge gain, in order to be able to work on a common, peaceful and prosperous Europe from now on. History went a little bit different and many other wars followed, because people are generally far less able to learn than they would like to think of themselves. If World War I and World War II had any good aspects at all, it is that the results are now deeply branded in the European collective memory and, as a result, the European Union was founded. Following the old saying, “When the donkey is too well, he goes on the ice”, from the end of the 2000s onwards, small groups were formed in the states, which eventually gave rise to national movements and parties and in fact found enough supporters to position their crude (conspiracy) theories against the EU. The vast majority of these theories are completely baseless and fact-free, which is what their supporters, who are suffering from progressive fact allergy, especially like about it. But it is also about fear of loss, especially with regard to identities (or social decline), even though today’s states have no clearly definable national identities because they are made up of colorful collections of duchies and principalities with partly contradictory identities and due to the numerous small and large migrations of the people over the centuries couldn’t develop clearly identifiable identities (The “Heimat” concept (homeland), on the other hand, is much easier to define, even if it can have individual different definitions). The romantic idea that there ever was a homogenous Germany is a very clear self-deception, because the country and also all predecessors in the area of today’s Germany (even more so if one includes Poland and parts of Russia (German Reich) or parts of France and Italy (Holy Roman Empire of German Nations)), Germany has always been heterogeneous, even if there were majorities and continue to exist. The same applies, of course, to all other current EU states as well, and certainly to the US. The EU offers a basic agreement on the basis of geography, namely, “We are all Europeans”, even if not all countries of the continent belong to the EU by now. With the EU still under construction, it will take quite a while for this to happen. On the other hand, how well European integration already works in everyday life is evident in the changed news situation, among other aspects. 20 years ago, only a small section of the population in Europe was interested in politics and politicians in neighboring countries. This has changed over the past decades fundamentally, because the perception has changed. In the past, it was understood as “foreign policy”, and is now understood as “domestic policy”, because the effects can have an affect for everyone.

At this point, it’s worth taking a look at the history of the United States of America. Even if no one-to-one comparisons are possible, the founding of the USA is the first and until today successful European major project, because ultimately it is the anticipation of the EU outside of Europe. The settlements were finally carried out by people from all European countries. Even today, the folklore and local features/peculiarities that came with the European settlers have survived in the individual states, are promoted and celebrated accordingly – all under the common roof of the United States. The EU implements this concern, ie the preservation and promotion of specific characteristics, specificities, folklore, language and food/drink, even more consistently and extensively by creating appropriate laws and regulations and providing funding (Europe of the Regions, Culture in the European Union, geographical indication, European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, Minority rights, Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and European Convention on Human Rights).


Migration debate
Anyone who has had a look at the immigration figures (immigration, refugees and Global Compact for MigrationFinal draft of the agreement as a PDF file (there is a summary on pages 5 and 6)) already lately knows that migration is no longer a hot topic, so that the debate can cool down to find sustainable solutions for future challenges (Deutsche Welle, 20 June 2017: An endless debate on refugees, PBS, 22 January 2018: How the Far Right Has Reshaped the Refugee Debate in Europe and The Guardian, 5 June 2018: Five myths about the refugee crisis ). Between 2015 and 2017 the situation was short-term fascinating, because no one could estimate how many people would actually arrive. In the meantime, the figures have returned to the average level (between 150,000 and 250,000 migrants arrive Germany each year). It turns out that the “Islamization”, that was summoned and longed for by right-wing nationalists, evidently fails because of lack of mass. The number of Muslims living in Germany remains well below 10%. By far the most politically/religiously motivated crimes continue to emanate from right-wing nationalists, especially with regard to Antisemitism (The New York Times, 27 July 2018: ‘They Spit When I Walked in the Street’: The ‘New Anti-Semitism’ in France, DW, 31 July 2018: Europe: Anti-Semitism on the rise? Western European Jews think so, CNN, 2 August 2018: How anti-Semitism crept into Europe’s political mainstream and DW, 8 September 2018: Germany: Jewish restaurant attacked during Chemnitz protests – the paradox is that sections of the European right-wing extremists see Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as a natural ally against Muslims and Islam, because he openly opposes both, and even visits Israel for “study purposes” (because of the security arrangements towards Palestine – Der Spiegel, 8 October 2018: Germany’s Extremism Problem: Officials Zero In on Neo-Nazi Terror Cell, The Guardian, 31 October 2018: I live among the neo-Nazis in eastern Germany. And it’s terrifying, National Socialist Underground and National Socialist Underground trial). Someone might have told them that Netanyahu is a Jew. Maybe they will find out by themselves), according to official statistics (you know, the ones that are based on facts and figures, instead of emotions and feelings). Fortunately for all “concerned citizens”, the number of white, Christian criminals will continue to be the clear majority. The honor of “concerned citizens” is thus permanently rescued and defended. The fairy tale, Chancellor Angela Merkel would be responsible for the wave of refugees, remains to be a fairy tale. In fact, the wave of refugees is to be blamed on the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, his patron, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Daesh terrorists and their respective backing groups – but also the dramatic underfunding of the UN Refugee Agency, which wasn’t able to provide sufficient help to refugees in the refugee camps, who then understandably left the camps to take the long road to Europe. In the reception of war refugees, the Chancellor has had implemented existing legislation and thus fulfilled her legal obligations, while at the same time relieving the autocratic Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán, as well as the entire Balkan route and finally Austria. One can only accuse Angela Merkel of maybe being a bit to naive, when she thought that her EU colleagues would too abide international law and therefore would also take in refugees. This was obviously not the case and doesn’t speak against the Chancellor, but against the lawfulness of the refuseniks, whereas one might even understand the reactions of the former Eastern Bloc countries, because after all, they don’t know the situation that someone want to come to their countries voluntarily. On the contrary, over the decades, thousands of their own countrymen ran away because not even they wanted to live there. There is still a learning process to go through. On the other hand, the reactions from East Germany (if one doesn’t add the part of the country to the former Eastern Bloc), Austria, the Netherlands, Italy and the United Kingdom are completely incomprehensible. These countries have all benefited massively from the EU and immigration. Rights have to be in balance with duties and obligations, because the one doesn’t work without the other. In some EU states, the moral compass for this approach seems to have been lost. Meanwhile, of the approximately 800,000 refugees who have arrived in Germany since 2015, well over 300,000 are having jobs and this trend is continuing, according to the Federal Office for Labour. The reality is once again much more positive than the small group of Stammtisch hate preachers in the EU want to make us believe. In addition, the public became finally aware that Germany is an immigration country (factually, it has always been the case anyway), and this applies to virtually all other EU states as well. So it is all the more important to continue the for years neglected and actually important political work now, instead of being distracted of doing so by pseudo topics, like the migration debate. After the election of French President Emmanuel Macron and his proposals for reforms (ouest-france.fr, 26 September 2017: Sorbonne speech of Emmanuel Macron), there was a time window the size of a barn door to finally push all upcoming and necessary EU reforms. Instead of taking these chances and opportunities, the Berlin political circus has been hiding for over a year and thus not only dismissed the given opportunities, but instead strengthen nationalistic movements across Europe.

In unpleasant regularity, the discussion of whether Islam and Muslims belong to Europe or not is as simple-minded as it is oblivious to history. After all, it was the Moors who, among other things, brought science (mathematics, astronomy, geography and medicine – enriched with knowledge of ancient China and Ancient Egypt) to Al-Andalus (Portugal and parts of Spain). This knowledge spread from there to central and northern Europe and thus made it possible for Europe to develop democratic and industrial nations. The fact that the Arab countries themselves couldn’t benefit to the same extent and, on the contrary, have even been scientifically and technologically left behind is also given due to the strict interpretation of Islam and the tragedy of the Arabs. Muslims (Moors) have been part of Europe for centuries, and thus of course their religion. Today it is uncontroversial for the majority that the European Islam should emancipate itself from the political Islam of Turkey and Saudi Arabia to be perceived and accepted as a community of faith. The corresponding efforts have been stuck for years and noticeable burden the living together. More recently, the umbrella organization Ditib has been targeted by the German constitutional protection agencies due to its inordinate proximity to the Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP positions. It is all the more important for those Muslims, who oppose the Ditib, to offer appropriate state support measures to help them to further develop the European Islam (e.g. Imam education in Germany, while excluding the Turkish and Saudi Islam authorities).

