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LEONIDAS DONSKIS

A wake-up call for Europe

July 03, 2014

“We are coming,” says Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), and co-chair of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament. As if to say that this is just his time, Farage comes up with the punch line directed straight to Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament: “Please don’t pretend that nothing has happened. You know perfectly well that it has. And the day is nigh when all your EU institutions will be plain dead.

“We are coming.” I am paraphrasing his phrase, yet I can vouch for its credibility and content. So the message is clear – if we are to believe the most theatrical and eloquent political clown I have seen over the past five years that I spent as his fellow member of the European Parliament (2009-2014), that’s the beginning of the end of the EU. Needless to say, the news about the death of the EU is slightly exaggerated. Christian Democrats, Socialists, Liberals, and Greens will outweigh an increasingly visible minority of the far right led by Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage. When the time comes, conventional and pro-European groups will easily achieve a decisive and crucial majority over pivotal issues of the EU. Yet at one point we willy-nilly have to agree with Nigel Farage.

The 2014 elections to the European Parliament did make a difference. We cannot pretend any longer that far right voices and Euroskeptics are still a tiny minority that is easily relegated to the margins of EU politics. The shocking victory of UKIP in the UK (27 percent of votes) coupled with the triumph of Le Front National (FN) in France (one fourth of all votes). Coupled with genuine fascist parties, such as the Golden Dawn of Greece, and Jobbik of Hungary, the far right and anti-immigration parties, such as UKIP, FN, and Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom in the Netherlands will make up quite a noisy minority of around 140 voices in the newly elected European Parliament. First and foremost, these forces are not only strongly anti-EU oriented – they are essentially anti-European and overtly pro- Kremlin. Suffices it to recall their praise for Vladimir Putin up to the skies as a supposed defender of conservative, family, and traditional values, which allowed Farage and Marine Le Pen to close ranks with Jobbik – a miserable and disgraceful alliance, to say the least.

Even more so was the moment of self-exposure when Farage, in one of his recent interviews, went so far as to suggest that two grave mistakes made by the EU were the adoption of the euro and the accession of Eastern European countries to the EU, with all their social mobility and dignity they got (not to be embarrassed anymore by Western European immigration officers with their intrusive questions and poorly concealed disdain for Eastern Europe, I would add). Well, what can you say after this? Let us make no mistake: not only do Poland or the Baltic States appear as the stronghold of European value orientations as opposed to pro-Kremlin and Putinesque farce of UKIP and FN; in this context, Ukraine and its anti-criminal revolution with the EU on the lips of Maidan protesters come as a powerful antidote against the political grotesque of populism in EU countries.

At the same time, it becomes increasingly obvious that the times when the Kremlin had its useful idiots in the West primarily among leftist intellectuals with all their misguided politics and self-imposed moral and political blindness are gone; instead, the new useful idiots of the Kremlin come straight from the far right – theses are people who choose to believe that Vladimir Putin is the hope of European neo-conservatism. I have already described elsewhere this phenomenon in terms of the new Fascist International with its headquarters in Moscow. However tempting, we cannot reduce the entire analysis of the 2014 elections to the EP to the moral shock. True, it is something like a heavy hangover and a wake-up call for the EU, yet this is the right time to find the answer to the question: What happened? What happened was easy to expect, especially in the light of a difficult rivalry between Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz over the post of president of the European Commission, where Juncker’s high profile as a confessed federalist made it impossible for the UK to back him.

Add to this domestic nuances in the fight between British conservatives and UKIP (as the latter tries to fish in the same waters of British Euroskepticism and exceptionalism), and you will have, if not a cul-de-sac, then at least a difficult predicament for British politics. The 2014 elections should serve as a wake-up call and reminder that Euroskepticism is far from a force majeur or natural disaster: instead, it is a collective sentiment of European citizens skillfully exploited by populist parties and translated into a warcry, a quasi-program, and a pseudo-vision of the future.

It suffices to beat the drums of threat and portray the EU as a specter of velvet totalitarianism, or else demonize Brussels, and behold the mandate – you can win the elections to the despised European Parliament, an institution which Mr. Farage hates and holds in contempt, even refusing to attend the meetings of his committee, yet this does not prevent him from being well paid by it. No program or vision is needed – just an imagined monster onto which you project all your discontents and worries caused by modern politics and life. The EU is at a crossroads, and the time is up. We are at the peril of failing Europe. If we needed a clear signal, we got it after these elections.

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LEONIDO DONSKIO KADENCIJA EUROPOS PARLAMENTE
(2009-2014)