Transatlantic Relations: Superpower EU? No thank you!  -

Transatlantic Relations: Superpower EU? No thank you!

Credit: zeit.de

  • Nov 17 2017 11:00About: 25 days ago
  • 6 views




It's currently
fashionable to bid the US farewell and praise the EU to the skies. Three weeks
ago, our colleagues Jörg Lau and Bernd Ulrich made the case for a
post-Atlanticist EU foreign policy ("What's New in the West," ZEIT
No. 43/17). The United States of America, they wrote, has forfeited moral,
military and political claim to leadership. With the election of Donald Trump,
America’s "diseases" have become so all-consuming that rational
forces in the US can no longer offset them. This analysis is as reckless as the
idea that Europe, and above all Germany, should take the lead in global
geopolitics. Let’s be frank: How fit is Europe at the moment?

 We, too, believe that
the EU needs to develop significantly more global political clout in light of
the fact that the US government currently appears to be more of a risk than a
guarantor of security. The more that America scales back its global
responsibility, the more irrational it becomes. The US is "sick"
inasmuch as its political culture is degenerating. Trump's not just an
accidental aberration. But to bury Atlanticism because of this diagnosis is a
strange idea of healing. Also, it comes from a continent that is itself in poor
health.

 The
symptom "Donald" stands for contempt for elites, for mistrust in institutions
and  the system of checks and balances;
it stands for a division of society driven by images of an enemy, as well as
for the yearning for isolation and protection from the culturally, religiously
or ethnically other. But this accurately describes the crisis of the entire
West, not just  America.



 In France, a
right-wing anti-establishment candidate very nearly won the presidential
election; Austria's nationalist FPÖ party may be part of the next government
there; in Hungary, Prime Minister Victor Orbán dreams of establishing an
"illiberal democracy"; in Poland for PiS, the governing party, the
people’s well-being (Volkswohl) is
more important than is the law; and in Italy the populist Five Star Movement
currently leads the polls.  This snapshot
can serve little cause for European pride – and a historical view can do it even less.

 Unlike most European
countries, America is a nearly 250-year-old, resilient democracy. It is more
brutal and competitive than Europe, yes. But this virility stems from its
institutions, and its checks and balances. US states are forming an alliance
for climate protection, for example, while cities provide refuge for
undocumented immigrants from Latin America. Just recently, the courts
overturned Trump's third attempt to deny citizens of certain Muslim states
entry to the US. They also stopped the military from turning down transsexuals.
And the Justice Department appointed a special investigator to investigate the
president and his entourage.


 America's separation
of powers works. And there are quality media that, in contrast to Trump's
charges, are not failing, but rather celebrate new sales and circulation
records. Where can you find this in Central and Eastern Europe today? East of
the Elbe River, the continent lacks a deep democratic-liberal foundation due to
lack of freedom in and unprocessed experiences with dictatorships. The Muslim
ban is de facto reality in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic.  These states are more suspicious of the
hegemons in Berlin and Brussels than of the one in Washington. In short, the EU
would first have to go to the couch for therapy before declaring itself a
shining moral example for the US.

 In addition, there
are a few design features that keep Europe from becoming an alternative power.
A group of 28 states, which specifically do not want to become a superstate,
can hardly be a superpower. In doubt, me-first sovereignty triumphs over
strategic community.

For example, Angela
Merkel calls a Europe that speaks "with one voice" one of her most
important projects. But she is not prepared to hand over important competences
to Brussels, for example in energy policy. Therefore, at the request of Berlin,
the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will be built from Russia to Germany, although this
contradicts the supply and security interests of the Central and Eastern
Europeans.

Other countries, in
turn, address their special interests. Ten years ago, EU member states could
not agree on joint recognition of Kosovo, nor can they today agree on a common
refugee policy.










It's currently
fashionable to bid the US farewell and praise the EU to the skies. Three weeks
ago, our colleagues Jörg Lau and Bernd Ulrich made the case for a
post-Atlanticist EU foreign policy ("What's New in the West," ZEIT
No. 43/17). The United States of America, they wrote, has forfeited moral,
military and political claim to leadership. With the election of Donald Trump,
America’s "diseases" have become so all-consuming that rational
forces in the US can no longer offset them. This analysis is as reckless as the
idea that Europe, and above all Germany, should take the lead in global
geopolitics. Let’s be frank: How fit is Europe at the moment?



 We, too, believe that
the EU needs to develop significantly more global political clout in light of
the fact that the US government currently appears to be more of a risk than a
guarantor of security. The more that America scales back its global
responsibility, the more irrational it becomes. The US is "sick"
inasmuch as its political culture is degenerating. Trump's not just an
accidental aberration. But to bury Atlanticism because of this diagnosis is a
strange idea of healing. Also, it comes from a continent that is itself in poor
health.



 The
symptom "Donald" stands for contempt for elites, for mistrust in institutions
and  the system of checks and balances;
it stands for a division of society driven by images of an enemy, as well as
for the yearning for isolation and protection from the culturally, religiously
or ethnically other. But this accurately describes the crisis of the entire
West, not just  America.









 In France, a
right-wing anti-establishment candidate very nearly won the presidential
election; Austria's nationalist FPÖ party may be part of the next government
there; in Hungary, Prime Minister Victor Orbán dreams of establishing an
"illiberal democracy"; in Poland for PiS, the governing party, the
people’s well-being (Volkswohl) is
more important than is the law; and in Italy the populist Five Star Movement
currently leads the polls.  This snapshot
can serve little cause for European pride – and a historical view can do it even less.



 Unlike most European
countries, America is a nearly 250-year-old, resilient democracy. It is more
brutal and competitive than Europe, yes. But this virility stems from its
institutions, and its checks and balances. US states are forming an alliance
for climate protection, for example, while cities provide refuge for
undocumented immigrants from Latin America. Just recently, the courts
overturned Trump's third attempt to deny citizens of certain Muslim states
entry to the US. They also stopped the military from turning down transsexuals.
And the Justice Department appointed a special investigator to investigate the
president and his entourage.






 America's separation
of powers works. And there are quality media that, in contrast to Trump's
charges, are not failing, but rather celebrate new sales and circulation
records. Where can you find this in Central and Eastern Europe today? East of
the Elbe River, the continent lacks a deep democratic-liberal foundation due to
lack of freedom in and unprocessed experiences with dictatorships. The Muslim
ban is de facto reality in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic.  These states are more suspicious of the
hegemons in Berlin and Brussels than of the one in Washington. In short, the EU
would first have to go to the couch for therapy before declaring itself a
shining moral example for the US.



 In addition, there
are a few design features that keep Europe from becoming an alternative power.
A group of 28 states, which specifically do not want to become a superstate,
can hardly be a superpower. In doubt, me-first sovereignty triumphs over
strategic community.



For example, Angela
Merkel calls a Europe that speaks "with one voice" one of her most
important projects. But she is not prepared to hand over important competences
to Brussels, for example in energy policy. Therefore, at the request of Berlin,
the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will be built from Russia to Germany, although this
contradicts the supply and security interests of the Central and Eastern
Europeans.



Other countries, in
turn, address their special interests. Ten years ago, EU member states could
not agree on joint recognition of Kosovo, nor can they today agree on a common
refugee policy.




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Does Europe really have farewell assume world leadership? Those call overlook continent’s deep divisions.

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