Here is another aspect that has been cultivated since the Middle Ages in Europe: Jew-hatred, which was exported to the Middle East by the Crusades. Without going further into the single aspects of European anti-Semitism, it is simply false to assert that the “new anti-Semitism” would be fueled by immigration, because it is a re-import only. In Europe, anti-Semitism, even after the Holocaust, was never gone, but “rested” in order to regroup in the past few years and to cowardly hide behind alleged “import anti-Semitism” from the Arab states. The greatest threat to European Jews continues to come from European anti-Semitic right-wing extremists (over 90% of all anti-Semitic offenses). The discussions about it are often diffuse here because they are not clearly identified, named or obfuscated – presumably so as not to scare away any voters. Just as European Jews can’t vote in Israel, like European Christians or European Muslims can’t vote in Israel either. By contrast, Israeli Jews, Christians and Muslims can (mostly). So it’s about definitions and affiliations. From a international point of view, it is often too understandable when the policy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is been seen as repugnant (which doesn’t even contradict the so-called German raison d’État). This is also the case for a large proportion of European Jews. How can it be, that there still is a growing number of people who try to blame them for it anyway? Even though the Netanyahu government claims that Israel would be the “home of all Jews” (which is legally limited anyway), large parts of the diaspora oppose this view, who are very fond of their home countries. There are a number of “anti-Semitism definitions”. The currently most recognized is this: HolocaustRemembrance.com – Working Definition of Antisemitism. When having a closer look at it, the result is that it’s about proportionality
and against the “three Ds” (delegitimisation of Israel, demonisation of Israel and double standards for Israel, while the term “double standards” is somehow special: If Jews from the US or the EU were to ask: “Do you believe that people in the societies they are living in should not be discriminated against because of their ethnicity or religious affiliation and that all people should have equal access to all fundamental rights?” certainly almost all will reply “Yes!” If the same persons would be asked this question in relation to Israel, the majority would answer “Equal rights for all? Are you an enemy of Israel? Do you want to erase the country from the map?”). One can, shall and should criticize Israel and Jews to the same extent as one would criticize everyone else. What goes beyond that can be anti-Semitism. For example, if you would put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in line with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, because they would be politically dubious figures, then this would be justified criticism. If Netanyahu were put there just because he was a Jew, that would be anti-Semitism. The Federal Government recently appointed Dr. Felix Klein as “Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany” or shortened as “Anti-Semitism Commissioner”, whose tasks, however, are so far only vaguely defined. That anti-Semitism can’t be whitewashed is shown by the fact that many Jewish institutions in Germany, the EU and since the election of Donald Trump on 8 November 2016 even in the USA (The Atlantic, 15 August 2017: Why the Charlottesville Marchers Were Obsessed With Jews, Charlottesville riots, CNN, 27 October 2018: Shooter identified in deadly shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue, The New York Times, 27 October 2018: Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting: At Least 11 Dead and Gunman Identified, The Guardian, 27 Ocotber 2018: Pittsburgh shooting: suspect railed against Jews and Muslims on site used by ‘alt-right’, HIAS, The New York Times, 27 October 2018: 11 Killed in Pittsburgh Massacre; Suspect Charged With 29 Counts, The Washington Post, 27 October 2018: For American Jews, Pittsburgh synagogue massacre is culmination of worst fears, The Guardian, 28 October 2018: The ADL warned of antisemitic harassment. Then Pittsburgh happened, The New York Times, 29 October 2018: ‘There Is Still So Much Evil’: Growing Anti-Semitism Stuns American Jews, Haaretz, 29 October 2018: From Pittsburgh to Paris, Five Lessons for Jews Everywhere, Haaretz, 29 October 2018: Pittsburgh Massacre Underscores the Dilemma of American Jews and The Guardian, 2 November 2018: New York police investigate antisemitic graffiti inside Brooklyn synagogue) still have to be placed under police protection in order to prevent attacks (Der Spiegel, 31 August 2018: Return of the Ugly German? The Riots in Chemnitz and Their Aftermath, Times of Israel, 24 September 2017: Loathed by Jews, Germany’s far-right AfD loves the Jewish state, DW, 25 September 2018: AfD’s Jews say German far-right party isn’t anti-Semitic, The New York Times, 26 September 2018: Seeing Ally Against Muslims, Some German Jews Embrace Far Right, to Dismay of Others, Financial Times, 5 October 2018: The Jews who are signing up to Germany’s far-right AfD , NPR, 5 October 2018: Germany’s Right-Wing AfD Is Accused Of Exploiting Jewish Members, Der Spiegel, 5 October 2018: Growing Anti-Semitism in Germany ‘We Are Facing a Monster’, Reuters, 26 October 2017: Jewish leader urges Italian sports authorities to fight anti-Semitism, The Guardian, 1 February 2018: Antisemitic incidents in UK at all-time high, The Atlantic, 22 February 2018: Secretive Fraternities Are Feeding Anti-Semitism in Austria, Bloomberg, 27 February 2018: Why Polish Jews Are Growing Uneasy, The Guardian, 27 February 2018: Antisemitic incidents in US soar to highest level in two decades, NPR, 3 May 2018: Alarm Grows In France Over Anti-Semitic Violence, Haaretz, 20 June 2018: Denmark’s Jews Questioning Their Future in the Country Following Proposed Ban on Circumcision, The Jerusalem Post, 29 July 2018: Hungary’s Victor Orban fosters antisemitism – Hungarian antisemitism is the highest in Europe, The Atlantic, 9 November 2018: The Day of Fate, Christian Zionism, Philo-Semitism, Jewish Studies, Jewish culture and History of the Jews in Germany).


Populism
The bloodlessness resulting from the hide and seek game of the newly to be formed federal government after the 2017 federal election has finally been filled by shortsighted and petty-bourgeois nationalization movements, of which most people thought that they belong to the past and their motives would have been overcome. This is not just about the now usual cross-cuts of the democracy and law freed, xenophobic EU-Eastern enlargement kleptocracies (Visegrád Group), which call themselves “illiberal“, but are actually autocratic (defective democracy) and as of today wouldn’t become EU members in their current conditions anymore, but now also to movements in Italy, France, Greece, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany, where parts of East Germany, especially in the rural areas of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, in Saxony even in the large metropolitan areas (Dresden, Leipzig, Chemnitz etc.) to no-go areas for “non-Aryans” have degenerated. This not only applies to refugees, but also to tourists, highly qualified foreign employees, employers and investors. In any case, it is difficult to convince national and international investors of investments in the new federal states, instead of getting involved in West Germany or Berlin. In this way, corporate headquarters, important research institutions or federal agencies can’t be attracted, which in return isn’t a surprise. The current events in Saxony and Thuringia will make this even more difficult for years, so once again it can be assumed that West German taxpayers have to keep the East alive, that, because of own weakness, can’t succeed on its own. Here again the failures immediately after the reunification become visible (civics/political education). A big mistake, as it turns out even today. Thus, Eastern occupation zone parallel societies could emerge, to which 30 years after the reunification it is completely unclear how democracy and a Rechtsstaat/rule of law work, why there is separation of powers and freedom of the press (media literacy) and which authorities are responsible for which tasks, but also where the state can not and should not intervene. However, this is not an exclusive phenomenon of the far right, but also applies to the eternal SED faithful from the far left. A lot of immigrants and refugees are far ahead of them, who even speak High German. This is all the more surprising because there is a very extensive information and education platform by the Federal Agency for Civic Education, that easily can be found online. Maybe they should think about translating the content in Saxon.

