I promised more about the sick man of Europe, but the problem, now, is to find a healthy one.
Several months ago I talked about migration, not Brexit or even Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS being the greater threat to European security. I added, some months later, that the migrants might cause the “unspooling” of the EU and even NATO. A couple of months after that I suggested that the crises, plural, in Europe might tempt President Putin to try to exploit the perceived weakness to “reintegrate” Kaliningrad back into Greater Russia.
Now, two article bring these worries back tot he surface:
Justin Huggler, writing in The Telegraph (republished in the National Post) reports on violence, in Germany, between migrants and locals who identify their town as “our Nazi neighbourhood;” and
In the Financial Times, Anne-Sylvaine Chassany in Paris, Henry Foy in Warsaw and Ralph Atkins in Zurich report that while “EU leaders will gather in Bratislava on Friday to plot ways to reinforce the bloc after the UK’s shock vote to leave … many of their political rivals will be touting campaign proposals with a different aim: to rein in — and even unwind — the postwar project … [and] … With national elections looming in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, the calls for a drastic overhaul of EU institutions are growing louder. Once confined to the populist fringe, they are increasingly emanating from the mainstream.” This, the rise of “right wing,” nationalist, anti-EU forces that will sow the seeds of dissent and discontent in European nations is just the sort of “opportunity” that President Putin will be tempted to exploit.
While Marine Le Pen’s National Front is well know for its Euroscepticism, the Financial Times says that “former president Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to secure a new treaty and request the handling of the passport-free Schengen zone be returned to member states … [and] … Alain Juppé, his main rival in the nomination contest, has followed suit by suggesting Brussels be stripped of some of its powers. Meanwhile, on the left Arnaud Montebourg, a former Socialist economy minister seeking to challenge French President François Hollande, has advocated protectionist measures to help French companies, a contradiction of the single market’s rules.“
Further, according to the Financial Times, “The anti-Brussels stance extends beyond France, the eurozone’s second-largest economy, to the Netherlands and Austria, where populist forces are gaining strength … [and] … In southern Europe, the Eurosceptic voices are also growing. Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which won mayoral seats in Rome and Turin in June, has heaped pressure on Matteo Renzi, the prime minister, who has put his job on the line in a referendum this year over constitutional reform … [and] … Further east, governments in Poland and Hungary are demanding nothing less than a “counter revolution” inside the EU, with suggestions that include stripping the commission of some of its prerogatives under a new treaty.“
Europe needs a leader. It has been Angela Merkel, but she is growing tired after 11 years as Bundeskanzlerin and the German people, and many, many Europeans are growing tired of her, so her leadership is weak, right now. In Brussels, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, may be the worst leader in the history of the EU; every time he opens his mouth it is to change feet and, in the process, to make more enemies.
Europe is in trouble … if Europe slips into any of a number of crises the effects will spread to America and Canada and Australia, Japan, India, China and others, too. European crises will, very likely, embolden Vladimir Putin, who is a known opportunist, to risk an adventure in, say Lithuania or Poland, or, perhaps a “flanking” move through Latvia where Canada’s soldiers will be based.
Europe is sick … the cure is in its own hands but there seems to be no Mary Poppins to administer whatever is necessary to make the medicine go down.