In Bavaria, the CSU was recently unpleasantly noticed, which tries to mask the denial of performance of their “Homeland Horst” in the Berlin Ministry of Interior through nonsense and volume, as one of his first official acts, apparently in ignorance of his duties as Federal Interior Minister and personal vanities, was to cancel his participation in the integration summit. Of course, as with all “right-wing national strategies” within a state, this attempt has gone down the drain and caused considerable domestic damage. It should be remembered that the coalition crisis was triggered by Horst Seehofer (for obvious mistakes in the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution), Markus Söder, Alexander Dobrindt and Andreas Scheuer because of five to ten migrants per day. No politician can make it more clear then that, that he isn’t fit to be responsible for state or federal politics. In addition, on July 4th, the US Independence Day is celebrated, the day of the liberation and the opening of a nation. On the same day, Horst Seehofer, the person who stands for exclusion, demarcation, fencing and isolation like no other, has his birthday, or as a radio host said: “… and somewhere up there sits a wise old man with a long beard in laughter about his successful prank!” After all, it was exhilarating to see the “axis of the willing”, which had been doomed to failure from the outset, between Seehofer, the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and the far-right Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (Italian Fascism and The Guardian, 2 October 2018: Pro-refugee Italian mayor arrested for ‘aiding illegal migration’ (Riace in Calabria and Domenico Lucano)), going down the drain. As expect, Salvini’s party, the Lega Nord, is currently siding with that of his autocratic friend Viktor Orbán, Fidesz

Added to this is the serious damage to the credibility of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution by its President Hans-Georg Maaßen and his supervisor Horst Seehofer, while simultaneously redeveloping the Federal Ministry of the Interior away from professional competence to competence in matters of democracy restriction/dismantling (one of the already very few detectable core competencies of the CSU), which causes serious damage to democracy and the reputation of the Federal Republic of Germany at home and abroad

There are no easy solutions. Populists, however, promise that a 2018 VW Beetle could be repaired with the same methods and tools as a VW Beetle from 1950 – it is simply not possible, which is why populists always fail when they have to implement their “programs” in reality. Both the Brexit and the election of US President Donald Trump show how profoundly incompetent the protagonists behind it are, and as well as how many simpletons are allowed to vote. There are populists since there is politics. This is usually not a problem, because most of them hardly get beyond the regulars’ table. It becomes a problem when a large number of voters want to believe their lies and fall in their traps. For example, the most-asked question on Google UK the day after the Brexit referendum was “What is Brexit?” The voters were in large parts completely disinformated and uninformed (including Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and other nationalists and right-wing extremists) and have been lured by lies to the Brexit vote. The consequences will not be borne by the populists themselves, but by their voters and their descendants. Already Winston Churchill came to the conclusion: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” The referendum is a very good example of this thesis. If Brexit is actually set in action on March 29, 2019, it will take several decades to compensate the damages arising from it. It has to be remembered that the United Kingdom’s net payments to the EU amount to about € 5.6 billion a year (one of the main arguments of the Brexiteers for the exit from the EU). In return, for the year 2018 alone, there is a decline in foreign direct investment in the UK of at least 44 billion euros. Added to this is the downfall of the British pound and the real estate values in the metropolitan areas even though the Brexit isn’t even implemented yet. It is still unclear how many jobs will be lost, but it will probably be at least a large 6-digit number. Numerous highly qualified British have already exchanged their citizenship for a state on the continent and are, of course, warmly welcomed.

But of course there are populists in other EU states as well. In Germany, for example, the AfD, which is characterized mainly by vociferous and dull incompetence, anti-Semitism, islamophobia and xenophobia. The CSU, the political ghost riders from Bavaria, who not only put the decades-old union at risk, but at the same time the stability of Germany and the EU – and all because they want are on a election campaign for the AfD for the 2018 Bavarian state election. Obviously, the acting persons (Seehofer, Söder, Dobrindt and Scheuer) are in the wrong party. Moreover, those who complain about “renationalisation”, “anti-deportation industry”, “rule of injustice”, “asylum tourism” and “language police” endangers the entire German social and economic model. According to current survey results, the CSU will lose the usual absolute majority and that would be good and well deserved. The right-wing populist government coalition of Austria doesn’t know what it wants, except “no foreigners, Muslims and journalists”. The far-right FPÖ would be in favor of the country leaving the euro, and preferably the EU as well. The right-wing populist ÖVP doesn’t want both at the moment. The racist and Islamophobic one-man party Geert Wilders from the Netherlands got the losing end in recent elections and there is reasonable hope that it will go on like this. The French Front National has renamed itself Rassemblement National in 2018 and is due to numerous financial affairs fortunately widely insolvent. From the past elections in France, the FN came out clearly inferior. Depending on the course of the presidency of Emmanuel Macron and his successes in the desired EU reforms, the FN will develop and either remain only loud and insubstantial or can count on increases in the worst case. Since 2015, Greece has been led by Alexis Tsipras and his governing coalition of left-wing (Syriza) and right-wing populists (ANEL). Over 10 years permanent crisis leave its political mark. The country would like to participate in the free capital market again at the end of 2018. In Italy, a similar picture emerges, fueled by the fact that the country has been in economic reverse for years, because administration and politics block each other. As a result, a coalition of right-wing populists MoVimento 5 Stelle and right-wing extremist Lega Nord (which wasn’t supposed to participatge in any Italian government at all, as the party was founded for the secession of northern Italy from the south of the country) was formed in June 2018. As dummy-President of the Council of Ministers Giuseppe Conte was chosen. Both parties are skeptical about the EU, and on top the Lega Nord is openly anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic and xenophobic. The consequences of such a mixture are not yet foreseeable, but promise nothing good for Italy, also because both parties lack economic and administrative competence, but this would be urgently needed because of the country’s situation. The countries of the Visegrád Group are only remaining in the EU to collect funds because they aren’t able to generate wealth or future prospects for their citizens by their own. In recent years, the tentative democratic approaches have been continuously reduced in favor of “illiberality“. The rule of law has already been abolished by the governments a while ago. In Denmark, the government of Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Venstre) is supported by the right-wing populist Dansk Folkeparti, which provides corresponding shrill comments. The current election in Sweden has brought a significant shift to the right (The Guradian, 2 September 2018: Germany’s far right never went away, but festered in its eastern stronghold, slate.com, 4 September2018: The good fight: The Failure of the Center-Right, The New York Times, 11. September 2018: Can Germany’s Center Hold Against the Far Right?, The Guardian, 11 September 2018: My country is being poisoned by populism. The EU must stand with Hungary, The New York Times, 11 September 2018: E.U.’s Leadership Seeks to Contain Hungary’s Orban, The Guardian, 12 September 2018: Merkel condemns far-right outbreak in passionate address, The Guardian, 12 September 2018: Don’t believe the doomsayers. Here is Europe’s good news and The Guardian, 12 September 2018: MEPs vote to pursue action against Hungary over Orbán crackdown).


Separatism
A special form of regionalism or nationalism is separatism, which sends greetings all the way from medieval times, were there are probably reasonably and traceable reasons to be found, if you want to search for it at all. It doesn’t make any sense in the 21st century, but it doesn’t have to for the protagonists anyways, especially because it is fed by emotions rather than any rational aspects. Current and prominent separatism efforts are:

  • The Catalanism in Spain, whose latest episode ended in the Catalan crisis.
  • The Basque Country in the border region between Spain and France and in particular the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country in Spain.
  • On the island of Corsica, which belongs to France, separatist movements and efforts have come and go every now and again, which have caused many victims, but have very little chances of success.
  • On the group of islands of New Caledonia, which is part of France as well, there are regular attempts of independence. The most recent referendum in November 2018 was clearly in favor of maintaining the status as French Overseas Territory.
  • In Wales (History of Wales and Welsh devolution referendum, 1997) and Scotland (History of Scotland and Scottish devolution referendum, 1997), there have been secession efforts from England/the United Kingdom for centuries. Under the impression of Brexit, these efforts are increasing again.
  • Depending on how Brexit will ultimately look like and what effect this will have on Ireland/ Northern Ireland, it can’t be ruled out that the IRA will be revitalized, whose political arm Sinn Féin is represented both in the Irish Parliament and is the strongest party of Northern Irish Catholics. All parties are trying to avert this scenario, because the terror of the Northern Ireland conflict (Good Friday Agreement), which was supposedly largely overcome, is still present. If it will become a “Hard Brexit” without an agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom, the cooling conflict can quickly turn into a heated conflict again (The Guardian, 27 September 2018: No-deal Brexit could result in Northern Ireland blackouts, leaks reveal). This background given, the completely haphazard approach of the May administration is incomprehensible at all (or maybe only if you know that Theresa May actually belonged to the “Remain” camp and now has to implement the Brexit against her beliefs).
  • Another aspect of Brexit is the affiliation of Gibraltar. The rock was officially ceded by Spain to the United Kingdom in 1713, but still claimed by Spain to date. In 2002, a referendum on Gibraltar’s affiliation was held, with 98% of the population voting in favor to belong to the UK. However, as part of the Brexit referendum, 96% of the population voted to remain in the EU, so that there is still a need and plenty of room for discussions.


Challenges and solution approaches in keywords

  • While dark clouds are rising on the big stage, a decades-old dispute between Greece and Macedonia is being resolved on the small stage by simply adding a “north”: The New York Times, 17 June 2018: Macedonia and Greece Sign Historic Deal on Name Change (The Guardian, 5 April 2018: The west must not just abandon the Balkans to Russia’s embrace, The New York Times, 10 April 2018: In a New Cold War With Russia, Balkans Become a Testing Ground, The Guardian, 11 July 2018: Greece to expel Russian diplomats over alleged Macedonia interference, Reuters, 13 July 2018: Word ‘Russia’ goes unspoken as Mattis meets Balkan defense chiefs, Bloomberg, 18 July 2018: Putin Has Lost His Influence in the Balkans and Macedonian referendum, 2018 and The Guadian, 10 October 2018: Welcome to North Macedonia: parliament votes for name change).
  • French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed ambitious and above all necessary EU reforms. Since the formation of a coalition after the German federal elections lasted more than a year, valuable time has passed and a vacuum has arisen, which right-wing populists and anti-democrats have used to set their content-free phrases in the world. Chancellor Angela Merkel hasn’t sent clear signals on Macron’s proposals yet, although his extensive support is in Germany’s own interest. The Federal Government is still too busy with itself to work on solutions. In principle, it would be desirable to put together the need for extensive EU reforms and the future EU orientation in a plan such as “EU Vision 2030”, which is updated annually, providing predictability and taking the 500 million EU citizens with it. Here, ambitious visions for the future are demanded, especially as it has become clear from past developments that the EU tends to agree on the most weakest and flimsiest compromises, rather than orienting itself towards the top. Accordingly, this already need be taken into account in the baseline scenarios (The Guardian, 26 September 2017: Macron lays out vision for ‘profound’ changes in post-Brexit EU, DW, 17 April 2018: France’s Emmanuel Macron calls for revival of EU democracy, The Guardian, 27 August 2018: Europe can no longer rely on US for security, says Emmanuel Macron und Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 27 August 2018: U2-Singer Bono: Europe is a thought that needs to become a feeling).
  • The negotiations on the new EU budget will certainly also be interesting.
  • To change the unanimity of EU decisions in favor of majority voting, which would solve 90% of all challenges in a short time. At the same time, one would thus break away from the principle of the “dictates of minorities and abstruse individual interests”, especially since majority decisions need to be well-founded by each single EU state. A simple “I am against it” then no longer exist, but each state would have to explain its motives and thus at the same time signaling willingness to negotiate and explain how a compromise would have to look like, so that it would be supported. It would no longer be possible to blame Brussels for “everything thta is going wrong” (which is almost never the case anyway, while mostly EU state governments and state lobbyists are responsible for failure – see Brexit). Instead, it would be much clearer who actually brakes and blocks. For this reason, in particular the Visegrád Group opposes majority voting. The unanimity was once well meant, but actually blocks the EU unnecessary in almost all areas.
  • “EU of different speeds” to become reality (Eurozone, Core EU, Visegrád). If some don’t want to join programs right from the beginning, they can catch up later (backed by economic incentives) or go the way of the UK. If there is the possibility of access on the one hand, there need to be the possibility of an orderly withdrawal or, in extreme cases, the possibility of being thrown out on the other hand, until the EU has established itself fully and can’t be dismantled any longer, after becoming a federal republic (or what ever it will look like in the future). Thereafter, there should be no more opportunity to leave and this should be contractually fixed, after all, the EU isn’t a “Request Concert” event.
  • Greater integration of the eurozone with its own EU finance minister, common fiscal policies and correspondingly strengthened regulations and enforcement options (European Fiscal Compact and European Stability Mechanism).
  • EU investment alliance to dismantle structural weaknesses in the EU states step by step, unlike the previous regional financial umbrella, whose use of funds can be described as “misappropriated” at best. Clear objectives, earmarked and with ongoing review of the use of funds, so that corruption can be erased and the money will actually arrive where it belongs to. Even the reunification of Germany and the attempt of economic adjustment of the East to the West, which will take decades to be completed and has cost so far about 1.8 trillion euros of state funds plus the trillions of private investments, on the one hand makes clear how long this adjustment processes will take among EU member countries and on the other hand how important these attempts of adjustments are.
  • Creating an EU Immigration Law (points-based immigration system), paying more attention to EU external border controls and simplified EU immigration procedures to take account of the changed conditions, but also to take the wind out of the sails of nationalists.
  • European Unemployment Insurance, even better: a European Social Security System, with appropriate adjustment mechanisms based on the respective wages and the cost of living in the countries of origin. This not to distribute “social benefits”, but to be able to develop economic stabilizing effects. The enormous social transfers from West to East Germanyto show this exemplarily. The counter-examples are Greece, Italy and other countries that do not have these mechanisms and whose populations are more susceptible to crises – with all the disadvantages. Now some will argue that this would be pure socialism. In fact, it is a pay-as-you-go mechanisms that need to be paid into before it can be disbursed. At the same time, this ensures basic consumption and thus the preservation of jobs and entire economic sectors, even in difficult economic times. E.g., the Greek economy would never have collapsed that heavily, additionally exacerbated by the widespread impoverishment of the population, if these mechanisms would have already existed there.
  • Creating and maintaing a credible EU security architecture to empower foreign policy decisions and respond swiftly to changing security situations and needs, while the development/deployment of Frontex and the European Asylum Agency are, of course, only two building blocks in the overall context of the Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy (Permanent Structured Cooperation, DW, 15 February 2018: Changing Europe revives interest in an EU military, Politico.eu, 03. June 2018: Merkel endorses Macron’s EU military plan and Politico.eu, 11 November 2018: Macron wants Europe to buy its own military hardware).
  • Reform of EU bankruptcy law: Sovereign default within the EU need to be possible to prevent future bailouts, as in the case of Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus, while still allowing each state to ruin itself as it pleases, without holding the taxpayers of other states liable for it (oriented to bankruptcy law for US states that can declare their bankruptcy without the other states or Washington, D.C. can be held liable or have to take over the regulation of the damage). Sovereign default should have no impact on membership in the EU or the Eurozone, but may cost a reputation on the free capital market. One possible example for this scenario is currently Romania. The country has had very presentable growth rates for years, and the government is fueling them additionally with public investments and several social benefits instead of creating reserves. A small crisis would be enough to put the country in the same situation as Greece was and is, because there aren’t sufficient buffers given.
  • Formation of a European identity in connection with a European citizenship, as a counter model and draft to the devastating and egotistical nationalisms, and the acknowledgment that Europe has a migrant history and is thus an immigration and emigration continent for centuries.
  • Establish a European payment mechanism to circumvent US sanctions and their consequences for SWIFT transaction traffic. The EU is the largest single market in the world. This need to be taken into account, as well as its independence in payment transactions. Until then, it is a long and stony path, but worth the efforts (DW, 27 August 2018: Germany urges SWIFT end to US payments dominance).
  • Learn from crises and implement appropriate mechanisms: Since 2008, the EU and parts of its states are in permanent crisis mode. This happens quite often in a young federation of states, not least because it has not yet been possible to provide for all eventualities, and the stolid nature of the EU also means that it takes much longer to cope with crisis, because the responses to them (in the best case even before they can become crises at all) are all to often not promptly and quickly enough (see “majority voting, instead of unanimity”).
  • Developing the EU-Africa partnership (Economic Partnership Agreements and Reuters, 12 September 2018: EU’s Juncker eyes Africa free trade pact) at the governmental level, implementing far better anti-corruption measures, while investing in the economies and education, to create prospects for the people and curbe the root causes of emmigration ( The Telegraph, 3 September 2018: China raises fears of ‘new colonialism’ with $60 billion investment across Africa and Africa–China relations).
  • The Accession of Turkey to the European Union and the upgrading of the Customs Union have been put on hold until further notice. The reasons for this are the unclear Cyprus issue, the war against the Kurds in southeastern Turkey, the invasion of Northern Syria, the creation of the presidential system and the associated widespread de-democratization. The accession talks will not be terminated by the EU for strategic and diplomatic reasons. This step is left to the Turkish government.
  • In addition to some other challenges arising from the current problematic relationship with Turkey itself, this also includes challenges for the perspectives and aspirations of the countries of the Levant and North Africa. That is one of the reasons why it would be advisable to finally bring the Union for the Mediterranean to life, to develop viable alternatives, especially as the EU, because of the ongoing military conflicts in the Middle East, is likely to intensify its efforts in the near future for possible accession candidates in and from Europe only.
  • The EU accession negotiations with Albania and (North) Macedonia will start in 2019 (Balkanization).
  • Interesting things also appear in the deployment of US troops in Europe (United States European Command, United States Army Europe and List of United States military bases). Trump’s administration is thinking about deploying more troops into Poland to “face Russia’s threat to Poland,” but above all, of course, because the right-wing Polish government is willing to spend two billion euros a year (given that Poland is the largest EU net beneficiary country, the question arises as to who will ultimately bear the costs. Poland certainly not), so that a “Fort Trump” can arise (The Guardian, 18 September 2018: ‘Fort Trump’: Donald Trump considers request for US military base in Poland and The New York Times, 19 September 2018: Fort Trump? Poland Makes a Play for a U.S. Military Base). At the same time, the Trump administration checks to what extent US troops can be withdrawn from Germany. Ostensibly, it is also about the relocation of jobs from Germany to Poland. In fact, this would mean a complete turnaround for Germany and its western neighbors, as the battle lines from the Cold War, which lay on the border between Germany and the GDR, would be officially relocated to the Polish border with Russia. In this case, the western EU states should just let new Eastern bloc and the Trump administration do, and be helpful to realize this project, especially as it clears the way for the other EU states, to develop the Common EU security architecture by forming much closer military co-operation among each other, thus creating the not only necessary but long overdue European addition to NATO. Together with the Visegrád group, this is not feasible at present, so it is a fortunate coincidence that their nationalists now join forces with the White House nationalist in securing the EU’s eastern flank (Suwalki gap).


Economic development
The EU economy continues to develop well, although the federal debts of half of member countries remains above the agreed 60% of GDP. The EU GDP surpasses that of the US. The economic growth was 2.5% in 2017 and is projected to reach 2.3% in 2018, with developments in the member countries varying in some cases significantly (Reuters, 2 July 2018: Beating expectations, euro zone unemployment stable in May und Reuters, 7 September 2018: A decade after Lehman, Europe remains on economic crutches).

  • Saying goodbye to the obviously dysfunctional trickle-down theory, known in the US as part of Reaganomics and the United Kingdom as part of Thatcherism, especially since it has achieved the opposite of what was originally announced, thereby causing considerable disruption in wealth distribution in the West.
  • Italy: In the light of the new EU-skeptical government, the word Quitaly has been established. Due to the huge public debt (over 130% of GDP), Italy currently is the greatest threat to the eurozone, especially since the country, unlike Greece, could not be rescued by a bailout fund. One will first have to wait and see how the whole topic develops. The doomsday prophet and ex-president of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Hans-Werner Sinn, will be just as wrong with his repeated euroincussion theory as the Italian right and left-wing populists and extremists of Lega Nord and Movimento 5 Stelle who promise Italy flourishing landscapes but can not finance it (DW, 1 October 2018: Italy and the EU clash over budget plan, Reuters, 1 October 2018: CORRECTED-EU’s Juncker warns Italy not to go ahead with proposed 2019 budget, The Guardian, 2 October 2018: Italian deputy PM threatens to sue EU boss over budget criticism, Financial Times, 8 October 2018: Italy’s Salvini attacks Brussels as bonds sell off, The Guardian, 8 October 2018: Stock markets stage sharp sell-off amid fear of Italy-EU budget fight and Reuters, 20 October 2018: Moody’s downgrades Italy’s debt rating, says outlook stable and The Guardian, 13 November 2018: Italy defies EU request to present revised budget). In the light of the previous statements of the coalition partners, some of whom are completely opposite and would devour enormous sums if they were to be implemented, it is initially questionable whether the government will even survive the entire legislative period. For Italy as a whole, especially for the Italian economy, but also for the eurozone, it would be better if it weren’t so and instead a technocrats government would be implemented, which restructures the budget, introduces long overdue structural reforms and clean up the cronyism in the administration (Economy of Italy).
  • Greece: Due to uncertainties in Italy, Greece had to stop selling bonds differently than planned for a while, but successfully started the program again at the end of July at an 4.63% interest rate (Reuters, 18 July 2018: Greece prepares to fly solo on bond markets). Even though the crisis mode has been slowed down a bit and the overall situation has been seen through pink glasses in recent months, the country is far from overcoming the economic difficulties. The public debt is still at 180%. With the reforms of the past few years, the Greek people have indeed been paid a hard price, whether that was useful or helpful at least remains at doubts, because the “lawnmower method” may be fair at first glance, but at the second glance had been rather short-sighted. In addition, contrary to the agreements, many reforms have not been implemented, and the basic problems (which are inherent in the state system itself, encouraging corruption and nepotism, while the inefficiencies of the administration continue to discourage western investors from engaging in the country) have been addressed only in part, so that the Greek drama can be repeated in the future because insufficient countermeasures have been taken and structural reforms are implemented at best in homeopathic doses. In August 2018, aid programs for Greece ended, with creditors continuing to monitor compliance with the rules. The country is now exempt from the loan repayments for 10 years and then has 50 years to repay its liabilities at a reduced interest rate. The repayment package already includes three debt cuts at the expense of the taxpayers of the donor countries: Reduced interest rates despite increased default risk, 10 years without repayments and the most costly: The extension of the repayment terms to 50 years, whereby the credit sums are eaten up by inflation. And here is another interesting point: BBC, 7 April 2015: Does Germany owe Greece wartime reparations money? If, in return, Germany would offset against all payments that had flown to Greece since the end of the Second World War, the sum would amount to some 100 billion inflation-adjusted in credit, out of which much of the investments in digitization or school renovations could be financed in Germany. But, of course, that is just a play of ideas. When looking more closely at the bailout packages, they could have been formulated in two sentences: “You pay back 1/4 of today’s value at best and while the rest is inflated away. In this way you’ll get your very generous debt cut and our taxpayers don’t go crazy, because they don’t even understand this shell game trick anyway.” In this respect, with its recently presented reparation claims, the Tsipras government now helps to shed light on the whole issue once again. The country ranks 3rd among the largest EU net beneficiary countries.
  • Spain and Portugal: Both countries are recovering more and more from their crises. The economy is growing and unemployment rates are falling. However, as a result of the developments in Italy, both countries had to grant higher interest premiums for government bonds (Economy of Spain and Economy of Portugal). Spain and Portugal are ranking 6th and 9th of the largest EU net beneficiary countries.
  • Cyprus: In the wake of the Greek crisis, Cyprus narrowly escaped state bankruptcy in 2013. Unlike the large neighboring country, the island republic has been back on track since 2017 and can boast good growth rates in all areas. This was mainly due to the strong tourism industry and the prudent actions of the Minister of Finance, which, unlike in Greece, did not increase taxes, but consistently cut spendings and thus kept the economy going. The country ranks 17th among the largest EU net beneficiary countries.
  • Ireland: The country was the first country under the EU rescue package in 2010, but was able to leave it in 2013 and has since then growth rates of over 7% per year. Ireland is popular with overseas investors mainly because of its often criticized tax model. Currently, Brexit hangs like a sword of Damocles over the Irish economy, as the United Kingdom is the second largest export partner after the United States and the largest import partner of the Green Isle. The country ranks 14th among the largest EU net beneficiary countries.
  • Germany: The German economy has been growing steadily for 10 years and thus remains the economic engine of the EU. Unemployment fell to its lowest level since 1991. At the same time, the national debt was noticeably reduced and the federal government runs billions in surpluses every year – the refugees have really gotten us into something! ;-) The biggest challenge will be the UEFA Euro 2024. Since the organizers have not been able to build an airport for years (BER), the EM organization is likely to be the next big thing. The country ranks 1st among the largest EU net payer countries.

    On October 29, 2018, Angela Merkel declared her gradual withdrawal from federal politics. For this reason, she would first like to give up her position as CDU party chairwoman and isn’t available for a fifth term as Federal Chancellor. Overall, it is no surprise, especially since this was already announced by her before the 2017 general election. What is more surprising is the timing chosen, which allows Angela Merkel to continue to decide on her own career. At the same time, she doesn’t aspire to new offices – neither nationally nor internationally. She wants to remain Federal Chancellor until the end of the legislative period in October 2021, to ensure an orderly transfer of official duties. As leader of the party, she has successfully managed to transfer the national-conservative orientation towards an EU-conservative orientation. Internal critics saw this as an attempt to orient the party to the left, whereby the new party lines are actually given due to the changed national and internatonal conditions, within which German politics always have to consider international aspects and therefore have to bear its own share of responsibility. As a convinced European, the Chancellor lives up to these guidelines by implementing the consistent and in-depth integration of Germany into international processes, which at the same time has considerably boosted Germany’s reputation in the world. In addition, the CDU isn’t governing alone, but together with the SPD in a grand coalition, so that both coalition partners bring in their respective important topics in the government work. Mrs. Merkel has been the party leader for 18 years, the Chancellor for 13 years, and she herself has remained completely scandal-free, which is almost uncommon today. She has been repeatedly voted “The Most Powerful Woman in Europe and the World”, above all because she is the voice of reason and stability in a national and international sea of nationalists and populists. Since the end of the second term of office of US President Barack Obama, she was celebrated and honored as the “Leader of the Free World”, especially in the international press. During her tenure as Chancellor, Germany experienced almost uninterrupted economic growth (excluding 2009, as a result of the global financial crisis) and successfully counteracted the effects of the global financial crisis of 2007/2008 (the help and assistance for coping with the crisis within the EU by Mrs. Merkel and her Federal Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble are rated very different nationally and internationally), a public debt ratio below 60% of GDP since 2018, the lowest unemployment rate since reunification and at the same time the highest employment rate since recorded. Wage and salary growth was consistently positive, except in the year of the assumption of office in 2005, only 0.1% in 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis and 4.7% in the peak in 2011. With effect from 1 July 2011, general compulsory military service was abolished and, as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the energy transition was initiated in the same year (withdrawal of nuclear and coal power, expansion of electricity grids and renewable energies, in particular offshore wind farms). Since January 1, 2015, there is a nationwide minimum wage in Germany. The decision to increase the number of war refugees from Syria coming to Germany from 2015 onwards hasn’t earned Merkel positive reviews only, both nationally and internationally, even though this step wasn’t only a humanitarian one, but above all meant the implementation of existing law. At the same time, solidarity with and relief of the “new Eastern Bloc” and Austria was exercised. In October 2017, the same-sex marriage law (“marriage for all”) came into force. Some other tasks are still to be solved. The energy transition is progressing slowly, in environmental technology and automation/robotics Germany threatens to fall back dramatically (China), the digitization as a whole is stagnating (nationwide expansion of broadband), the expansion of the state funding of affordable housing is falling short as well (nationwide especially with regard to the supply of suitable land), the complete operational readiness of the Bundeswehr isn’t still given yet, and there is a backlog in public infrastructure for refurbishment, new and replacement investments in the hundreds of billions. The economic alignment of East Germany and West Germany will take decades for several reasons, although much has already been achieved (The Guardian, 29 October 2018: German chancellor Angela Merkel will not seek re-election in 2021, France24, 29 October 2018: Merkel says she will step down as German chancellor at end of term in 2021, The Washington Post, 29 October 2018: Angela Merkel says she won’t run again for party leader or German chancellor, The New York Times, 29 October 2018: Angela Merkel Won’t Seek Re-election in Germany, The New York Times, 29 Ocotober 2018: In Merkel, Europe Loses a Leader and The Guardian, 31 October 2018: Rightwinger leads race to succeed Angela Merkel as party chair). Due to the decision of the Chancellor to step down from the party chairmanship, a new party leader will be elected during the party congress of the CDU on 07. and 08. December 2018 in Hamburg. This is not a peculiarity, especially since personnel issues are resolved in the context of votes. Nevertheless, it is of great importance for Germany and the EU, as as of the election results the CDU is currently the only remaining major party in Germany, whose future orientation can have a significant impact on the positive or negative development of Germany and the EU. The party congress is also interesting because there is currently no one in the government or the opposition in Germany who is even close (most aren’t even fit when it’s only about the EU) to the international competence (also with regard to crisis management situations) and reputation of the Chancellor. In light of the new challenges and crises that are looming on the horizon, everyone can be happy that Mrs Merkel wants to remain active as Chancellor until 2021. At the CDU party congress three future party lines are available for election:

    • The national-conservative wing: Here represented here by Friedrich Merz, head of the Atlantic Bridge e. V. and for a few years chief lobbyist of the US asset manager BlackRock Inc. in Germany and Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, who so far has attracted attention mainly through speeches outside his duties and the proximity to alt-right activist and Trump’s US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell. The probable consequence for the CDU can be described as “back from the future and back to the past” or the “renationalization of German politics” demanded by the right-wing national camp, associated with all negative consequences for Germany and the EU. In this way it might be possible to win back some voters from the AfD, but certainly will lose a large number of voters to the Greens (the then only remaining full-scale European party in the Bundestag) and some to the SPD. The increase in votes from the right-wing national camp couldn’t nearly compensate for the outflow of votes. At the same time, the possible choice of Friedrich Merz to the CDU party chairman stokes clear fears in the AfD.
    • The liberal-conservative wing: Here represented by the General Secretary of the CDU Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who would presumably continue the line of Angela Merkel, with the possible consequence of further migrations from the national-conservative voters camp to the AfD.
    • The moderator and conciliator: Here represented by the North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister and Deputy CDU Chairman Armin Laschet, who could act as a reconciler between the two aforementioned wings. What specific consequences this would have in elections isn’t yet clear.
  • France: The economy has had a long struggle to gain momentum and has created some uncertainty because necessary reforms have been delayed for a long time. Since 2016, however, the economy has been growing steadily. The country ranks 2nd among the largest EU net payer countries.
  • Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Czech Republic (Visegrád Group): Even though especially Poland and Hungary are very problematic from a political, democratic and rule of law point of view, and within the EU only Bulgaria is even more corrupt than Hungary, the economic development is quite good, especially because of the billion-euro EU subsidy programs (Poland is the largest EU net beneficiary country, Hungary ranks 4th, the Czech Republic 5th and Slovenia 15th). Slovenia and the Czech Republic do better than Poland and Hungary on per capita income. The growth rates are between 4 and 4.6% per year. For a while, the Polish right-wing government and some of its supporters have spread the equally absurd and amusing assertion that Germany would still have to pay reparations as a result of World War II to Poland, which has no basis whatsoever and at least since the Two Plus Four Agreement is finally settled. Now, the Polish government wants to renegotiate, Berlin, however, doesn’t, because everything is already finally regulated, so that Poland would have to terminate all agreements, which are build up on each other, and thus virtually dissolve Poland as a country in order to pave the way for renegotiations. If that were so, it would be at least questionable whether Russia and Germany would agree to new agreements, instead of just growing their countries by including parts of the then former Poland without own contributions. Not only would that be extremely amusing, it would even be a European precedent that a right-wing national government would dissolve itself and the country just to negotiate about imaginary claims. With regard to the facts, the claims made little sense, because if Berlin would offset the previous payments to Poland, whether directly or indirectly via the EU development aid, Warsaw would have to arrange money re-transfers to Berlin. It is more likely that the Polish government would like to entertain the local audience without the claims actually being pursued. After all, the country wants to remain the largest recipient of EU development aid in the future and to score points with its voters with the resulting growth rates instead of having to justify itself for the otherwise clearly visible structural weaknesses and a noticeably sagging economy. Overall, this nonsense weighs on German-Polish diplomacy, friendship and reconciliation. So far, German companies haven’t let their spirits off because of this, along with other unpleasant developments in Poland, and are still investing heavily, but it’s only a matter of time before the tensions will show effects here as well.
  • Bulgaria and Romania: Bulgaria is considered the poorest and most corrupt country in the EU. In the latter, Romania is not far from the latter (Corruption in Romania, DW, 11 August 2018: What is happening in Romania is not democracy and The Guardian, 5 October 2018: Romanians to vote in referendum LGBT groups say is fuelling hate). Otherwise the countries do not have much in common anymore. Bulgaria has a large wave of emigration behind it (around 1/4 of the population since the end of the Soviet Union), because in the western EU federal states better-paid employment opportunities can be found. The workers who have migrated, are now missed at the other end of the chain, so that foreign investors do not invest in the country, because there are not enough local skilled workers given anymore. In contrast, Romania’s economy has been growing faster than the rest of the Eurozone for years. Numerous foreign investors and companies have been attracted, who have now created more than 500,000 jobs. The unemployment rate stands at 4.5%, which is causing a shortage of skilled workers and thus led to noticeable increases in wages and salaries, but also to rising minimum wages, which are to be doubled by 2022. The average wage is around 450 euros, the minimum wage at 320 euros. Romania and Bulgaria are ranking 2nd and 8th of the largest EU net beneficiary countries (Economy of Bulgaria and Economy of Romania).
  • Brexit: Brexit, not even legally binding and at best a recommendation, already causes some turbulence even before the actual execution on March 29, 2019, not least because the British government does not have enough experts to negotiate Brexit adequately. Negotiations with third countries are negotiated by Brussels for the EU, so that they were able to reduce their competences. In the case of an exit from the EU, this obviously has a very unfavorable effect on the future third country. In August 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May wanted to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, during which the Prime Minister tried to soften the French position on Brexit (The Guardian, 2 August 2018: May prepares for talks with Macron that could make or break Brexit plan). The Macron administration is considered by the British as the clearest opponent of the so-called Checkers plan, which is why from May’s view, it would be all the more important to soften their position, so that it could have positive consequences for London in other EU states. In an interview with the BBC, the former British ambassador to France, Lord Peter Ricketts, has been clearly skeptical about the plan: “I do not see why there should be a chance. Above all, Macron does not believe that softening would lead to the goal. He is a passionate pro-European. Secondly, he is the last to want to be divided out of the remarkably disciplined and uniform EU negotiating side. We have to accept that we have to negotiate hard in Brussels. The problem is that these foreigners also read our own media and know how little preparation has been made on our side, so our bargaining position is basically considered a bluff.” and so it happened during the EU summit in September in Salzburg (The Guardian, 20 September 2018: Salzburg humiliation leaves May idling at the Brexit crossroads and The Guardian, 21 September 2018: Chequered history: what EU summit fallout means for Brexit camps). In the light of this, it is all the more astonishing that British officials have come to realize that a tough Brexit can come without an agreement, but at the same time they try to blame it on Brussels, just as if the EU had voted that the UK has to leave the EU and not vice versa. In addition, it was mainly for domestic political reasons that British people voted in favor of Brexit. In no other EU country is wealth and income distributed as unequally as on the island. London outshines everything else and generates about 30% of UK’s GDP. 1/5 of the population in the rest of the country earns less than 15,000 euros per year, the health system has been severely damaged for years, household debt continues to rise as economic data continues to darken, and eternal austerity policies above all else ensures the deterioration of the entire public infrastructure. In the past five years alone, homelessness has increased by 170%. Should it really come to a hard Brexit without agreement, the economic conditions will continue to deteriorate relatively quickly, while the Tory government behaves like the orchestra during the sinking of the Titanic (The Guardian, 2 September 2018: No-deal Brexit: study warns of severe short-term impact on UK, The New York Times, 22 September 2018: Britain Stumbles Toward Disunion, The Guardian, 26 September 2018: EU steps up plans for no-deal Brexit as Labour stance alarms capitals, Politico.eu, 26 September 2018: Theresa May: No-deal Brexit preferable to EU offer, The Guardian, 26 September 2018: Jeremy Corbyn calls for election if MPs vote down May’s Brexit deal, The Guardian, 30 September 2018: Tory conference: Hunt says UK will ‘fight’ if EU refuses to compromise in Brexit talks – as it happened, The Guardian, 1 October 2018: Brexit disputes turn hairy on the fringe of the Tory conference, BBC, 2 October 2018: Brexit: EU figures demand Jeremy Hunt apologise for Soviet comparison, The Guardian, 4 October 2018: EU chief attacks USSR comparison and urges UK to compromise, The Guardian, 20 October 2018: People’s Vote march: ‘700,000’ rally for new Brexit referendum, The Guardian, 14 November 2018: Theresa May’s Brexit deal: everything you need to know and The Guardian, 14 November 2018: Brexit deal: key points from the draft withdrawal agreement).

    The British pound reached a historic low in 2016 and is recovering slowly, inflation rates are rising, wages are falling, while the economy is growing only in homeopathic doses (before the Brexit referendum, UK growth rates were the highest in the developed world) and at least € 44 billion in foreign direct investment will be lost in 2018 alone in comparison previous years; real estate prices have slumped, especially financial services providers from the City of London have already sought new offices on the continent to gain access to the single market; but also the manufacturing industry is looking with great concern to the still completely unclear Brexit regulations. The auto industry relies on international supply chains and has already announced plans to shift jobs to the continent in order to reduce the negative consequences of customs controls and tariffs. Due to the expected kilometer-long truck queues before the customs clearance on both sides of the English Channel already appropriately sized customs clearance terminals would have to be built up in the harbors and the Channel Tunnel. So far this isn’t happening by now. Only Ireland has announced to create at least 1,000 new jobs for customs officers. The EU has now issued a warning to the member states. As a precautionary measure, countries should prepare for a hard Brexit because it is not impossible that no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom will be reached. So far, the country ranks 3rd among the largest EU net contributor countries. Meanwhile, even Brexiteers found out, that it wasn’t a wise decision to fall for the lies of British anti-EU populists and demagogues and nationalistic right-wing nuts. It may already be too late to draw the right conclusions from this insights and to start a turnaround on Brexit (The Guardian, 31 March 2018: Industry planning jobs cull to offset Brexit, Reuters, 12 July 2018: Finance industry tears into Britain’s Brexit trading plans, The Guardian, 29 July 2018: Oh for the days when it was all Brussels’ fault!, Reuters, 31 July 2018: Britain’s car industry cautions: No-deal Brexit is our nightmare, The Guardian, 28 September 2018: UK nationals would suffer under skills-based immigration, EU tells Javid, Economy of the United Kingdom, United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016, economic effects of Brexit, The Guardian, 5 October 2018: Millionaire refuses to take down ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ poster, The Guardian, 13 October 2018: Like Banksy’s artwork, the United Kingdom is shredding itself in public, The Guardian, 9 November 2018: Jo Johnson quits as minister over Theresa May’s Brexit plan and Der Spiegel, 9 November 2018: Interview with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn: ‘We Can’t Stop Brexit’).
  • Turkey: Recently, the country is added as a wobbly candidate. The misguided financial and economic policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in recent years and the associated excessive indebtedness to foreign banks and investors are the cause for this (Economy of Turkey, BBC – Turkish lira crisis, The New York Times, 10 July 2018: Turkey’s Economy Is So Hot That It May Face a Meltdown, The Washington Post, 13 July 2018: Turkey’s economy looks like it’s headed for a big crash and The Guardian, 12 August 2018: Q&A: Why is the Turkish lira in freefall and should we worry?). While it is clear that Turkey needs foreign capital in the medium and long term as well, this can only be successfully achieved if the country itself is judged to be politically stable, constitutional, transparent and democratic. At present, the opposite can be assumed, which then led to corresponding turbulences which will continue. The lira is in freefall, and rating agencies have further devalued Turkey, making it increasingly difficult to repay loans by Turkish companies, which is why a lot of corporate insolvencies are to be expected. No good prospects for a speedy recovery of the economy. In addition to a tangible recession already in place, a collapse of the economy can not be ruled out without corresponding countermeasures, which would pose a risk of contagion to other emerging economies. It can be assumed that Turkey will soon have to stock up on other foreign loans in order to be able to refinance old loans. Since a small three-digit billion amount is to be assumed, one can create conditions for the allocation of funds to lead the Turkish autocracy back to democratic structures. It would therefore make sense for the EU, possibly in partnership with the US, to put together a financial package, instead of watching Turkey move closer to Russia, and China, with the result that Turkey’s withdrawal from NATO would become more likely, what the EU in particular can not be interested in (DW, 3 September2018: Turkish central bank to act on record inflation, Bloomberg, 3 September 2018: Turkish Central Bank Pledges Policy Action to Stem Inflation, Reuters, 10 September 2018: Turkish economic growth dips, lira crisis darkens outlook and The New York Times, 26 September 2018: Turkey’s Erdogan Changes His Tune, Seeking Support and Cooperation in Germany).
  • Even though the Trump administration recently softened the regulations for US banks (The Guardian, 23 May 2018: US Congress passes partial Dodd-Frank rollback in move to deregulate banking) and thus increased the level of debt and risk, the greatest danger for a renewed Great Recession (Financial crisis of 2007–2008) is currently coming from the clearly over-indebted emerging markets. If a country were to slide here, a domino effect would set in, the consequences of which are likely to be significantly greater than those of the global economic crisis from 2007 onwards (Lehman Brothers, Bloomberg, 3 July 2018: 10 Years After Lehman, Four Big Risks, The Guardian, 3 September 2018: Ten years on, the Fed’s failings on Lehman Brothers are all too clear, Reuters, 11 September 2018: Ten years after Lehman, spotting the next crisis: McGeever and The Guardian, 14 September 2018: Ten years after the crash: have the lessons of Lehman been learned?). The EU states of Southern and Eastern Europe will then again be hit hard. Neither the EU itself nor the EU states are sufficiently prepared for it. While some lessons have been learned from the crisis, they have not been sufficiently and sustainably implemented yet. This applies to the systemic banks, “guard rails” in the EU regulations, and to structural reforms in the EU states. At the moment, a small crisis would be enough to put Bulgaria and Romania in a similar situation as Greece.


Foreign policy
With Donald Trump’s US (The Making of Donald Trump) becoming increasingly isolated, foreign policy is bringing some additional responsibilities to the EU. After all, it is good to see and know that the US Congress and the US Senate decide and act in part completely contrary to Trump’s ideas and wishes and that, of course, to cushion the disaster Trump and thus to minimize national and international damage (The New Yorker, 11 July 2018: The Borowitz Report: Merkel Asks Mueller If There’s Anything She Can Do to Help, Independent, 3 August 2018: Thousands protest for a fourth consecutive day in Iran on eve of US sanctions, Politico.com, 7 September 2018: Obama delivers full-throated rebuke of Trump’s presidency, The Washingotn Post, 7 September 2018: ‘It sure isn’t normal; it’s radical’: Former president Barack Obama says Trump and Republicans are knowingly dividing America, The Atlantic, 16 September 2018: American Democracy Is in Crisis, The New York Times, 25 September 2018: U.N. General Assembly Updates: Trump Speaks Out on Globalization, NBC News, 26 September 2018: Trump’s U.N. speech pitting globalism against patriotism proves the president has no idea what patriotism means, The Guardian, 28 September 2018: It’s not just Trump. Much of America has turned its back on Europe, The Washington Post, 1 October 2018: USMCA: Who are the winners and losers of the ‘new NAFTA’?, The Guardian, 2 October 2018: Global image of US is historically bad under Trump, says poll, Handelsblatt, 4 October 2018: Special-Purpose Vehicle: Defying Trump, EU plans to support trade with Iran, The New York Times, 1 November 2018: The Wrong Way to Punish Iran, USA Today, 2 November 2018: Top Trump officials say new U.S. sanctions will choke Iran’s economy, CNN, 2 November 2018: Trump set to reimpose all Iran sanctions lifted by Obama, NBC News, 2 November 2018: The Trump team’s trade sanctions were not what Iran hawks wanted, Reuters, 2 November 2018: U.S. says SWIFT could be sanctioned if it deals with sanctioned entities, BBC, 2 November 2018: Trump administration to reinstate all Iran sanctions, The Washington Post, 2 November 2018: Iran braces for oil sanctions after currency crash, protests, The Guardian, 4 November 2018: Iran braces for fresh US sanctions including oil embargo, Haaretz, 4 November 2018: Thousands of Iranians Mark Anniversary of U.S. Embassy Takeover in Tehran as Trump Restores Sanctions, The New York Times, 4 November 2018: Europe Plans a Way to Evade Sanctions on Iran. Will It Work?, The Guardian, 5 November 2018: Why Europe wants to sidestep US sanctions over Iran nuclear might, The Guardian, 5 November 2018: ‘People are despairing’: Iranians brace for sanctions to bite and The New York Times, 5 November 2018:As U.S. Sanctions on Iran Kick In, Europe Looks for a Workaround). Meanwhile, the EU continues to seek ways, together with China and Russia, to prevent sanctions not only against small and medium-sized businesses, which can easly ignore them, when not doing any business in the US, but as well by multinational corporations from Europe. Overall, the issue isn’t only about Iran, but also about the security and interests of Europe and the sovereignty of the EU, which shall be significantly curtailed by the extortionate measures of the current US government. A process that the EU will accompany with resistance, of course, so that despite all the cheers from the United States, there are and will be repeated attempts to undermine the sanctions in order to minimize the damage caused). These measures will certainly not lead to an increase in trade and investment by the affected European companies with and in the US and Israel. It is more likely that the investments in Asia and the Gulf States will be strengthened, to reduce the potential damages posed by the current US and Israeli governments.


Sources
In addition to own investigations, assessments and reviews these are: Die Presse and Kurier from Austria. NATO and Politico.eu from Belgium. France24 from France. Bundesagentur für Arbeit, Bundeskriminalamt, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Cicero, Der Spiegel, Deutschlandfunk, Deutsche Welle (DW), Die Welt, Die Zeit, Focus, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau, Handelsblatt, International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), Jetzt.de, n-tv, Statista.com, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Tagesschau and The European from Germany. The Irish Times from Ireland. Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel from Israel. BBC, Middle East Eye, Reuters, The Guardian and The Telegraph from the United Kingdom. Al-Monitor, Bloomberg, CNN, Council on Foreign Relations, Financial Times, NBC News, NPR, PBS, Politico.com, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today from the United States of America and other sources linked in the text.

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